Best State and National Parks in Nevada

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In some respects, the flash of Las Vegas often hides the silver state’s true beauty as an outdoor recreation paradise. Hikers, climbers, and outdoor enthusiasts will all find spectacular travel experiences in the state and national parks of Nevada.

Great Basin National Park

Sunrise over the sweeping, rolling mountains at Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Closest Cities: Ely, Baker, and Border, Nevada

Commonly entered by Nevada State Route 488, Great Basin National Park is located in central Nevada. It also provides access to the Lehman Caves and a number of hiking trails.

The park’s most popular feature is its groves of ancient bristlecone pine trees.

Great Basin received its initial protection in 1922, when the Lehman Caves were protected as a National Monument. However, through the years, the park received additional protection and territory, culminating in its establishment as Great Basin National Park in 1986.

Travelers will find a visitor center, where they can orient themselves with the park, and also inquire about events or their planned itinerary with knowledgeable park staff.

 

Death Valley National Park

Wavy sand dunes with dried desert vegetation with sharp mountain ranges in the distance at Death Valley National Parks, Nevada

Closest City: Beatty, Nevada

Death Valley National Park meanders through the border of California and Nevada. Infiltrating each of these two states, Death Valley National Park contains a number of interesting and unique geological and geographical landforms.

The park is so desolate and unique, it served as a valuable backdrop in a beloved franchise: Star Wars fans might better recognize Death Valley as the planet Tatooine.

Visitors will find a number of hiking trails, auto tours, and areas for rock climbing. The park also provides a home to a number of unique flora and fauna, including the Death Valley Pupfish, bighorn sheep, kit foxes, cougars, and mule deer.

Be prepared for a desert experience. In extreme conditions, temperatures in the park can exceed 120 degrees. Sun protection and proper hydration are paramount during your trip.

 

Valley of Fire State Park

Bright orange and red rock formation with a natural weathered "O" and rocky hills at Valley of Fire National Park, Nevada

Closest City: Overton, Nevada

Valley of Fire State Park receives its name from the series of Aztec sandstone land masses that appear throughout its territory. When the sun is at its highest point in the sky, these Aztec sandstone formations appear to be on fire.

Without a doubt, this is one of the most beautiful sites in the whole state.

While appreciating the park’s landscape, visitors may also experience a number of hiking trails and desert camping.

The state park is located about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas, and is the oldest state park in Nevada. Valley of Fire State Park received its designation in 1935.

 

Cathedral Gorge State Park

Sharp, jagged rock formations and cliff are pictured at Cathedral Gorge State and National Parks, Nevada

Closest City: Panaca, Nevada

Cathedral Gorge State Park preserves one of the most unique geological sites in the country. It features a dramatic scene of eroded clay, which towers and forms breathtaking peaks and ledges. The eroded clay covers a total of over 1,600 acres in southeastern Nevada.

In addition to its breathtaking sites, Cathedral Gorge State Park also contains a number of hiking trails, including the popular Juniper Draw Loop, and provides a home to a number of desert animals. Black-tailed jack rabbits, coyotes, roadrunners, and many others can all be found across the park.

 

Lake Mead Recreation Area

Mountains of red and brown rock outstretch mini-peninsulas into Lake Mead at Lake Mead National State Park ,Nevada

Closest City: Clark County, Nevada

Sitting on the border of Nevada and Arizona, Lake Mead grants visitors access to a number of outdoor and water-oriented recreation activities, such as boating.

Within the park, visitors will find the meeting of three of the four desert landscapes in the United States: the Mojave, Great Basin, and Sonoran Desert all converge in Lake Mead.

The park is also composed of nine wilderness areas, including the black canyon wilderness and the bridge canyon wilderness.

In total, the park protects over 900 plant species and over 500 animal species. Fish found in Lake Mead include largemouth bass, striped bass, channel catfish, and rainbow trout.

 

Rocky mountains in shades of light to dark brown against a purple and blue sky at this Nevada National Park

 

Nevada may conjure images of bright lights and casinos, but the state has so much more to offer. The state and national parks in Nevada provide incredible landscapes, diverse wildlife populations, and endless activities for travelers to take it all in.

For more traveling recommendations, check out the best state and national parks in Arizona, as well, or the best tents or water filtration systems for camping and hiking.