Nevada is famously the home of Sin City, but there's a lot more to this state than casinos and bright neon lights. This is a great place for outdoor lovers, especially those who enjoy red sandstone cliffs, towering trees, mountain landscapes, and playing in the snow. No trip to the Silver State is complete without a night or two in Vegas, but be sure to take in some of the natural beauty throughout the state, too.
When you think about traveling to Nevada, Las Vegas is likely the first place that comes to mind - as it should be! The Las Vegas Strip is packed with non-stop entertainment, including huge resorts and casinos, as well as amusement park rides, live music, theaters, and restaurants. Most places are open 24/7, so there's always something to do, but don't miss exploring the Strip at night. When it's lit up, it's really something to see. The view is so bright and shiny; it can be seen from outer space.
The first thing you notice about Great Basin National Park is Wheeler Peak, the highest point in the park at 13,063 feet. In the summer, be sure to take the Wheeler Park Scenic Drive to get the most of the panoramic view. Under the park is Lehman Caves, where you can go on a guided tour and learn about the animals and insects that thrive in this unique, enclosed ecosystem. There are also 12 hiking trails through the park, meandering through the 5,000-year-old bristlecone pines. There are a lot of unique things about the Great Basin. Be sure to bring your camera.
Red Rock Canyon is located just southwest of Las Vegas and is a striking natural contrast to the bustle of Vegas nightlife. Some of the cliffs at Red Rock are as tall as 3,000 feet, and the bright red sandstone makes for some amazing photo ops. Check out the Keystone Thrust Fault to see the striking juxtaposition of red sandstone and grey limestone created by an ancient earthquake and examine the Native American pictographs at Willow Springs. There are 19 different trails to explore here and more than 200 animal species to spot along the way.
High in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the California border is Lake Tahoe, a 22-mile long freshwater lake famous for its clear blue waters and thick forest surroundings. This year-round destination has beautiful beaches, hiking trails, para-sailing, jet-skiing, sailing, and campgrounds to enjoy in the warm summer months. When winter hits and the snow falls, visitors enjoy skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and snow tubing as well as warming up in one of the local ski resorts.
The Valley of Fire is Nevada's oldest state park. Its name comes from the fiery red sandstone dunes and rock formations that create some of the brightest, most vivid surroundings in the Southwest. Hike through the park and try to spot the ancient Native American petroglyphs and identify the shapes hidden in the rocks. Roger Springs is a great place to cool off after a hike, and camping is available if you want to spend the night.
The Hoover Dam is an astounding feat of engineering. At 725 feet tall, it's the highest concrete dam in the western hemisphere and one of the largest hydroelectric power facilities in the country, powering parts of Nevada, California, and Arizona. It's simply mind-blowing when you see it in person. Take a walk onto the observation decks to look out over Lake Mead or glimpse the inner workings of the mechanics of the dam. Or, cross the Mike O' Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge for a panoramic view from 900 feet about the Colorado River.
While you're at the Hoover Dam, take a few hours and explore the Lake Mead National Recreational Area. Lake Mead is the man-made reservoir formed by the Hoover Dam. With about 550 miles of splendid shoreline, the lake provides the perfect backdrop for fishing, swimming, yachting, boating, backcountry hiking, camping, or just hanging out on the beach. There are four marinas to facilitate boating and water sports and more than two dozen islands to explore, depending on the water level.
The centerpiece of Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park is obviously the six mound-shaped charcoal ovens. They were used during a silver boom from 1876 to 1879, processing the ore that was found in the area. Today, the ovens are open for touring. In addition to this little slice of history, there are plenty of other things to see here. Spend the night at the campground, go fishing in Willow Creek, and explore the trail system on foot or mountain bike. This is also a great place to cross-country ski or snowshoe in the winter.
In the northeast corner of the state is Lamoille Canyon in the Ruby Mountains. Unlike a lot of the other landscapes in Nevada, the Ruby Mountains are covered in lush green trees. Wildflowers flourish in the summer, and the leaves put on quite a show with their changing fall colors. The Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway is a great way to see the area, but there is so much to do here. Check out the Glacier Overlook to get a good view of the U-shaped canyon or hike part of the 40-mile Ruby Crest Trail, known for its amazing views.
Grapevine Canyon is located in the southern tip of Nevada, near the California and Arizona borders. The coolest thing about Grapevine Canyon is the ancient petroglyphs. Some people believe that the canyon once served as a ritual location for the Mohave people who may have used it to celebrate the summer solstice. While the walk to the petroglyphs is pretty easy, there are also more difficult trails in the area for experienced hikers.