8 outdoor adventures to have in Nevada

Rust-red desert, rocky ranges and riverine forest all primed for alfresco escapism, Nevada’s diverse landscapes are made for outdoor lovers. Here are nine adventures you can have…

Alexandra Gregg
01 March 2023
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Nevada

Arid desertscapes and Nevada go hand in hand. But the desert is just one of the state’s many diverse terrains. Forests, rivers, lakes, flood plains, 15-million-year-old lava flows and their volatile calderas pepper this unique region. Indeed, with over 300 named mountain ranges, it’s the USA’s most mountainous state after Alaska – an accolade often wrongly bestowed on its neighbours. Even the desert itself is split into high and low topographies, each with differing climates, vegetation, and wildlife. And with so many rich landscapes, where do you begin? Here, we look at the plethora of activities on offer in the Silver State…

1. Hiking

A hiker in Valley of Fire State Park (Shutterstock)

Whether it’s all-out wilderness walks or leisurely strolls, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Nevada. And thanks to 294 days of sun, you’ve got the weather for it, too! Easily accessible from Las Vegas as part of the Neon-to-Nature road trip, thrill seekers should opt for challenging Turtlehead Peak, in Red Rock, known for its canyon views. An hour away in Valley of Fire State Park you’ll find the brisker, 1.25-mile Fire Wave trail, so named for the colourful rock formations en route, while Sloan Canyon’s seven-mile Black Mountain Trail offers 360-degree views of Sin City from its summit. Lake Tahoe, Great Basin National Park, and the Ruby Mountains also boast solid hiking options.

2. Hot springs

Spencer Hot Springs (Shutterstock)

Did you know there are more than 300 hot spring sources across Nevada? That makes it the place Stateside for taking a dip in the great outdoors. Spencer Hot Springs, in Austin, offers three or four source pools, and is an easy pitstop along the Loneliest Road in America route. Taking the Free-Range Art Highway? Don’t miss Dyer’s Fish Lake Valley, where wild hot springs reign supreme. For seclusion, Soldier Meadows Hot Springs, north of the Black Rock Desert, is your bubbling bath of choice, while the Black Rock Hot Springs themselves are perhaps the most iconic in the state – especially if you’re a Burning Man fan.

3. Rafting

Rapids along the Truckee River (Shutterstock)

Nevada rafting is made in Carson City. In early spring, the East Fork Carson River serves up a temperate 18-mile run, with largely Class II rapids and one Class III, aptly monikered ‘Sidewinder’. Visiting between April and September? Truckee River is your spot. It flows for 121 miles from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake, a twisting, turning, frothing behemoth that serves up Class II, III and III+ rapids – trust us, you’ll know when you take on ‘Jaws’ and ‘the Bronco’. Both rivers can be experienced while taking the Lake Tahoe Loop, which cruises around the world-famous lake before taking in Carson Valley, Carson City and the Old West vibes of Virginia City.

4. Stargazing

A starry sky above Tonopah (Shutterstock)

Thanks to its dry atmosphere and remote locale, stargazing is one of Nevada’s biggest draws. In fact, the metal-rush city of Tonopah – end point on the alien-themed Extra-Terrestrial Highway route – was named the #1 Stargazing Destination in America by USA Today. No surprise there though: here you can see up to 7,000 stars with the naked eye, including the Milky Way. Set a course for Tonopah Stargazing Park where benches, tables, telescopes, and binoculars are set up for public use. For something otherworldly, stop-off at West Wendover’s Bonneville Salt Flats – at the end of the Cowboy Corridor. It’s particularly mesmerising after rainfall, when the night skies are reflected in impossibly calm puddles beneath your feet.

5. Winter sports

Skiers in Lake Tahoe (Shutterstock)

When talking winter and the Sierra Nevada, you can’t miss Lake Tahoe. Every year sees some 30ft of snow, making it a mecca for skiers. Hit the slopes across the Nevada-California state line, opt for a bit of cross-country, or try ice skating and snow tubing. And with cosy log cabins and firepits aplenty, the après ski here is top-notch. The Ruby Mountains – the highlight of the Rubies Route in north-eastern Nevada – also enjoy 25ft of snow annually. The vibe here is slightly different though, with emphasis on snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and even heli-skiing. Quirkier still are the activities at Cave Lake, in White Pine County: ice fishing, sculpting and snow bowling.

6. Camping

Great Basin National Park is just one of Nevada’s fine camping spots (Shutterstock)

With Nevada’s public lands open to camping it’s a fantastic place to pitch up. Not just that, but its wealth of diverse parks and isolated towns make it a fascinating place to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature. In Cathedral Gorge State Park, you’ll find a campground flanked by a dramatic landscape of caves and clay spires. To the east of the state, Great Basin National Park offers craggy mountains and marble caves by day, and star-pocked skies by night. You’ll find it along the Great Basin Highway, and can choose from six designated campgrounds. For something more unusual, head to Fish Lake Valley to stay in some Nevadan ghost towns.

7. Kayaking

Pyramid Lake is a kayaker’s paradise (Shutterstock)

Kayakers, rejoice! There are around 36 lakes in the Silver State, their turquoise, blue and green waters in perfect contrast to the soaring mountains and orange deserts. They provide a unique vantage for exploring the state’s wildest environs and best-known locales. Man-made Lake Mead is all about a tranquil paddling experience, where you can soak up the jagged mountain backdrop or even head to Boulder Island, in the heart of the lake, for panoramic views. Pyramid Lake, just north of ‘Big Little City’ Reno, offers a historic and scenic kayaking experience; if you’re taking the Burning Man-inspired Burner Byway road trip, you can take a break here.

8. Climbing

Red Rock Canyon is excellent for climbers in Nevada (Shutterstock)

From bouldering to belaying, the outdoor climbing in Nevada is some of the best the States have to offer. And the best of the best? Red Rock Canyon. Just 20 miles from the Las Vegas Strip, this is where the pros come to soar. Its dusty, crimson trails offer over 2,000 spots to chalk up. If sport or trad climbs are your thing, the rugged granite peaks of Lake Tahoe deliver – Donner Summit has more than 330 routes. For scrambling, Death Valley’s Grotto Canyon can be incorporated into a Death Valley Rally road trip. It presents a series of complex obstacles, while the 40.2-mile out-and-back climb/hike combo to Telescope Peak is one for true adventurers.

Make it happen

Book your dream visit to Nevada now with the experts at Travel Planners. With heaps of itinerary inspiration and offers available, the company can help you plan your visit to this incredible part of the USA.

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