Hiking and Camping in Nevada, U.S.A.
Nevada offers up one of America’s most rugged and untamed states that appeals to countless outdoor enthusiasts every year. Whether you’re seeking a truly adventurous camping trip or just want to test your endurance with some substantial hiking or mountain biking trails, a trip to Nevada will definitely feed your hunger for a bit of authentic wilderness.
Nevada normally conjures up images of lavish casinos and decadent luxury, and its popularity as a party haven can be witnessed everywhere, from famous Hollywood movies such as The Hangover, to online slots games such as Vegas Lights, and even the immersive Las Vegas prank game. This is the image of Nevada as a glitzy tourist destination that most of us are familiar with.
However, there is far more to the state of Nevada than the bright lights of Vegas Strip and its many casinos. Beyond the glittering facade of Las Vegas lies a haven of nature and wildlife just a stone’s throw away from the sleepless beast of downtown Vegas. Find silence and relaxation by camping beneath the stars in Nevada’s breathtakingly beautiful parks and reserves.
If you’ve ever wanted to experience the more natural side of Nevada for yourself, first check out this handy guide to camping and hiking in Nevada. Learn the best places to camp, what you can expect, how to stay safe, and the sights and attractions that shouldn’t be missed. Consider this guide to be a hidden ace up your sleeve for making sure you experience the best outdoor adventures the state has to offer.
Places to Camp
While most people head to Nevada for the lavish hotels found on the Vegas Strip, there are many more natural places to rest your head at night. Adventurous campsites are abundant in Nevada and the only stars you’ll find here are the ones that shine brightly above your head.
Campsites can be found in Cathedral Gorge State Park, with its slot canyons and caverns, as well as in Great Basin National Park where you’ll be able to pitch a tent beneath thousand-year-old bristlecone pine trees and explore the Lehman Caves. You’ll be sleeping among coyotes and antelope instead of Elvis impersonators and showgirls. Nevada’s oldest state park also offers up camping facilities. Known as the Valley of Fire, you’ll be mesmerized by the fiery red sandstone formations that are found here.
During the sizzling hot summer months, you may wish to camp in a bit cooler weather which can be found in the Spring Mountains of Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. And why simply dream of dinosaurs when you can camp among them in the Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park. The park contains numerous fossils from prehistoric reptiles known as Ichthyosaurs which lived during the Mesozoic era.
Of course not all campers want to enjoy solitude in the wilderness. For those wanting a more social camping experience, Nevada is home to the annual Burning Man Festival which attracts well over 50,000 eccentric people each year. Held at the end of summer, the nine day festival offers artistic performances, music, and bizarre sculptures in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert Recreation Area. The festival receives so many campers that the area becomes a small town for the short time.
Those wanting to experience a more comfortable camping experience should look into the Cottonwood Guest Ranch. Tucked away in the state’s Northeast, the ranch offers well-appointed suites that make for the perfect end to a day after enjoying some horseback riding, hiking, or mountain biking. You’ll find more luxury around Lake Tahoe, where you can swap horses and bikes for paddleboards, kayaks, and boats. Choose between luxury lakeside accommodation, more rustic cabins, or campsites on the lakeside beach.
Nevada has the title of being America’s driest state. Covering much of the state is the Great Basin and you also find a portion of the Mojave Desert within the state’s borders. You’ll mostly encounter arid desert-like conditions but the state’s six biotic zones do include alpine landscapes at higher elevations.
The weather varies considerably depending on what part of the state you’re in as well as the time of year it is. Summers can be scorching, while in the winter months it can dip well below freezing. Generally the coldest temps are seen in the east, a more temperate climate is found in the west, and the warmest weather is found in the south. The northern regions of the state see summer temps reach into the 90s while in the south including places like Las Vegas can see temperatures over 100. You definitely want to make sure you have plenty of drinking water when camping and enjoying various outdoor recreational activities.
While the desert may be hot during the day, the temps can drop considerably overnight. Be sure to pack warm clothes and have an adequate sleeping bag to keep you comfortable throughout the night.
Safety and First Aid
Nevada’s expansive parks and deserts are not to be taken lightly. While camping in the state’s wilderness areas will provide many unforgettable memories, there are some safety issues to be aware of. Always alert others to your travel plans before taking off into the remote corners of the state.
There are several venomous snakes to watch out for including diamondback rattlesnakes and sidewinders. Snakes are usually not encountered during the middle of winter or the dead of summer but are often spotted in late spring and fall. Learn how to deal with snake bites and pack a first-aid kit to assist with other injuries you may incur while hiking.
Note that many nature areas require the need for 4×4 vehicles and gas stations may not always be readily available so be sure to fuel up before heading out and maybe fill up some spare fuel cans. Cell phone coverage may be spotty in some places but you’ll usually have no trouble getting a signal on top of the higher peaks when hiking.
Weather to watch out for includes summer time thunderstorms. You’ll want to avoid hiking on the peaks during the afternoon if storms are forecast due to the very real threat of being struck by lightning. The Red Rock Canyon and Lake Mead areas are also prone to flash floods and always be wary of rock falls when hiking or climbing in the mountains or canyons.
Camping and hiking essentials you should pack include a compass, flashlight, headlamp, matches, cell phone, sunscreen and a wide brimmed hat, plenty of food and water, and a well stocked first-aid kit.
While you’ll know doubt encounter countless natural attractions no matter where you settle in Nevada, there are a number of notable landmarks you should make an attempt to see during your visit to the state.
Seek out Red Rock Canyon for its seasonal waterfalls, Native American petroglyphs, and stunning red sandstone peaks that are all set in the Mojave Desert. You of course also have the iconic Hoover Dam which was built during the Great Depression and sees over a million visitors annually.
Visit the three-story stone tower known as Stokes Castle near the town of Austin and head to Ely to check out the wild looking 19th century Ward Charcoal Ovens. These historic ovens were built to prepare charcoal for use in the local smelters of the period.
See the first beginnings of Vegas by checking out the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Historic Park and witness a bit more history by checking out Civil War era forts such as Fort Ruby and Fort Churchill.
Exciting Day Trips from the Vegas Strip
There are also a number of incredible day trips that can be experienced from Vegas, many of which can be reached in less than a 4-hour drive. Visit California’s Yosemite National Park to witness Half Dome and Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in the country. Head across the border into Utah to check out the incredible rock formation of Arches National Park or hike into Zion National Park’s Narrows and along its Emerald Pools Trail. Of course to the east, you have the mighty Grand Canyon awaiting you.
Nevada can be an inhospitable place, yet outdoor enthusiasts with a sense of restless freedom and exploration will find themselves right at home. The state symbolizes the American national character and is part of the true Wild West. Anyone willing to brave the elements and test their physical and mental stamina will be rewarded with some of the most breath-taking landscapes the country has to offer.