Nevada’s amazing landscapes are often overshadowed by the glitter and glitz of its biggest city, Las Vegas. While this is a city you won’t want to miss, Nevada is a state of incredible natural diversity, with plenty of great places to visit, scenic drives, and wonderful opportunities for outdoor activities. National parks and recreation areas provide outstanding terrain for hiking, biking, climbing, horseback riding, and fishing. You can even find ski hills in the high mountains. Be sure to venture beyond the cities and towns and get lost in Nevada’s stunning natural areas to enjoy all the state has to offer.
1 Las Vegas
Considered the most entertainment filled two and a half miles in the entire world, the Las Vegas Strip glitters and glows with massive resorts, hotels, theaters, restaurants, and gardens. This famous portion of Las Vegas Boulevard, running from the Mandalay Bay Hotel to the Treasure Island Hotel, is what most visitors come to the city to see and experience. This is where the huge resorts, like Paris, New York, New York, The Bellagio, The Venetian, and Caesar’s Palace are located. Lit up at night, The Strip shows up as one of the brightest spots on earth when seen from space.
Also worth seeing is Fremont Street in old downtown Las Vegas. Draped with a canopy of LED lights, the light show here in the evening, known as the Fremont Street Experience, is a must-do if you have time.
2 Hoover Dam
Built during the Great Depression as a way to provide jobs, Hoover Dam is a marvel of modern engineering. The 726-foot-high dam contains Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States, and provides hydroelectric power to much of Nevada, Arizona, and California. Built on the Nevada and Arizona state line, the dam is just a 45-minute drive from the center of Las Vegas, or a short helicopter flight. You can walk out onto the dam for spectacular views over the edge, or look out over Lake Mead. Tours of the Hoover Dam Power Plant are also available.
3 Lake Tahoe
The sparkling blue water of Lake Tahoe, surrounded by often snow-capped mountains, is one of the most beautiful sites in Nevada. This 22-mile-long freshwater lake, high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the Nevada and California border, is a popular year-round destination. In summer, most visitors come here to enjoy the beautiful beaches, hit some of the spectacular hiking trails, or camp at one of the many campgrounds in the area. In winter, families and powder hounds from across the US come here to hit the slopes at the ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe area. Any time of year, you can enjoy the scenery on a lake-side scenic drive. Several towns around the lake provide good bases for exploring the region.
Lake Tahoe is about a three-hour drive from San Francisco, and under five hours from Yosemite National Park. From Reno, you can reach the north end of the lake in about 45 minutes.
4 Lake Mead National Recreation Area
On the shores of Lake Mead and Lake Mohave, Lake Mead National Recreation Area encompasses some spectacular scenery and offers convenient access points and a variety of services for enjoying the lake and surroundings. This huge area, encompassing approximately 1.5 million acres, provides opportunities for beaching, boating, hiking, camping, and much more on the shorelines and in the surrounding mountains and canyons.
The most popular section is Boulder Basin on Lake Mead, just north of Hoover Dam. Boulder Beach is a popular place for a swim or to set up a lawn chair on a hot day. Campgrounds in this area offer a beautiful setting for both tents and RVs. Also in this area is the Historic Railroad Trail, where hikers can walk along the old railway bed and through the old tunnels. If you are looking for information, stop by the Alan Bible Visitor Center in this area, about 40 minutes from Las Vegas.
5 Valley of Fire State Park
Valley of Fire State Park is one of the must-see natural areas in the state. Dramatic rock formations and sweeping vistas of colorful stone waves create some of Nevada’s most dynamic landscapes. Just an hour’s drive northeast of Las Vegas, it’s worth making the trip out here. If you are only interested in a scenic drive, roads through the park provide stunning views of the landscape. However, one of the best ways to experience the park is from the hiking trails. These hikes are generally short and easy, but take you through some incredible scenery, including slot canyons, rock walls covered in hieroglyphs, old filming locations, and other spectacular sites. You’re also likely to spot some wildlife. Camping is popular at Valley of Fire, and the campgrounds are strategically placed in beautiful settings among the rock formations
6 Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Located just outside of Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is one Nevada’s most popular hiking areas. The massive red rock formations jutting high above the Mojave Desert are the most striking feature, but the area covers a diverse range of sites and geological formations. Box canyons, mountains, and a look at the Keystone Thrust are some of the highlights. A 13-mile scenic drive through the park offers a look at some of the sites, but hiking trails in Red Rock Canyon offer the best access to all of the major sites. Rock climbing, road biking, mountain biking, horseback riding, picnicking, and wildlife viewing are also popular activities here. The conservation area has one developed campground with primitive facilities.
Reno is the second largest city in Nevada after Las Vegas in terms of population, but is still home to only approximately 250,000 residents. However, for a small city, it has a surprising number of impressive attractions and events for tourists. The city hosts the annual National Championship Air Races, The Great Reno Balloon Race, and the Hot August Nights car convention, along with a number of other popular annual celebrations. Reno is also home to the National Automobile Museum and several other interesting museums.
8 Great Basin National Park
In east-central Nevada, near the border with the state of Utah, Great Basin National Park protects nearly 80,000 acres of basin and range landscape. The park is dominated by the 13,063-foot Wheeler Peak and underlain by the Lehman Caves. It also protects Bristle cone Pines that are nearly 5,000 years old. The park offers a number of developed camping sites and a wide range of backpacking opportunities. The Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive is a must do as is the Baker Creek Road – but not in the winter. The park lies next to the massive Highland Ridge Wilderness area.
9 Burning Man
This pop-up city in the desert is a community based, annual event held in the Black Rock Desert, about three hours north of Reno. This unique event focuses on art and self-expression in many forms, and attendees are expected to be involved rather than merely spectators. The people and the atmosphere of sharing and community are what make the experience.
Held in late August and early September, Burning Man began in 1986 and has grown considerably over the years. Today, tens of thousands of people attend. Attendance levels are capped each year and tickets sell out
10 Camomile Canyon
Camomile Canyon lies at the heart of Nevada’s Ruby Mountains in Elke Country. The Camomile Canyon Road is an officially designated National Forest Road that winds around the base of the 11,387-foot Ruby Dome. The road climbs up into a spectacular 8,800-foot-high canyon that was carved long ago by glaciers. During the summer, the alpine meadows explode with wildflowers. The area is also known for its waterfalls and wildlife, with bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and a variety of birdlime frequenting the hills and meadows. The lower region of Camomile Canyon is open year-round, but the upper section is buried under snow for several months in the winter. Popular things to do here, apart from the scenic drive, include camping, fishing, and hiking.