Nevada is a large state (110,577 sq mi or 286,382 km²) that is mostly covered by desert.
It is very sparsely populated (the population is just over 3 million or less than 28 people per square mile).
Here you can drive for hours without seeing anything but an endless highway that gradually disappears into the horizon of the desert, reddish rocks with bizarre shapes, cacti and cloudless deep-blue skies.
When you visit this state for the first time, Nevada’s landscape looks surprisingly familiar, and you have the feeling that you have been here before.
This is because of the numerous Hollywood productions that have been filmed here over the years.
Probably, the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear about Nevada is Las Vegas.
That’s pretty understandable given that ¾ of the population of the “Silver State” lives in Clark County, whose economic and cultural center is the world’s entertainment capital.
Las Vegas and Clark County, however, are just a small part of everything you can see and do here.
If you are planning a trip for your next vacation, here is a list of 25 must-visit places in Nevada.
1. Extraterrestrial Highway
Wrapped in a mystery, Route 375 is one of the most extraordinary places in the United States.
It has gained its popularity since the 50s of the 20th century because of all those stories of aliens and flying saucers.
The 98.4 mile-long (158.4 km) highway is located 2 hours and a half north from Las Vegas, between Rachel and Tonopah.
Despite the proximity of the world capital of entertainment, this place seems to be located in the middle of nowhere.
As you can see coming here, the road becomes even more deserted as you travel north.
The only exceptions are the small groups of tourists who appear occasionally, driven by their curiosity and desire to be photographed right next to the Extraterrestrial Highway sign, which is one of the most popular in the United States.
In the vicinity of Rachel Town is located the secret base Area 51. It has always been shrouded in secrecy and conspiracies but pay attention that the base is NOT open to visitors!
2. Burning Man and the Black Rock Desert
Black Rock Desert is one of the most interesting, unusual and worth visiting places in Nevada.
It is located in the northwestern part of the state, not far from the borders with California and Oregon.
You will ask what is so unusual here that makes this desert different from all the others.
In fact, the place is known for one of the most extraordinary festivals in America, known as the Burning Man.
The festival is associated with self-expression and freedom of mind and personality.
It usually lasts one week, taking place every year between the last Monday in August and the first Monday in September.
One of the most captivating moments of the festival is the ritual burning of the specially created art installation, called “The Temple”, which takes place on the last eighth evening of the event.
3. Las Vegas
Founded in the early 20th century, Las Vegas is a very young city.
The first settlers of European ancestry arrived here in the mid 19th century.
They were attracted by the idea to develop irrigation-based farming in the area.
In modern days, Las Vegas is one of the most iconic places in America.
It attracts millions of visitors annually with its extremely extravagant resorts with huge pools, fountains and gardens, countless casinos, bars, nightclubs, all types of restaurants and countless tourist attractions.
Las Vegas is located in the heart of the Mojave Desert, which is why it has a hot and sunny climate.
This is one of the reasons why the city is relatively quiet during the day but very busy and illuminated by millions of lights at night.
Las Vegas is also the easiest way to reach the Grand Canyon (one of the world’s most famous landmarks), located on the other side of the border, in neighboring Arizona.
4. Lake Tahoe
Although Nevada is an inland state that has no direct access to the ocean, it is known for some of the best beaches in the United States.
Yes, you got it right! With a length of over 21.5 miles (almost 35 km), Lake Tahoe is the most popular beach destination in Nevada.
Surrounded by lush and green coniferous forests, it offers its visitors great opportunities for recreation throughout the year.
Although the scenic coastline is mostly rocky, there are some really wonderful golden sandy beaches and charming coves that attract sunbathers and swimmers during the summer months.
Smooth like a mirror, the emerald water of the lake is relatively cool and refreshing, reaching about 68 – 69°F (20°C) in summer and combined with constantly sunny weather and air temperatures of about 79°F (26°C) in July and August.
The winter months, on the other hand, attract lovers of winter sports because the area is usually covered with fluffy snow.
5. And the Bonsai Rock
Before you leave the area of Lake Tahoe, be sure to visit the so-called Bonsai Rock, which is located less than a mile south of Sand Harbor’s fantastic golden beach.
At first glance, it looks like a regular piece of rock right off the shore.
If you look closely, however, you will notice that several trees grow through a narrow crack in the rock.
Despite their age, they are very small in size, as they have a very limited space to grow, just like the beloved Japanese bonsai trees we buy to decorate our homes.
The place attracts many tourists, filmmakers and photographers with its unusual beauty.
6. Elephant Rock
Elephant Rock is one of the major tourist attractions not only in the vicinity of Las Vegas but in the southwestern United States as a whole.
It is located less than an hour drive northeast of Las Vegas, within the limits of the protected area of Valley of Fire State Park.
According to scientists, the rock has been sculpted by nature as a result of 1.5 billion years of erosion.
Because of the iron oxide in the rock, the color of the formation is a mixture between red and orange.
7. Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon is a national conservation area, located a short drive west of Las Vegas.
In fact, the place is so close to the city that you can see the rocks while walking in some parts of Downtown.
The best way to explore the sights of the park is by car.
The 13-mile-long (about 21 km) Scenic Drive loop is the most convenient way to see most of the major landmarks of Red Rock Canyon and to take some great pictures of this beautiful place, without the need to leave your comfortable air conditioned vehicle for a long time.
8. Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is part of the Mojave Desert and is one of the hottest places on Earth.
Most of the park falls within California and only the northeastern part is in Nevada.
Because of its remarkable out-of-this-world landscape, the area is a very popular tourist destination and attracts filmmakers and photographers from all parts of the United States and from around the world.
However, if you want to come here, it is deeply recommended to avoid the summer season.
The weather is sometimes so hot that it could easily ruin your vacation.
The most recent record and one of the hottest temperatures ever was measured on August 16, 2020, when the temperature in Death Valley hit 129.9°F or 54.4°C.
9. Cathedral Gorge
Cathedral Gorge is a state park located near the Utah border in eastern Nevada.
The unique area is a network of canyons that have been carved into the clay soils millions of years ago.
Here you can also see shady gorges, red-colored arches, caves and other millions of years old geologic formations plus some of the most spectacular sunsets in the world.
The landscape is simply dramatic, the combination of a dark blue cloudless sky and red rocks is a magnet for photographers and filmmakers from around the world.
10. Virginia City
If you want to experience the atmosphere of the Wild West in Nevada, you should head to a small town called Virginia City, which is one of the best preserved examples of a Wild West city in America.
It has a population of less than 800 people and is located in the central western part of the state, not far from Lake Tahoe.
The atmosphere of the town is simply unique, and the most amazing place to explore is the central boulevard, known as CStreet.
It has remained practically unchanged since the mid 19th century. As you will see by yourself, it has completely preserved its historical appearance.
11. Lamoille Canyon
Lamoille Canyon is an extremely wild and beautiful place located in the northwestern part of the Ruby Mountains.
The area is very sparsely populated and isolated in northern Nevada.
However, it attracts many visitors, especially lovers of mountain hiking and wildlife.
The canyon stretches for ten miles from northwest to southeast, reaching a few very beautiful lakes, among which the more popular are Lamoille Lake and Liberty Lake.
If you want to explore the area better, you can go to the Metropolis Ghost Town, which lies an hour drive to the north of the small village of Lamoille.
12. Pyramid Lake
Pyramid Lake is a scenic lake situated amidst a deserted mountain landscape.
The water changes its color from dark blue to emerald green, depending on what part of the day it is.
The place is a great background for photographers and filmmakers, and the light is great almost all year round.
Because of the combination between clear skies and very low levels of dust in the air, the area is one of the best places to visit if you want to observe the night sky.
The lake is easily recognizable because of the specific rocky island in the shape of a pyramid, which is located right off the southeast coast.
Pyramid Lake is a magnet for fishermen. They are attracted not only by the beautiful landscape but also because here you can find some of the largest trout in the world.
13. El Dorado Canyon
In human history, cities appear and disappear.
This is a completely normal process, and Nevada is a very good example.
A number of cities had been founded along the railroads or near the gold and silver mines but later were abandoned from their residents.
Nowadays, the world is very different, and being close to a silver mine or a railroad is not a priority anymore.
As a result, many of these small and initially progressive settlements have been abandoned.
All you can see today is semi-destroyed old buildings, rusty shop signs and remains of old cars.
If you are looking for such places and if you find them interesting, you can find them mostly in the El Dorado Canyon, which is located south of Las Vegas.
One of the most interesting places here is the town of Nelson, which is partially destroyed but also relatively well preserved, at the same time.
Tourists say they can still feel the spirit of the city, which was abandoned during the 1940s.
14. Hoover Dam
It’s hard to imagine how majestic Hoover Dam really is before you see it with your own eyes.
Constructed between 1931 and 1936, it is one of the largest infrastructure projects of the 20th century, but even today, in the 21st century, around the world can be seen a really small number of projects of this scale.
The dam wall is 726.4 ft (221.4 m) high and 1,244 ft (379 m) long.
It was constructed in the Black Canyon, on the Colorado River.
What is most impressive is that the majestic structure is located in the middle of the desert, which makes it different from almost all other dams in the world.
15. Car Forest
In the United States, one can see more extraordinary sights than anywhere else in the world, and the International Car Forest is a great example.
This is an extremely unusual place, located south of the city of Goldfield, amidst the desert landscape of southwestern Nevada.
What you will see here are hundreds of old rusty cars, covered in all sorts of drawings and graffiti.
The extraordinary positions of the cars are another thing that won’t remain unnoticed.
The rusty vehicles are situated in a variety of ways, some with the upside down, while others are partially buried to stand upright.
16. Virginia Range (and the wild horses)
If you want to see wild mustangs, northern Nevada is one of the best places in the world.
Local herds are among the largest on Earth and are one of the symbols of the free spirit of North America.
However, they are not actually a native species but were brought here by the first Spanish settlers.
If you want to experience this amazing adventure and if you want to take really nice pictures, the place to visit is Virginia Range.
It extends on the territory of two counties – Storey and Lyon.
The landscape is dominated by barren mountains and dusty plains which, however, are the most favorable habitat of the large herds of horses in the area.
17. Berlin Historic District
The Berlin Historic District is a ghost town located in central Nevada.
The city was founded in 1891 and was named after the German capital Berlin, as most of the first settlers here were mainly immigrants from Germany.
The city had been attracting settlers for two decades, most of them driven by the desire to find gold or silver in the area, but that changed around 1911.
The number of residents in the city decreased very fast as locals were attracted to other more promising settlements in the area.
Today, the place is known mainly for the ruins of old buildings and abandoned cars, and since 1971, the ghost town has been included in the National Register of Historic Places.
18. Gold Butte National Monument
Gold Butte National Monument is located in Clark County, just over 100 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
This place attracts many visitors because of its rich wildlife, rocks with bizarre shapes, red colored landscapes and old abandoned gold and silver mines.
It can be defined as a prelude to the Grand Canyon, which is located not far from here.
One of the major attractions here is the so-called Whitney Pocket area, where you can see thousands of years old petroglyphs, created by Native Americans.
Another must-visit attraction is the rock formation Little Finland, popular for its unbelievable shapes, created as a result of the millions of years of erosion.
This is just a small part of everything you can see on the territory of Gold Butte National Monument so don’t miss to come here!
19. Pastel Canyon
Pastel Canyon is located within the Valley of Fire State Park and is one of the most important tourist attractions in Nevada.
It is known for its incredible relief forms in gentle shades of pink and orange.
The best way to explore the area is to follow the 2-mile-long tourist trail.
The canyon itself is only 300 feet long but this is the most scenic and recognizable part of the trail.
Pastel Canyon is easy to reach because of its proximity to Las Vegas (approximately 56 miles from downtown).
20. Windstone Arch
The Windstone Arch is an interesting and extraordinary rock formation, which has been carved by wind, rain and sun.
It falls within the limits of the Valley of Fire State Park.
The arch is easy to reach but difficult to find because it is hidden in an orange millions of years old sandstone cave.
Although the place is usually quite crowded, visitors are allowed to get into the cave so you will have the chance to take some really good pictures!
21. Sedan Crater
Situated in southern Nevada, Sedan Crater is an exciting tourist attraction but you should know that it can be accessed only through the National Security Site Tour.
The crater was formed on July 2, 1962, when a nuclear test with non-military purposes was conducted in the area.
The main motivation behind the tests was to determine whether this type of nuclear reactions could serve for the realization of large scale infrastructure projects.
Another important thing to know is that the area is still contaminated and the level of radiation is much higher than normal.
22. Great Basin National Park
Great Basin National Park is a true oasis of wildlife, dominated by some of the oldest coniferous forests on Earth.
The green forests and cool mountains in the area are in a sharp contrast with the hot and dry surrounding desert of central eastern Nevada.
It covers an area of 77,180 acres (312.3 km²) and is located next to the Utah border.
The combination between fresh climate and clean air attracts mostly lovers of hiking and active lifestyle.
23. Fly Geyser
Most travelers concentrate their attention entirely on southern Nevada, especially the area of Las Vegas.
As a result, they miss out on unique places in the northern part of the state, such as the Fly Geyser.
Being one of the important landmarks of the North of Nevada, it is located in Fly Ranch, in Washoe County.
The geyser is around 5 – 6 feet tall (less than two meters), but is a major tourist attraction because of its extraordinary red and green colors.
The Fly Geyser is actually not exactly a geyser but a permanent hot spring.
It appeared for the first time in 1916, when the owners of the land drilled the ground to find water for irrigation.
Indeed, they found water, but with a temperature of 199.4°F (about 93.0°C), it was too hot for agriculture.
If you want to visit this outstanding place, however, you have to buy a ticket and plan your trip in advance.
Pay attention that the ranch is still a private property and you need to check the rules in advance.
24. Reno (Nevada)
They call Reno “The Biggest Little City in The World”, and actually, a sign with these words is one of the major tourist attractions here.
With a population of almost 250,000 residents, the city is everything but small.
Similar to Las Vegas, Reno is very well-known for its entertainment industry, including very good casinos, resorts, restaurants and clubs.
However, there are also some very tempting natural attractions in the area.
Located just a 10-minute drive away from the southwest suburbs of Reno, Hunter Creek Trail is one of them.
This is definitely one of the most popular hiking trails in Nevada.
Pleasant to walk, picturesque and easy to reach, it attracts a lot of tourists, especially during the summer season.
The main attraction here is a wonderful 30-foot-tall waterfall.
25. White Domes Slot Canyon and Trail
White Dome Slot Canyon is one of Nevada’s most renowned sites.
The place is located about an hour drive northeast from Las Vegas and is famous for one of the most scenic hiking trails in the state (White Domes Trail).
Although only 1.1 miles (almost 1.8 km) long, the trail offers a number of breathtaking views and landscapes created by erosion over hundreds of millions of years.
The place is considered relatively easily accessible by car, as there is a convenient parking lot at the beginning of the hiking trail.
The canyon itself is called like this because of the dome shaped white ridge.
As summers are too hot and finding shade is almost impossible, the best time to visit the area is in spring and autumn.
26. Seven Magic Mountains
One of the most fascinating features of America is that here you can see a huge variety of different art forms.
You usually see them where you least expect it, including in the middle of the desert of Nevada.
Following S Las Vegas Blvd, about 10 miles (or 16 km) south of the outskirts of the city, you will find a unique art installation that attracts visitors from all over the United States.
Created by Ugo Rondinone (a Swiss-born artist from New York), the art installation consists of 7 totems, each of them around 32 feet (9.8 m) tall.
They are built of boulders, painted in bright colors and stacked on top of each other.
The unique multicolored structures are visible even from the nearby main road.
They are easily accessible, and there is also a very convenient parking space right next to them.