Fire Wave Las Vegas hiking trails

15 Best Things to Do in Nevada + Map

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When it comes to things to do in Nevada, visiting Las Vegas is probably the first thing that come to mind for most people. The state of Nevada has so much more to offer, though: interesting museums, beautiful scenery, historic sites, and more. Personally, I’ve had a lot of adventures in this state and discovered plenty of hidden gems along the way.

As such, this article will cover the top 15 things to do in Nevada, including visiting a ghost town, admiring ancient petroglyphs, and exploring the state’s gorgeous, varied landscapes. Many of the places to visit in Nevada that I’ve included are spread out around the state. Luckily, this means that you’ll actually get to see different corners of the state and discover what makes Nevada so special.

Are you ready to learn more about Nevada’s best attractions? Let’s get into it!

1. Las Vegas, the most popular place to visit in Nevada

You simply can’t miss visiting Las Vegas, the most popular thing to see in Nevada. The Las Vegas Strip in particular is an iconic, one-of-a-kind location that everyone should see at least once.

There are plenty of things to do on the Strip, from seeing shows and visiting Las Vegas’ best hotels, to checking out the Fremont Street Experience, gambling in the most popular casinos in Las Vegas, and exploring the Neon Museum. You can even head to the Mob Museum and learn more about organized crime in the United States, or hop on the High Roller Ferris wheel and enjoy panoramic views of the city.

Be sure to catch the incredible Bellagio fountain show, a choreographed spectacle complete with music. Alternatively, if you’d like to see Sin City from a birds-eye perspective, a helicopter tour in Las Vegas will allow you to take in all the features of this vibrant city from a new angle.

Las Vegas, one of the most popular places to visit in Nevada and for good reason

1.   Las Vegas, the most popular place to visit in Nevada

If you’re dying to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown, the Springs Preserve is a delightful nature preserve with a botanical garden and butterfly habitat that’s located less than five miles from downtown Vegas.

Otherwise, those who want to venture even further afield can head to the Grand Canyon, which is only a few hours away from Vegas and is one of the most beautiful national parks in the United States. You can always rent a car and drive there yourself, but the easiest option is booking a Grand Canyon tour from Las Vegas.

2. See Hoover Dam, a top thing to do in Nevada state

One of the top places to go in Nevada, and for good reason, is Hoover Dam. This National Historic Landmark is a masterpiece of modern civil engineering and an impressive sight to behold. Moreover, because it’s such a popular tourist attraction, it’s worth planning your trip to Hoover Dam in advance.

This immense dam was built during the Great Depression to control the flooding of the Colorado River and to generate hydroelectric power and irrigation water. It impounds Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States when full. Nowadays, the dam provides power for Nevada, Arizona, and California, so it’s an incredibly important structure.

Admire Hoover Dam, a famous tourist attraction in Nevada that's impressive to see

2. See Hoover Dam, a top thing to do in Nevada state

If you want to simplify things, booking a tour of Hoover Dam from Las Vegas is probably the easiest and most convenient way to visit it. Otherwise, you should start at the Visitor Center, where you can learn more about this hydroelectric dam through a series of exhibits. Then, if you want to enjoy the best views, head to Hoover Dam Bridge or one of the Hoover Dam lookouts.

From the bridge and lookouts, you’ll not only see just how large this structure really is, but also get a sense of just how impressive an engineering feat it was to build.

  • Recommended accommodation: Staying at Hoover Dam Lodge will give you easy access to Hoover Dam, since it’s just a five-minute drive away. The lodge’s many modern features include a restaurant, outdoor pool, casino, and general store.

3. Lake Mead National Recreation Area, a popular tourist attraction in Nevada

Enjoy the great outdoors at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, the United States’ first and largest recreation area. Best of all, this Nevada attraction is located near Hoover Dam, so you can easily visit the two in one trip.

In fact, Lake Mead is a reservoir that was formed when Hoover Dam was built, so it wouldn’t exist without the dam. A great first stop for your visit is the Visitor’s Center, where you can learn more about the local wildlife, pick up a map, or ask the rangers some questions about your trip.

There are so many things to do at Lake Mead, including swimming, kayaking, boating, and fishing. You’ll also find numerous hiking trails at this national park near Las Vegas, including the Historic Railroad Trail. Alternatively, you can just relax and picnic on the shores of the lake or set up camp if you want to stay overnight.

Boating at Lake Mead, one of the best things to do in Nevada

3. Lake Mead National Recreation Area, a popular tourist attraction in Nevada

Another option is to take a scenic drive along Northshore Road, which will allow you to see the area’s main historical landmarks and natural landscapes. You can also stop at one of the road’s overlooks for a stunning panoramic view.

Unfortunately, Lake Mead is currently at 27% of its original capacity, and there is speculation that it may eventually run dry. As such, take advantage and visit while there’s still water to relax in.

  • Recommended accommodation: Camping is the most fun and adventurous way to stay in Lake Mead. Many people looking for campgrounds near Las Vegas go here, since it’s only 30 minutes away, and you will be able to pitch your tent with lake views.

4. Hike in the Valley of Fire State Park, one of the most unique things to do in Nevada

One of the most beautiful attractions in Nevada is Valley of Fire State Park, located in Overton, NV. This park is home to tons of breathtaking Aztec sandstone formations, as well as sand dunes, petrified trees, and petroglyphs left by Ancestral Puebloans.

As such, exploring Valley of Fire is easily one of the best things to do in Nevada. Visit Rainbow Vista to see the stunning orange, red, pink, yellow, and gray striations, or head to Pink Canyon to admire rosy-hued rocks. Another great stop is Arch Rock, where you can marvel at the delicate sandstone arch that’s been created by millions of years of weathering.

Moreover, hiking the trails at Valley of Fire will allow you to enjoy incredible views, admire petroglyphs, and more. I recommend the Petroglyph Canyon via Mouse Tank’s Trail. It’s a short, easy hike that takes you past some of the park’s amazing ancient rock art, a must-see.

Fire Wave Las Vegas hiking trails in Valley of Fire State Park, one of the top things to see in Nevada

4. Hike in the Valley of Fire State Park, one of the most unique things to do in Nevada

Another great trail is the Fire Wave Trail, which takes you to the majestic Fire Wave, a multicolored, striated sandstone formation. This easy trail takes only 45 minutes in total and allows you to see the vivid reds, oranges, and pinks of the rocks up close.

Yet another option is to book a Valley of Fire tour from Las Vegas and have a guide show you all of the park’s highlights. Regardless of how you choose to visit, Valley of Fire is a place that should not be missed.

  • Recommended accommodation: There are two campsites at Valley of Fire State Park: Atlatl Rock and Arch Rock. Atlatl Rock is larger and better suited for RV camping, while Arch Rock has only 29 campsites and so works better for tents.

5. Swim in Lake Tahoe, one of the best outdoor things to do in Nevada

Nevada summers can get toasty, so cool off with a swim in Lake Tahoe, a top place to visit in Nevada year-round. Sand Harbor Beach is one of the nicest beaches for swimming, since it has crystal clear, calm waters with no waves.

Another fantastic beach by Lake Tahoe is Nevada Beach, where you can swim, kayak, and picnic. If you’re more of a hiker, you may enjoy hiking all or part of the Tahoe Rim Trail, a 165-mile trail that loops around the lake. It’s one of the best things to do in Nevada. Alternatively, an easier hiking option is the Eagle Falls and Eagle Lake Trail. The hike to Eagle Lake is only one mile, so this is a popular trail for families and picnickers.

Exploring Lake Tahoe, one of the best outdoor things to do in Nevada

5. Swim in Lake Tahoe, one of the best outdoor things to do in Nevada

However, Lake Tahoe isn’t just a prime summer destination. It’s also a popular spot in winter, when folks hit the slopes in the area for skiing and snowboarding. If you’re interested, a prime winter sport resort is Heavenly Mountain Resort, the largest ski area in California and Nevada, which is located on Lake Tahoe’s south shore.

  • Recommended accommodation: The Tahoe Seasons Resort by Diamond Resorts is a spacious, modern resort with mountain views and plenty of amenities. As a guest, you’ll have access to a tennis court, outdoor pool, hot tub, and outdoor grill.

6. Rhyolite Ghost Town, a spooky Nevada tourist attraction

Explore the cool yet creepy Rhyolite Ghost Town, a unique thing to do in Nevada near Beatty. This former gold-mining town, located by Death Valley National Park, boomed during the early 20th century after the discovery of gold ore nearby in 1905. In its heyday, the town had fifty saloons, sixteen restaurants, multiple barbers, and a local newspaper, the Rhyolite Herald.

Take a walk around Rhyolite Ghost Town, one of the spookiest and must unique things to do in Nevada

6. Rhyolite Ghost Town, a spooky Nevada tourist attraction

Of course, now the town is mostly full of ruins. Buildings you’ll see include the walls of the old bank, parts of the old jail, the fully intact train depot, and the Bottle House, which was restored by Paramount Pictures in 1925. In fact, Paramount Pictures used Rhyolite as a setting for their 1925 movie The Air Mail, so this town is also a former film set.

Best of all, Rhyolite Ghost Town is free to visit, so it’s one of the most unique free things to do in Nevada.

  • Recommended accommodation: The nearby Death Valley Inn and RV Park in Beatty is a pet-friendly motel with plenty of parking for RVs. You’ll also find an outdoor pool, hot tub, and BBQ facilities there to enjoy.

7. Fly Ranch Geyser, a one-of-a-kind Nevada attraction

If you want to see a Nevada attraction unlike any other, check out Fly Ranch Geyser in Gerlach, Nevada. This multi-colored geothermal geyser spouts water up to five feet into the air, but, unlike most other geysers, it is not a natural formation.

Snap a picture of Fly Ranch Geyser, one of the coolest Nevada attractions

7. Fly Ranch Geyser, a one-of-a-kind Nevada attraction

In fact, Fly Ranch Geyser was created by accident when a power company drilled a test well. Fortunately, this lucky fluke means that visitors can now enjoy the gorgeous colors and quirky shape of this formation. Just keep in mind that the geyser is located on private land, Fly Ranch to be exact, so you’ll have to book a tour of the ranch in order to see what is one of the most popular places in Nevada.

The tours, which are guided nature walks, last 2.5 hours and are managed by the Friends of Black Rock-High Rock in partnership with the Burning Man Project. As part of the tour, besides viewing the geyser, you’ll also be able to see Burning Man art, which is perfect if you’re a fan of or intrigued by the famous festival.

  • Recommended accommodation: My top pick for accommodation by Fly Ranch Geyser is the SureStay Hotel by Best Western Fernley. Besides offering a daily continental breakfast, the hotel features a hot tub, indoor pool, and business center.

8. Visit Great Basin National Park, a fun outdoor thing to do in Nevada

One of the best things to do in Nevada besides Vegas is to visit Great Basin National Park, which is located near the towns of Baker and Ely. The park houses some of the world’s oldest trees, bristlecone pines, which you can see up close in Bristlecone Pine Grove.

Another top place to visit in the park is Lehman Caves, which contains various limestone formations and can be visited via guided tour. Beyond that, you can also explore the park by hiking any of its 12 trails.

Hike in Great Basin National Park, one of the best places to go in Nevada to explore the outdoors

8. Visit Great Basin National Park, a fun outdoor thing to do in Nevada

I recommend the Glacier/Bristlecone Pine Trail, a moderate, 4.8-mile hike that will take you through Bristlecone Pine Grove, where you can stop and admire the beautiful ancient trees, one of the best things to do in Nevada. Then, you’ll head past the grove to reach the only glacier in Nevada, located right beneath Wheeler Peak. The views of the glacier and Wheeler Peak are just spectacular and make the climb totally worth it.

Alternatively, if you’re up for the challenge, the difficult Wheeler Summit Trail will take you to the top of Wheeler Peak, where you’ll enjoy sweeping views of the park. Otherwise, the much more convenient option is to drive the 12-mile Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, which will still give you fantastic views of the park’s mountains and valleys.

  • Recommended accommodation: Located just a 30-minute drive from Great Basin National Park, Hidden Canyon Retreat is an apt name for this charming hidden gem situated within a canyon. Take some time to explore the canyon or just relax in the hotel’s garden and hot tub.

9. Reno, one of the top Nevada places to visit

Yet another interesting place to go in Nevada is the city of Reno, where you’ll find plenty of museums, outdoor attractions, and casinos.

To start your trip off, snap a picture of the iconic Reno Arch, which stretches over Virginia Street. The sign is emblazoned with Reno’s motto, “The Biggest Little City in the World.”

Next, most visitors love the National Automobile Museum, which houses the car collection of William F. Harrah, an American businessman. The more than 200 cars on display include rare, vintage, and one-of-a-kind models, and the immersive exhibits feature street scenes that were typical of the displayed car models’ eras.

Head to Reno, one of the most interesting places to visit in Nevada

9. Reno, one of the top Nevada places to visit

If you’d prefer to spend some time in nature, the Truckee River Walk is a peaceful area with lovely views of the city and river. Alternatively, you can explore the Peppermill Casino, which boasts a resort, spa, gaming, and multiple restaurants, or take in the exhibits at the Nevada Museum of Art.

Kids and science lovers will enjoy visiting the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum, which boasts interactive displays that include a Mindbender Mansion full of puzzles and the Cloud Climber, a giant jungle gym that represents the water cycle.

Coincidentally, Lake Tahoe is only an hour’s drive away from Reno, so you could easily visit both popular attractions in Nevada in one trip.

  • Recommended accommodation: Enjoy the fun of staying in a centrally located, luxurious hotel with a casino at Circus Circus Reno. Families with kids will enjoy the free circus acts, and everyone will love the delicious food at the hotel’s El Jefe’s Cantina and Madame Butterwork’s Curious Café.

10. Visit Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, a fun thing to do in Nevada

Book a Las Vegas rental car and drive on over to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, one of the best outdoor things to do in Nevada. Here, you’ll see everything from incredible Native American petroglyphs to stunning red rocks and wild burros.

If you’re not much of a hiker, you can stick to the 13-mile scenic drive around the park, which will still allow you to see the park’s most iconic features. Otherwise, I would highly recommend hiking the Calico Tanks Trail, one of the best things to do in Red Rock Canyon, and walking to the Petroglyph Wall, where you can see the beautiful ancient rock art up close. If you’re extra brave, you may even want to go rock climbing here!

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, what to do in Nevada besides Vegas

10. Visit Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, a fun thing to do in Nevada

Other beautiful landmarks include Ice Box Canyon, where the whitish rocks provide a striking contrast to the red sandstone throughout the rest of the park, and Lost Creek, where you can see an imposing waterfall between December and April.

  • Recommended accommodation: At Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa, there’s so much to do that you’ll barely want to leave your hotel! From a bowling alley and outdoor pool with bar to multiple restaurants and a spa that offers massages, the amenities alone are worth staying here for.

11. Area 51, a fantastic Nevada attraction for extraterrestrial enthusiasts

Area 51 is a must-visit Nevada tourist attraction for anyone who’s curious about extraterrestrial life and UFOs. This infamous location in Rachel, NV is still an active military base, so it’s technically off-limits to the public. You can still drive by the base, however, so it does make a fun day trip from Las Vegas.

In my opinion, the best option for exploring Area 51 is booking an Area 51 tour, which is exactly what we did. That way, you’ll be able to see a lot of other cool, extraterrestrial-related attractions nearby, including the Alien Research Center, where you can learn more about Area 51, and the Extraterrestrial Highway, another name for Nevada State Route 375, which links all the main extraterrestrial-related attractions.

Exploring Area 51 and surroundings, what to see in Nevada if you're an extraterrestrial enthusiast

11. Area 51, a fantastic Nevada attraction for extraterrestrial enthusiasts

You’ll also stop at the Black Mailbox, an important meeting place for alien enthusiasts, and even head to the perimeter of Area 51, which is about as close as you’ll be able to get.

  • Recommended accommodation: Embrace the extraterrestrial vibe and stay at the Little A’Le’Inn. As you may have guessed from the clever name, this motel with a restaurant and bar is decked out in alien-themed décor and serves up “alien burgers” and Alien Amber Ale.

12. Seven Magic Mountains, one of the best things to see in Nevada near Las Vegas

One of the best things to see in Nevada near Vegas is Seven Magic Mountains, an outdoor art installation by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone. Located only 30 minutes from downtown Las Vegas, the piece consists of seven towers of colorful, stacked boulders that are more than thirty feet high.

Surprisingly, this artwork was originally supposed to be on display for just two years when it was installed in 2016. However, the work’s immense popularity encouraged the artist to leave the piece in its current location for a longer amount of time, and it’s now on display indefinitely.

Seven Magic Mountains, one of the coolest things to see in Nevada near Vegas

12. Seven Magic Mountains, one of the best things to see in Nevada near Las Vegas

The bright, neon colors of the piece’s towers contrast strikingly with the surrounding Mojave Desert and provide an interesting representation of humanity’s impact on nature. Take a moment to admire the work from all angles before snapping a picture of this impressive juxtaposition of the natural and the artificial.

Best of all, there’s no fee to see this piece, so it’s one of the best free things to do outside Las Vegas.

  • Recommended accommodation: Whether it’s a luxury resort, pet-friendly hotel, or themed accommodation you’re after, there are plenty of options for places to stay in Las Vegas. Filter your search by amenities and price to find the best choice for you.

13. Cathedral Gorge State Park, one of the most beautiful places in Nevada

Immerse yourself in otherworldly landscapes at Cathedral Gorge State Park in Panaca, NV. Here, years of erosion have carved the park’s soft bentonite clay into canyons and cathedral-like formations.

This outdoor place to visit in Nevada is the perfect spot for hiking, picnicking, camping, and stargazing. If you get lucky, you may even be able to catch a glimpse of some local wildlife, such as bobcats, mule deer, or blacktailed jackrabbits.

Exploring and hiking Cathedral Gorge State Park, fun stuff to do in Nevada

13. Cathedral Gorge State Park, one of the most beautiful places in Nevada

A great way to start exploring the park is via Miller Point Trail, a 2-mile hike that starts at Miller Point Overlook, where you’ll get gorgeous views of the canyon from a lovely gazebo. Then, you’ll head into the canyon itself and be able to see the reddish rocks up close.

I’d also recommend visiting Cathedral Caves, Canyon Caves, and Moon Caves. You should definitely admire them from the outside, but the best part is being able to walk through and explore them.

  • Recommended accommodation: The homey Pine Tree Inn is just a 9-minute drive from Cathedral Gorge State Park, and its rustic wooden features and cozy quilts add the perfect touch of pioneer charm.

14. Drive the Loneliest Road in America (US Route 50), a distinctive attraction in Nevada

US Route 50, which starts in California, may seem like your average American highway. This road is actually more interesting than most, however, because the Nevada portion is known as the “Loneliest Road in America.”

This place to go in Nevada earned its title because there are so few signs of civilization along its route. Even so, the highway passes by Great Basin National Park, Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park, and Lake Tahoe, so it’s one way to access these Nevada attractions.

Drive the Loneliest Road in America, one of the most distinctive things to do in Nevada state

14. Drive the Loneliest Road in America (US Route 50), a distinctive attraction in Nevada

Additionally, along the highway’s route, you can visit the mining town of Eureka, stay in the charming town of Ely, pass alpine forests, and cross desert valleys. You’ll also find plenty of hidden gems along the way: singing sand dunes, saloon-style roadhouses, caves, petroglyph sites, and more.

Ultimately, you shouldn’t let this highway’s nickname put you off; driving US 50 is an exhilarating adventure full of incredible sights.

15. Grapevine Canyon, one of the coolest places to go in Nevada

No list of the best things to do in Nevada would be complete without Grapevine Canyon. After all, here, you can get up close to the Grapevine Canyon petroglyphs, ancient rock art that was created between 1100 and 1900 AD.

There’s a real air of mystery surrounding the petroglyphs, since their meaning and creator(s) are unknown. However, the canyon area was inhabited by the Mojave, which could suggest they had a hand in creating the art. Either way, the sheer number of petroglyphs (over 700) and the art’s staggering beauty make this an unforgettable location.

Grapevine Canyon, one of the top Nevada points of interest with petroglyphs

15. Grapevine Canyon, one of the coolest places to go in Nevada

In fact, Grapevine Canyon is located on Spirit Mountain within Lake Mead National Recreation Area, so it’s definitely one of the best things to see by Lake Mead. Even better, the walk to the petroglyphs is quite short and manageable, since it’s about a quarter of a mile from the parking lot to the canyon’s entrance.

  • Recommended accommodation: The closest town to Grapevine Canyon is Laughlin, NV, where you’ll find the sprawling, modern, riverside Golden Nugget Laughlin. Spend some time at the casino or by the pool before heading to Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. for some delicious seafood.

That ends this guide to the best places to visit in Nevada! Lastly, here is a downloadable map to help you quickly locate all the places on your Nevada bucket list.

By now, you’ll have seen that there are plenty of things to do in Nevada, especially if you want to spend time outdoors and/or get out of the Las Vegas area. Of course, Las Vegas is worth seeing, but so are many other attractions in Nevada. Hopefully, this guide will help you plan a trip that gives you a well-rounded taste of Nevada’s highlights.

If you have any more questions about places to visit in Nevada, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment down below.

Enjoy your trip to Nevada!


COFOUNDER & TRAVEL JUNKIE

Hi, I'm Ascen, a globetrotter based in Philadelphia, USA. I enjoy exploring new landscapes and creating in-depth travel guides for Capture the Atlas.

I have felt a special connection with nature and all the inhabitants of the planet since I was a kid. I am passionate about discovering new countries and especially their wildlife, but no matter how many places I visit, I will always belong to the remote beaches of Almería, in Southern Spain.

You can know a little more about me here.

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