Mention Nevada and your immediate thoughts are likely drawn to the neon-lit casinos and entertainment attractions of Las Vegas. While we cannot deny that there’s endless fun to be had in Sin City, the seventh largest state in the U.S. has plenty more to offer. Here are three great ways to get the most out of your visit to Nevada besides gambling and nightlife.
Explore the State Parks and Recreation Areas
You don’t have to travel far from Vegas to appreciate Nevada’s jaw-dropping wilderness of dramatic desert landscapes, forested mountains and rushing rivers. If you like to get outdoors, then there are dozens of protected state and national parks and recreation and wilderness areas. Spot Native American petroglyphs in Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area and camp overnight in the shadow of curious ochre-red sandstone rocks at Valley of Fire State Park. Rent a bike and pedal along the paved 34-mile-long River Mountains Loop Trail, which winds around the lake and hillsides of Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
Head into the heart of the state to find Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. This year-round destination lures adventuresome travelers with superb camping, fishing, hiking and skiing. Continue north to retrace old wagon trails in Black Rock Desert - High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area. In late-August this is the setting for the self-expressive community arts events called Burning Man. Don’t miss Spring Mountains National Recreation Area for hikes, open-air theater and picnics and Sheldon National Antelope Refuge for wildlife spotting.
Go on a Road Trip
Jump in a car, wind the windows down, crank up the volume, and cruise along open highways framed by snow-capped mountains and sprawling desert countryside. The Loneliest Road in America is Nevada’s 380-mile stretch of the east-to-west U.S. Route 50. Connecting Baker with Carson City, it’s a ticket to unrivaled solitude, big blue skies, historic towns and pit stops at authentic roadhouses such as Middlegate Station. You can complete the drive in a 6-hour stint behind the wheel but break it up to discover some Nevada gems. The Great Basin National Park, Grimes Point Archaeological Area and Sand Mountain are all must-sees.
Closer to Vegas itself, you can opt to cross Hoover Dam by car and drive the 13-mile-long scenic loop road of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Alternatively, travel to the California state line and take it slow on the road that passes through forests, over mountainside and along the waterfront of Lake Tahoe.
Visit a Ghost Town
When prospectors discovered silver in Nevada in the mid-19th century the state boomed and mining towns sprang up across the desert. However, few survived the test of time and all that remains of them today is relics of their former wealth. For curious travelers, these so-called ghost towns present an alternative side to Nevada’s entertainment fame. Expect to find the spooky ruins of hotels, general stores and saloons and the odd tumbleweed blowing across the dusty roads.
With street names such as Bonanza and Eldorado, it’ll come at no surprise that Nelson witnessed one of Nevada’s largest booms. There are beat-up cars, weathered machinery and a derelict gas station. Movie fans might recognize it from 3000 Miles to Graceland. If you wish to spend a night at a real-life ghost town then check out Gold Point, Esmeralda County. Others worth your time are Unionville, Humboldt County, where Mark Twain once lived, and Belmont, nestled in the Toquima Mountains of Nye County.