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When many people think of Nevada, the bright lights of Las Vegas and the outdoor recreation of Lake Tahoe come to mind. However, there is much more to this fascinating western state, which can be often best be experienced by spending some time in the local parks. Here are the coolest state and national parks in Nevada to get out into nature and see the beautiful landscapes that Nevada has to offer.
For incredible rock formations and vibrant red colors, make a point to visit Valley of Fire State Park. A popular day trip from Las Vegas, you’ll find bright red Aztec sandstone, petrified trees, and ancient petroglyphs to explore. The park was established in 1935. There’s a visitor’s center here where you can learn about geology and history. The park is open year-round and has campsites, hiking trails, and picnic areas. There’s also the annual Atlatl Competition that features a test of skills with ancient spears. For camping, there are two campgrounds with 72 total units. RV sites are available with water and power hookups. Wi-Fi is available in the park, and pets are welcome in the park (just not the visitor center) on a six-foot leash.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area is America’s first national recreation area and a place in Nevada where you can swim, hike, camp, fish, and boat. The area is vast and spans 1.5 million acres. The landscape is made up of canyons, valleys, mountains, and lakes. There are also 9 wilderness areas where you can find some solitude. It’s close to Las Vegas and makes an awesome day trip while you’re in the area. Top places to see here are the Black Canyon for rafting and kayaking, Overton Arm in the northern region, Boulder Basin near the entrance, and East Lake Mead for tranquility. Various hikes are available in the Lakeshore Area, Northshore Area, and Lake Mohave Area. Stay overnight at one of the numerous campgrounds here that accommodate tents and RVs.
Spring Mountain Ranch State Park is located among the cliffs of the Spring Mountains and part of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Come here for amazing scenery and to learn about Nevada’s history. People have been drawn to this park since the 1830s, and there are a lot of interesting things to learn about when you visit. This park often has fewer crowds than elsewhere in the conservation area. When you visit, you can check out the 1860s blacksmith shop, the Sandstone Cabin, hiking trails, and shaded picnic sites. The park also offers guided tours, living history programs, and summer theater performances.
A top national park in the United States, Great Basin National Park has a great diversity across its foothills, Wheeler Peak, wilderness, and desert. One awesome thing to do here is to take a Lehman cave tour. Cave tours are guided and offered year-around with a couple of different tour options. This is also a dark sky park with an astronomy program that you can attend throughout the year to learn about stars, planets, and galaxies. Camping is available in Great Basin National Park at five developed campgrounds: Upper Lehman Creek, Lower Lehman Creek, Baker Creek, Grey Cliffs, and Wheeler Peak. There are also primitive campgrounds along Snake Creek Road and three campgrounds with accessible sites.
You can find year-round recreation at Cave Lake State Park, which is a top spot for fishing and boating. Here you can catch rainbow trout and German brown trout in the 32-acre reservoir. Other popular activities here are hiking, swimming, mountain biking, and camping. In the winter, come here for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, and ice skating. There are two designated campgrounds in this park: Elk Flat Campground and Lake View Campground. There is also a yurt that you can rent out here. The Cave Lake Overlook Trail is a strenuous 4.5-mile loop trail, and the Cave Springs Trail is a five-mile hiking trail that is slightly less strenuous.
Cathedral Gorge State Park is a beautiful state park in southeastern Nevada that displays the aftermath of volcanic activity and has awesome walking trails around the cave-like formations and spires that resemble a cathedral. This is a favorite park among photographers because of the natural beauty. There’s a campground here with 22 sites, and electric hookups are available. The park has a visitor center, picnic area, four-mile loop trail, and one-mile trail between the picnic area and overlook.
Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park is an interesting Nevada park that is centered on a ghost town that has been preserved. It has trails through the townsite to tell its story and also has the largest-known remains in the world of the Ichthyosaurus, which was an ancient marine reptile. Check out the Fossil House at the park to see the fossils that date back about 225 million years. There’s a self-guided tour that you can do here and also a mine tour. From here, you can access the American Discovery Trail, which is an epic trail that is over 6,800 miles long and covers 500 miles in Nevada.
The Tahoe region of Nevada is undeniably one of the most beautiful parts of the state and a beloved area among outdoor enthusiasts. Sand Harbor at Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park is an ideal place for scuba diving, boating, water skiing, and swimming. This is also where the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival takes place in the summer. Spooner Lake at the state park is a backcountry region with over 12,000 acres of forested open space. Some popular trails here are the Tahoe Rim Trails, Red House, and Marlette. Camping and cabins are available here, as well as opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and hunting.
Kershaw-Ryan State Park has a colorful canyon with tall walls and is an oasis in the desert. Here you’ll find natural springs, wild grapevines, fruit trees, and a spring-fed pond. This is an ideal place to have a picnic and go for a hike. There is a 16-unit campground here that has 50-amp power and water hookup sites for RVs. Don’t miss the 1.5-mile Overlook Trail. This park was established in 1961 and continues to amaze travelers still today.
You’ll also love exploring Beaver Dam State Park, which features rustic beauty and a peaceful environment. Here you’ll find ponderosa forests, juniper trees, volcanic and sedimentary rocks, turkeys, jack rabbits, and much more. You can camp at the two developed campgrounds here on a first-come, first, served basis. Check out the Overlook Trail for a 360-degree panoramic view of the canyon, the Oak Knoll Trail to go fishing, and the Waterfall Trail for a natural Jacuzzi. This park dates back to 1935, but Beaver Dam was formed over 10 million years ago from erosion and volcanic activity.
In this Nevada park, you may see bald eagles soar and get lovely views of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Horseback riding, birdwatching, hiking, and camping are popular activities at Washoe Lake State Park. You can camp at the 49-site campground here that is open year-round and available on a first-come, first-served basis. There’s also a boat launch area and boat trailer parking sites. Hunting, fishing, and horseback riding are popular things to do while visiting this Nevada park. The park was established in 1977 and named after the Washoe People who spent their winters in the valley.
The last Nevada park we’ll highlight here is Echo Canyon State Park, which is a top spot for swimming, boating, and fishing in the 65-acre reservoir. This is an eastern Nevada destination that is home to native wildlife, such as waterfowl, owls, vultures, and deer. The North Campground has 33 sites that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There are 20 full hookup sites at the RV campground that overlooks Dry Valley. Visitors can enjoy the picnic tables and barbecue grills along the reservoir shore, use the boat launch at the north shore of the reservoir, and hike along the Ash Canyon trail that leads into the backcountry.