“Those of us who have stopped to look, who have walked a mountain ridgeline or the edge of a playa know that this land does not reveal itself all at once.” – Scott Smith, Nevada: The Magnificent Wilderness
Here at Nevada Outdoor School, we definitely stop to look. We scale rugged mountain peaks, explore winding canyons, soak up vast open playa, and play on towering sand dunes. Nevada has a wealth of natural wonders to discover and our staff has taken advantage of opportunities to do so. We have compiled our favorite recreation destinations in Nevada to give you ideas for your next adventure. Enjoy and happy travels!
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- Hinkey Summit
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Destination: Cathedral Gorge State Park
Adventurer: Sven Svenington
Chosen Activity: Hopping around in the cave-like formations
Allure: Cathedral Gorge is truly a hidden gem. The bentonite clay formations are awe-inspiring; their cathedral-like spires are what the park is named for. My favorite place to explore is the narrow slots between the formations called the “caves” area; it’s like entering a new world – plus the 10-degree temperature drop is an oasis from the scorching-summer sun. On top of that, the park is full of cryptobiotic soil – so many tiny micro-organisms hard at work! There’s a scenic overlook of the canyon with panoramic views; from there you can walk down the staircase into the canyon and explore the land formations close-up. If you doubt how enchanting this place is, just look at my smiling face!
Other Activities: hiking, photography, camping, nature study, not busting the crust, ranger programs, geocaching
Location: Eastern Nevada on US 93, two miles north of Panaca
Nevada State Parks – Cathedral Gorge
Cathedral Gorge Brochure
Destination: Mt. Rose Ski Area
Adventurer: Andy Hart
Chosen Activity: Skiing through powder
Allure: Mt. Rose Ski Area is actually located on Slide Mountain, just south of the peak Mt. Rose, which is Washoe County’s high point. Regardless, Mt. Rose is a great place to ski. There is no big resort at the base which means it is mainly locals and crowds are rarely an issue. Two high-speed six-passenger chairlifts access both the front and backside of the mountain keeping lift lines to a minimum. There are a couple of very nice, long, scenic beginner runs, not a tiny-little cat track or 100 yard long green run like you see at some other mountains; so bring along your non-believer friends and get them hooked. However, don’t let those nice greens fool you, Mt. Rose is home to some of the gnarliest, steepest terrain in Tahoe when you venture into The Chutes! And of course, there is a little of everything in between too. Mt. Rose has the highest base elevation of any resort in the area, 8,260 ft, this means the snow stays in good condition most of the year; you don’t deal with the slushy-muddy soup at the base of some other places. I also like the contrast in scenery between the front and back of the mountain. On the front it is pure Sierra Alpine, one chair lift away you are looking into Washoe Valley and beyond to the high desert and endless basin and range of central Nevada. Lift tickets are reasonably priced, and season passes are a stellar deal if you live close and can go all the time. If you like to ski, visit Mt. Rose and check out one of my favorite places in Nevada.
Other Activities: skiing, snowboarding
Location: Western Nevada on Mt. Rose Hwy – SR 431, 25 miles south-west of Reno
Mt. Rose – Ski Tahoe
Mt. Rose Terrain Map
Destination: Sand Mountain Recreation Area
Adventurer: Jen Stockton
Chosen Activity: Riding my all-terrain vehicle (ATV)
Allure: My family travels to Sand Mountain for Thanksgiving where we spend the holiday speeding around on the sand, exploring the trails, and deep frying our turkey for dinner. Sand Mountain is nearly 600 feet tall, which may be intimidating to some, but there are riding options for all skill levels. You can venture to the top and ride in the super bowl (a giant bowl in the sand that you can circle at top speeds), stick to the lower and mellower dunes, or delve into the trail system that journeys into the high desert. I love visiting Sand Mountain, not only for the riding, but for the quality time spent with family and friends sitting around the fire, playing board games, and enjoying each other’s company. Recently, my brother and I turned our old snowboards into sandboards and tried boarding down the slopes. We still need some work…but let me tell you – if you sit on the boards like a sled they FLY! On that note, I would recommend a helmet for both sandboarding and riding ATVs – safety first!
Other Activities: off-highway vehicle riding, hiking, sandboarding, camping, exploring the Pony Express station, photography, geocaching
Location: Central Nevada on US 50, 25 miles east of Fallon
Bureau of Land Management – Sand Mountain Recreation Area
Sand Mountain Trail Map
Dune Guide – Sand Mountain
Destination: Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge
Adventurer: Laura Roegner
Chosen Activity: Checking out the fantastic scenery
Allure: The Sheldon NWR is a unique entity. It has a harsh landscape, but then offers wonderful hot springs and waterfalls along with beautiful gorges. This a great place to observe a wide range of animals. The refuge is home to about 300 species including pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, and wild burros. The roads are a bit rough so be aware when traveling and since it is a wildlife refuge drivers need to stick to the roads so there is less impact on the environment.
Other Activities: hiking, photography, wildlife observation, camping, backpacking, horseback riding, hot springs, mining for Opals, hunting, fishing
Location: North-western Nevada located off of Highway 140, 14 miles west of Denio
US Fish and Wildlife Service – Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge
Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge Map
Destination: Spooner Lake
Adventurer: Megan Allen
Chosen Activity: Cross-country skiing and hiking
Allure: My first spring in Nevada led me on a hike along the Tahoe Rim Trail; the trail detoured down to Spooner Lake, which is part of Lake Tahoe-Nevada State Park. Along the trail and at the lake, I was captured by the towering Jeffery Pines and the song of Mountain Chickadees. I returned that winter to cross-country ski through these trees, and it was fantastic. Spooner Lake Lodge does an excellent job of grooming and maintaining the trails, and provides their guests with warm hot chocolate after their journeys in the snow. I plan to return this winter and ski out to one of the many overnight cabins, where winter enthusiasts can stay the night nestled in a rustic setting. This outdoor destination is dear to my heart and has potential to create lasting memories for anyone who visits the area! Best Wishes!
Other Activities: hiking, fishing, bird watching, photography, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, wildlife viewing, nature journaling, mountain biking
Location: Western Nevada on Highway 28, 15 miles west of Carson City
Nevada State Parks – Lake Tahoe-Nevada
Spooner Lake Cross-Country Ski Area
Spooner Lake Cross-Country Ski Area Map
Destination: Washoe Lake State Park
Adventurer: Trina Kleintjes
Chosen Activity: Relaxing on the lakeshore
Allure: When I was young my father liked to windsurf; every weekend my sister and I spent with him during the warmer seasons were at Washoe Lake. Even though it was windy and the lake was more brown than blue, I remember lots of good times there. The lake has a few different beaches around it and they each have their own charm - some with grass and trees and others with sand dunes. As I got older I haven't spent much time in the water there, but I have taken my dogs to play in the water and even attended some of the endurance horse races that they host. There are a few benefits to this state park – you won’t have to fight the crowds and you are allowed to bring animals, which many lakes don't. Plus, if you visit on the right day when the sun is shining and the wind isn't blowing, you can't beat the views of Slide Mountain.
Other Activities: hiking, camping, windsurfing, boating, fishing, horseback riding, nature study, wildlife viewing
Location: Western Nevada on US 395, between Reno and Carson City
Nevada State Parks – Washoe Lake
Washoe Lake State Park Brochure
Destination: Blue Lake
Adventurer: Kelse Diehl
Chosen Activity: Fishing
Allure: Blue Lake is a place close to my heart; it is a beautiful site to see with the mountains and the clear-blue water. Growing up, Blue Lake was my dad’s favorite place to go for Father’s Day. We went up there every year to catch fish. The lake is full of healthy trout. Another bonus is you have to hike in a quarter mile, which cuts down on visitors. It is definitely my favorite place to go and get away.
Other Activities: camping, photography, backpacking, wildlife observation, hiking
Location: Pine Forest Mountains in northwestern Nevada. 125 miles northwest of Winnemucca. Travel north of Winnemucca on US-95 to NV-140 then on to Denio Junction turn west to stay on NV-140 and drive to Alder Creek Ranch Rd. Follow the signs to Onion Valley Reservoir Campground. From there travel ¾ mile to the Blue Lake trailhead. Don’t forget you have to walk the last ¼ mile!
Angler Guide Nevada
Trout Unlimited - Pine Forest Range
Destination: Galena Creek Regional Park
Adventurer: Ursula Unruh
Chosen Activity: Hiking the nature trails
Allure: The Galena Creek Visitor Center is newly opened and includes a weather station, exhibits, gift shop, and book store. As for the recreation area, Galena Creek has a lot to offer. There are individual picnic sites, as well as large group picnic sites. There is a wide variety of trails available: an accessible nature trail, the Jones-Whites Creek Loop Trail, and access to Mt.Rose Wilderness. Galena Creek also offers fishing at Marilyn’s Pond and summer campfire programs. There is a winter snow play hill that offers sledding as well as areas open for snowshoeing.
Other Activities: picnicking, fishing, sledding, snowshoeing, geocaching
Location: Western Nevada on Mt. Rose Hwy – SR 431, 18 miles south-west of Reno
Washoe County – Galena Creek Recreation Area
Destination: Hinkey Summit
Adventurer: Aspen Stockton
Chosen Activity: Exploring fall colors
Allure: There are exciting aspects to the Santa Rosa Range year-round, but in the fall I was there to explore the bright colors. We camped at Lye Creek, a nice little campground nestled in an aspen grove. The next day I had a blast exploring the rock arch near Hinkey Summit, but I’ll warn you, exploring the base of the arch isn’t for the faint of heart. I was super nervous at first due to the steep slope but with a bit of encouragement I made it down to the base and let me tell you – what a view! You can see down to the road and watch the tiny cars drive by or look out to Granite Peak. After that, we found a few geocaches and enjoyed more views of the golden aspens painted across the mountain sides. This area will get your tail wagging!
Other Activities: off-highway vehicle riding, hiking, camping, hunting, photography, geocaching, nature study, wildlife observation, backpacking, wildflower viewing
Location: North-central Nevada off US 95, access east side from US 95 and west side from NV 290; Hinkey Summit is 55 miles north of Winnemucca
USDA Forest Service - Hinkey Summit
USDA Forest Service - Lye Creek Campground
Friends of Nevada Wilderness – Santa Rosa-Paradise Peak Wilderness
Destination: Jarbidge Wilderness
Destination: Lamoille Canyon
Adventurer: Shelby Hollmaier
Chosen Activity: Rock climbing and enjoying the scenery
Allure: Close enough for a day trip, but far enough to "get away" Lamoille Canyon is a beautiful location for a variety of outdoor recreation. There's something for every adventurer whether you're looking for a few days hiking the backcountry or a few hours picnicking by the river. Rock climbers will love the vast array of faces available for both trad and sport climbing or bouldering with well maintained hardware.
Other Activities:hiking, backpacking, camping, bicycling, horseback riding, fishing, hunting, photography, geocaching, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling
Location: North-eastern Nevada, 20 miles south-east of Elko off Lamoille Highway
America’s Byways – Lamoille Canyon Road
Nevada Rock Climbing
USDA Forest Service – Ruby Mountains Ranger District
Nevada Adventures – Lamoille Canyon
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