No road trip to the western United States is complete without a stop in Nevada. Bordered by California to the west, Arizona to the southeast, Utah to the east, and Oregon and Idaho to the north, it’s the 7th largest state by area. The government owns about 85% of the land in this sparsely populated state, with half of the population living in Las Vegas and its surrounding areas.
Nevada is one of the most visited states in the United States. The state is most famous for Las Vegas, considered the gaming capital of the world. Las Vegas is home to one of the world’s oldest hotels, the Flamingo, which opened in 1946. Although the strip and its extravagant hotels come to mind when most people think of Nevada, the state has a lot more to offer. If you’re a nature lover, Nevada won’t disappoint. The state’s diverse landscape boasts canyons, deserts, eroded rock formations, mountains, lakes, and scenic drives. In this article, we’ll explore the must-see state and national parks this state has to offer.
1. Death Valley National Park
Sitting at up to 200-feet below sea level in some parts, Death Valley National Park is the hottest, driest and lowest national park in the United States. Brace yourself for extreme heat if you visit during the summer with temperatures exceeding 100°F. However, Death Valley is a land of contrasts and experiences all four seasons. In the winter, you’ll get a glimpse of the towering snow-capped mountain peaks that surround the sandy landscape. The views from within Death Valley are breathtaking and include sand dunes, sculptural canyons, and abundant wildlife. Whenever you choose to visit Death Valley national park, be sure to carry an ample supply of water to keep you cool in its dry climate.
2. Great Basin National Park
If you want to become one with nature, Great Basin National Park should be at the top of your list. It’s one of the few national parks you can visit where you won’t encounter crowds of tourists, making it one of the least visited national parks. Visiting the Great Basin national park allows you to see all of Nevada’s geographic diversity in one place. The park features deserts with meandering streams along a backdrop of high mountains. Glaciers carved the majority of the park’s landscape, and the park is home to the only glacier in Nevada that measures 2 acres and sits at the base of Wheeler Peak.
3. Lake Tahoe-Nevada State Park
Featuring stunning scenery, including a breathtaking lake and lush forests, Lake Tahoe is one of Nevada’s most popular state parks. This picturesque park includes Sand Harbor, Backcountry, Cave Rock, Van Sickle, and Spooner. Its 55 acres of beaches make it the perfect summer escape but be prepared— this popular state park is almost always crowded with people. Despite the crowds, there’s so much to see and do at Lake Tahoe. You can swim in the crystal clear lake, have lunch on the beach with friends and family, go boating, mountain biking, or hiking, or explore historic sites at Van Sickle.
4. Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Formed after the Hoover Dam was built in 1935, Lake mead ranks among the world’s largest human-made lakes and is the US’ first national recreation area. The picturesque lake sits in Southeast Nevada, where it straddles the border with Arizona and is surrounded by a stunning desert landscape. Its striking blue waters and extensive shoreline are what draw most visitors to Lake Mead. Fishing, swimming, and boating are just a few of the water sports people engage in while visiting this national recreation area. In addition to the lake, you can hike the surrounding mountains, valleys, and canyons. Lake Mead is only an hour’s drive from Las Vegas.
5. Cathedral Gorge State Park
Volcanoes formed the stunning rock formation called Cathedral Gorge State Park millions of years ago. Located in southeastern Nevada, the park features canyons with cathedral-like spires, columns, cliffs, and colorful caves. The diverse landscapes make it a must-see park for photographers, outdoor enthusiasts, and artists alike. You can spend hours hiking the trails that traverse the park and enjoy stunning views from atop Miller Point Outlook. There’s a camping site available for travelers who want to stay overnight.