When it comes to Nevada, most people think of Reno or glitzy Las Vegas, which is full of gambling, showgirls, and luxurious hotels. However, there’s a quieter side to this scenic state with no shortage of Nevada vacation rentals situated close to these low-key attractions. Whether you are in the state for a day, weekend, or entire week, escape from the crowds and visit some of these lovely hidden gems.
1. Valley of Fire State Park
The Valley of Fire, located in the Mojave Desert 58 miles northeast of the Las Vegas Strip, is the oldest state park in Nevada, established in 1935. The 10.5-mile Valley of Fire Road, designated as a Nevada Scenic Byway in 1995, takes you across the park and provides unparalleled photo opportunities of the raging red rock formations and some fine examples of petroglyphs, artwork of the Anasazi natives. Three easy-to-navigate trails get you up-close and personal with this stunning land.
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2. Goldwell Open Air Museum
This beautiful open-air outdoor sculpture museum provides a unique, one-of-a-kind art experience, and it’s near the Rhyolite ghost town which is a kick to visit as well. This eight-acre park is in the Amargosa Valley about 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas and four miles west of Beatty. The Last Supper by Albert Szukalski, the park’s founder, is a popular attraction for visitors.
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3. Lunar Crater National Natural Landmark
Nevada has over a dozen volcanic areas, but because of its location in the Pancake Range away from main travel routes, you can enjoy the vast landscape of cinder cones, lava outcrops, ash hills, and the 430-foot-deep Lunar Crater in peace and quiet. The crater is large and impressive, and its grey-brown rocks and black ash support brightly colored wildflowers such as the bright red Indian paintbrush. There’s no marked hiking path into the crater, but if you go to the east rim, you can enjoy some panoramic views of lava flows and grass-covered buttes.
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4. Lamoille Canyon – Elko
Tucked in the Ruby Mountain desert oasis of wet, verdant, and lush landscape that is flush with colorful wildflowers in summer and spectacular dressed in fall foliage, Lamoille Canyon is beyond breathtaking. If you hike, check out the 40-mile Ruby Crest Trail that is known worldwide for outstanding views. The two-lane, 12-mile Lamoille Scenic Byway takes you through mountainous wilderness, by lakes and to an overlook where you can witness first hand two 1,000-foot-thick glaciers that helped shape this canyon.
5. Clark County Wetlands Park
This beautiful park is located 20 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip and offers a cool, refreshing way to spend an afternoon away from the crowded casinos. This 210-acre Nature Preserve is one of the city’s best-kept secrets, and it’s a great place for wildlife viewing and photography. You can follow miles of paths then meander around ponds and along streams while taking in the rich plant life that includes willows, cottonwood trees, and towering cattails.
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6. Cathedral Gorge – Panaca
Cathedral Gorge is a fascinating assemblage of caves called slot canyons that were formed by the erosion of soft bentonite clay, richly colored by the remnants of an ancient lake bed. You can hike through these canyons and view an abundance of wildlife including ravens, hawks, roadrunners, kit foxes, and deer. If you are very adventurous, consider tunneling through the canyons to discover hidden chambers in the network of canyons to stay cool in the hot desert heat.
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7. International Car Forest of the Last Church – Goldfield
Spend an afternoon exploring this unique collection of automobiles that have been spray-painted and then planted nose-down in the sand, a sort of druidic henge of junkers. Over 40 trucks, cars, and vans are balanced or stacked on another, looking for all the world like some toys a giant child discarded. The designs on the vehicles are handpainted and vary from skulls to caricatures of politicians.
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8. Lehman Caves – Ely
Daily tours are offered by park rangers year-round. This fragile ecosystem is alive and includes stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, flowstone, popcorn, and more than 300 rare shield formations. For families with young children, the Lodge Room Tour takes approximately 60 minutes and covers several sections of the caves. The longer, 90-minute Grand Palace Tour visits six sections and gives you the chance to visit the famous “Parachute Shield” formation.
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9. Neon Boneyard – Las Vegas
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas and that includes 150 original neon signs that once graced the town with their brilliance. As part of the Neon Museum, the Boneyard connects you with the city’s history from the 1930s to the present. The entire museum encompasses two acres and an outdoor gallery features some of the larger neon signs for casinos such as Palms Casino Resort and Lady Luck. For a spectacular photo shoot of the signs in all their blazing glory, take the 60-minute tour at night.
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10. Pyramid Lake
You can enjoy some world-class fishing for Lohanton Cutthroat Trout at Pyramid Lake, one of Nevada’s largest natural lakes located 40 miles northeast of Reno. The area has compelling rock formations and played an important part in the history of the Paiute Indian tribe. Visit the museum while at the lake to explore the tribal history through exhibits and displays. In addition to excellent fishing, you can ride mountain bikes, hike, kayak or paddleboard over beautiful waters in shades of blue or gray, depending on the sky.
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