Nevada State Parks Outdoor Adventures
Prime camping destinations are found everywhere in Nevada although one of the best ones is Cathedral Gorge State Park where you can pitch your tent amid the park’s soaring canyons. If you’re looking for views that can’t be found anywhere else, then this park is perfect for you! Temperatures can swing a lot. I always like to bring a small backpacking thermometer with me as the temperature drops. The park boasts of both private and developed sites; the latter priced at $12 per night while the former is completely free. Be advised, though, that camping here is on a first-come, first-served basis, and reservations aren’t allowed.
The blazing red sandstone formations at Valley of Fire State Park is also an incredible spot. The park is Nevada’s largest and oldest state park with plenty of well-equipped and well-maintained camping areas. Over 72 sites can be found here; tent sites are priced at $14 a night while RV sites go for $24. If you have never gone camping before, I highly recommend it. There is something magical about grabbing your backpacking hatchet to split some firewood and building a campfire. Before long you will be sitting around the campfire with friends and family, watching the flames, and enjoying each other’s company in a relaxing environment.
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For a hike with phenomenal views, take on the Fire Wave Trail at Valley of Fire State Park. This easy 1.5-mile hike heads up a long steep ridge of red sandstone and takes you through an expanse of sand and slick rock. It also winds around the park’s red stone bluffs, ending at the base of the Fire Wave Rock. This route offers some of the best views of Nevada’s colorful rocks and diverse wildlife so it’s definitely a must-try for hiking enthusiasts.
The moderately-difficult Calico Tanks Trail at Red Rock Canyon State Park is also extremely popular, featuring two sets of sandstone stairs that visitors are free to ascend. At 2.3 miles long and with an elevation change of just over 400 feet, this hike is made for the entire family!
Local hiking fans love taking on the 6.3-mile Van Sickle Rim Trail at Van Sickle Bi-State Park. The route meanders through fields of wildflowers and offers stunning views, as well as a lake where hikers can cool off afterward. Best trekked from April through November, this one-of-a-kind hike comes highly recommended.
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Within Spring Valley State Park lies Eagle Valley Reservoir, home to an abundance of rainbow trout, tiger trout, and brown trout. Anglers are big fans of the fishing opportunities in this park, which also offers a dock that can be used by anyone wishing to cast a line.
The 65-acre Echo Canyon Reservoir at Echo Canyon State Park is also an incredible fishing hole, filled with largemouth bass, speckled dace, and more. If you’re looking to experience fishing in Nevada, then this park should definitely be on your bucket list.
If you’re after small game, then Washoe Lake State Park is your best bet. During the waterfowl season, hunters from all over Nevada flock to this spot to try their hand at pursuing some. But keep in mind that the park doesn’t allow the discharging of a rifle or a pistol, nor does it permit the use or possession of shotgun shells that are toxic or larger than the standard size T.
Day Use Areas
At Fort Churchill State Historic Park, take in your meal amid fascinating preserved ruins. Don’t forget to explore these pieces of American history afterward.
Another great picnic spot in Nevada is Ward Charcoal Oven State Historic Park, situated in the eastern region of the Egan Mountain Range. This park boasts of views unique only to this area of the Sagebrush State!
Located in the quaint town of Genoa, Mormon Station State Park is also a beloved picnic spot among residents and tourists alike. With breathtaking views that won’t be found anywhere else, this park definitely shouldn’t be passed up!
The Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park system – which consists of Sand Harbor, Spooner Backcountry, Cave Rock, and Van Sickle – offers miles and miles of trails, perfect for mountain biking enthusiasts. These routes wind through a variety of different terrains, from rock outcroppings to the shores of Nevada’s lakes. There’s something for all kinds of riders in this park!
There are also plenty of cycling opportunities at Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park. Explore the rich and colorful history of Nevada as you ride along.
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The beautiful natural landscapes found at Great Basin National Park are home to hundreds of species of highland birds, including the unique Black Rosy-Finch, which makes it perfect for birding. This beautiful rarity is found among the park’s twisted bristlecone pines that date back to three thousand years ago.
Meanwhile, the 13,063-foot Wheeler Peak, the highest point in the park, also boasts of a great many birds; here, avid Bird-watchers may observe the Common Poorwill, the Cordilleran Flycatcher, the Cassin’s Finch, and more. You will definitely need a good pair of birding binoculars. Naturally, birdlife changes as elevation rises, making this spot a unique and phenomenal Birding destination.
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Many consider the 32-acre Cave Lake reservoir at Cave Lake State Park to be one of the best swimming holes in Nevada. Swimming in the reservoir’s clear and deep-blue waters is a great way to cool off from the scorching heat that the Sagebrush State is infamous for.
The Big Bend portion of the Colorado River is found within the Colorado State Recreation Area and is a favorite swimming hole among residents. Its waters are unusually warm and comfortable and this, combined with its abundance of beaches, makes this spot the ideal summer destination. The sun can be intense, so definitely consider a beach umbrella that holds up the to the sun and wind.
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Nevada’s Silver State Trail is a nationally-recognized adventure for fans of Off-Highway Vehicles. Looping its way around 260 miles of the state’s backcountry, the route takes riders through Kershaw-Ryan State Park and Cathedral Gorge State Park. This is definitely an adventure that you’ll never forget!
Several equestrian trails are found at Lake Tahoe-Nevada State Park although the two best ones are the Marlette Lake Trail, which meanders along Spooner Lake, and the Marlette Lake and Chimney Beach Loop Trail. Both routes offer riders phenomenal views of Nevada and keep your eyes peeled for the diverse wildlife that can be spotted throughout.
Located on the western side of the Shoshone mountain range, Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park is an archaeological site named after the mining town that once stood there, as well as the world-renowned reptile that once swam the ocean that covered the land. Today, the ghost town and the country’s largest collection of Ichthyosaur fossils draw in thousands of tourists every week.
Fort Churchill State Historic Park, once a U.S. Army fort, was built in 1861 and deserted a mere ten years later. While most buildings no longer exist, the historic Buckland Station lies near the park, making it a great destination for American history buffs across the country.
Established in 1851 as the first permanent settlement of non-native people, Mormon Station State Historic Park now houses a museum with artifacts from the pioneer days. The area also boasts of many great antique shops where you’re bound to land some interesting finds!
Six beehive-shaped ovens used from 1876 to 1879 are found in Ward Charcoal Oven State Historic Park, producing charcoal out of the area’s abundance of pinyon pine and juniper. Guests can explore these towering structures and even participate in the many recreational activities offered by the park.
Cave Lake State Park is an incredible winter destination; the lake often freezes with over 24 inches of ice, making it a popular spot for ice fishing and ice skating. Additionally, visitors can choose to go snowshoeing or snowmobiling – a great way to explore the beautiful natural landscapes unique to this park.
Those looking to go on a stunning winter lake should check out Valley of Fire State Park whose towering sandstone formations are a treat to explore. Additionally, visitors love pitching their tents for an unforgettable winter camping experience!
Scuba Diving and Snorkeling
Sand Harbor, situated within Sand Harbor State Park is the most popular dive site in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Local dive stores even offer open-water classes for beginners and those new to the sport. With the bottom depth averaging at 30 feet and featuring a few challenging slopes, as well as large sunken trees and numerous rocks, this diving spot is undoubtedly one for the books!