The Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Nevada
You could use some fresh air right now.
For some people, fall is all about pumpkins, falling leaves, and brisk weather. Las Vegans love that stuff too, but for many of us, the season is really about road trips. After surviving the summer heat with cocktails by the pool and supercharged casino air conditioning, there couldn't be a better time to explore the enormity of Nevada and check out everything the Silver State has to offer. There's a variety of scenic destinations, including a few even experienced travelers overlook. So plan your next vacation around some of the most beautiful places in Nevada.
Genoa mixes a mountain lifestyle with charm and history. The oldest town in Nevada was settled by Mormon pioneers in 1850. It's also home to the oldest bar in Nevada, the Genoa Bar & Saloon (or "thirst parlor" as the sign says out front), which came around just a few years later. The red brick structure had its share of bathtub gin during Prohibition while masquerading as a soda shop. It's long since gone legit, but is still a great place for a cold beer and soaking in the rugged cowboy spirit of the town's historic district. Beyond that, Genoa is known for its lush wide-open spaces, mountain views, Walley's Hot Springs Resort, and Mormon Station State Historic Park, where you can explore buildings that replicate Genoa's original trading post among nearly four acres of grass and trees.
The water levels may be sinking to all-time lows, but Lake Mead remains a beautiful spot for boating, hiking, and admiring the waterside scenery (which you don't see often in the middle of the desert). The 250-square-mile reservoir was created by the Hoover Dam back in 1935 and while official tours of the modern marvel remain closed due to the pandemic, you can still explore the trails around it or take a cruise for up-close views. Remnants of the old Hoover Dam Railroad system have been repurposed as the Historic Railroad Trail, with walking paths stretching through five mountain-carved tunnels where tracks once stood.
While the name may sound like "garbage" after a few too many drinks, this tiny Northern Nevada town is actually the Shoshone word for "devil," due to a belief that the nearby mountains were haunted. Known as one of the most secluded communities in the entire state, Jarbidge emerged during the later stages of the Gold Rush and to this day, still has no paved roads. It's part of the Jarbidge Wilderness area, which stretches more than 100,000 acres with canyons, rivers, and sweeping mountain views. Aspen trees turn golden brown in the fall, while sunflowers and other colorful flowers sprout in waves closer to spring. Most visitors come for the hunting and fishing. Jarbidge's Main Street is sometimes described as a living ghost town (which means people still live there) and doesn't feel like it's changed much in more than a hundred years. Order a shot of whiskey at the Red Dog Saloon and shop for souvenirs at the Outdoor Inn.
Fall is one of the best times of year to visit Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs. Formerly a state park, the 680-acre oasis is now operated by the City of Las Vegas, but feels a million miles away from the lights and casinos of more touristy areas. Hidden in a quiet northwest corner of the valley, Floyd Lamb Park is a serene collection of trees, grass, walking trails, and four large ponds with fishing not only allowed, but encouraged. Guests also love to picnic, barbecue, and take turns on the volleyball courts. With all the fall foliage, it's easy to see why the park is one of the best photo spots in Vegas, especially for those snapping engagement pics. Make sure to visit Tule Springs Ranch, a collection of historic buildings leftover from when the property was a dude ranch.
Red Rock Canyon is usually the place Las Vegans go first when they want to escape city life.
Located just west of Summerlin, the protected National Conservation Area is known for its colorful sandstone peaks and canyons, drawing hikers, rock climbers, and those who just want to enjoy the 13-mile scenic loop from the comfort of an air-conditioned vehicle. More ambitious visitors will prefer to book a reservation for the official campground, which stays busy between fall and spring. The sprawling Cottonwood Valley Trail System is popular with bikers who can have the mountains of Red Rock Canyon as their backdrop while enjoying the fresh air and exercise.
The Ruby Mountains are among the best reasons to visit Northeast Nevada—and where the state suddenly gets a lot more green. Hikers can't get enough of the "Rubies," especially Lamoille Canyon, where streams, lakes, and wooden bridges add charm and character to the trees and lush vegetation. Known as the "Alps of Nevada," the mountains provide a wide variety of slopes and snow-covered terrain throughout winter. And why worry about a chair lift when you can have a helicopter drop you off at the top? A big part of the appeal is the solitude, although you're not far from the civilization of Elko. Drivers can get a taste of what the area is all about with a detour through the Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway.
Just off State Route 93, a visit to Cathedral Gorge State Park is the perfect way to break up a road trip between Las Vegas and Ely. It's named after the towering spires and jagged rock formations created by volcanic activity over millions of years. The park is also one of the few places you'll see slot canyons in Nevada. Cathedral Gorge actually hosted plays and other forms of entertainment against its majestic backdrop in the 1920s—when road trips suddenly spiked in popularity due to America's growing highway systems. An abandoned stone water tower is a popular photo spot, providing a dramatic contrast to the surrounding natural beauty.
There's rugged charm—and yes, beauty—in the Old West spirit that helped shape Nevada. The best example is Virginia City, an old mining hub in the mountains southeast of Reno that's done an impressive job preserving its Victorian architecture from the late 1800s. Walk the boardwalks that frame C Street and explore saloons, shops, and museums that feel like a trip back in time. Despite the touristy appeal, Virginia City is all authentic and original. No Disney-esque recreations here. The Virginia & Truckee Railroad travels from the heart of Virginia City to Gold Hill for an instant history lesson on how mining turned Nevada into a hot destination more than a hundred years ago.
White Pine County
As far as national parks go, this is one of the least visited, making it a dream come true for those eager to experience nature without the nuisance of people around. Hikers swear by the Alpine Lakes Loop Trail, which passes two different alpine lakes and offers killer views of Wheeler Peak, the second-tallest mountain in Nevada. Yet Great Basin is perhaps best enjoyed after dark. The stargazing is next level, especially with a new astronomy amphitheater now in place. It's equipped with red lights that actually enhance the viewing experience. If that's not enough darkness, venture deep inside the Lehman Caves, where stalactites and other sinister rock formations await. Guided tours have resumed after a pause during the pandemic and are now available with a reservation.
North Lake Tahoe
Any part of Lake Tahoe can easily qualify as a "beautiful place," but Incline Village goes above and beyond with residences that include access to private beaches, ski trails, and golfing. The town makes a point to keep tourists at arm's length, which is exactly why you want to come here in the first place. It's quiet and not overrun by shops or attractions—at least not by the clear, blue water of Crystal Bay. Your best bet is to book a room at the Hyatt Regency, which has its own beach, and rent a bike for a ride down Billionaire's Row to see all the crazy expensive vacation homes you can't afford. South Lake Tahoe, meanwhile, recently escaped the path of a highly-publicized wildfire with shops, restaurants, and other businesses now back open. Make the 30-minute drive to show 'em some love and support with those vacation dollars.
New Washoe City
The eastern edge of Lake Tahoe is a quick drive from the dull government dealings of Carson City—and one of its best kept secrets is the quiet beauty of Bonsai Rock, just south of Sand Harbor. A photographer's dream, it creeps out of the water, topped by just four petite trees that will never grow taller due to their barren location. The best vantage point is about a five-minute walk from the main road. Take your time, relax, and enjoy the journey. Don’t forget your camera.
Dedicated in 1935, Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest and largest state park. The name comes from the bright-red sand dunes that appear to be on fire when hit by the sun at just the right angle, but the real beauty is in the Aztec sandstone formations that twist and bend into loops, arches, and cubby hole-like caves. Pull over at Rainbow Vista for the most Mars-like terrain. About 3,000 years ago, Native Americans left behind petroglyphs that can still be seen today. The park is just an hour outside of Vegas and makes for a great scenic road trip.
It's national news when it snows in Las Vegas but really, it's not that big of a deal. Mt. Charleston is just a quick drive northwest of Sin City and the mountain peak is covered with snow during much of the year. Lee Canyon has skiing, snowboarding, and tubing in the winter months, and hiking, mountain biking, and disc golf during the summer months. No matter when you visit, the high elevation and miles of pine trees are a welcome change of pace from the harsh, brittle air in the Las Vegas Valley below. The area is mourning the recent loss of the Mt. Charleston Lodge, destroyed in a fire, but visitors can still grab refreshments at Bighorn Grill, the Brewin' Burro (both at Lee Canyon), and the Canyon Restaurant at The Retreat on Charleston Peak.
Back in the early 20th century, Rhyolite was a booming mining destination. The economy was so good, the town even had its own stock exchange, not to mention a thriving red light district. But everything changed when the market tanked in 1907. Within five years, the population dwindled and the electricity was shut off. More than a century later, you can still find remnants of the old town near the edge of Death Valley, including ruins of a bank, jail, and train depot. It's also near the Goldwell Open Air Museum, an eclectic outdoor collection of art pieces.
Fly Geyser was a drilling site in the 1960s, but some kind of mishap caused minerals to dissolve and accumulate into a spectacle of a structure you could say is both natural and man-made. A form of algae in the hot springs gives the landmark a colorful red and green appearance, making it an enticing stop for hikers and photographers. However, not only is the northwest location remote, it's on Fly Ranch, which is private property. Avoid trespassing with limited private tours, offered to the public once again after a pause during the pandemic.
Las Vegas Strip
There's beauty in all that neon. Mix in some lights and digital marquees and you've got one of the brightest and most distinctive locations on the planet. Even astronauts seem to think so. The Las Vegas Strip is a colorful splash of excitement in the middle of the desert—and it looks even better from the sky. Frequent flyers know there's nothing else quite like landing at McCarran International Airport, but for a better bird's-eye experience, book a helicopter tour with the likes of Maverick or Papillon. Hovering in the air while next to the top of the Stratosphere tower is a trippy experience all by itself.