Last Updated on June 27, 2023

The US state of Nevada is located in the eastern part of the North American continent, bordered by California to the west, Oregon to the northwest, Idaho to the northeast, Utah to the east, and Arizona to the southeast.

The so-called Silver State is sparsely populated (it has just over 3 million inhabitants) and much of its surface is rocky, desert and crater-covered.

However, despite the inhospitable nature of its terrain, this state is home to world-famous cities and offers a unique on-the-road travel experience.

landscape photography of rock formation near highway
Nevada desert. Photo by Quintin Gellar on

Las Vegas and the Mojave Desert

Crossing the Mojave Desert, heading south, one encounters a city that at first glance might seem to be for all intents and purposes a mirage. Lights, colors, music and voices mingle ceaselessly, seeming almost to stun, excite the eye, thrill the patron.

This is Las Vegas, the Gambling Capital of the World (also: the Entertainment Capital of the World), the most visited city in Nevada, one of the most iconic cities in the States. Gaming and entertainment are undoubtedly the city’s forte.

Las Vegas is the spiritual cradle of modern casino gaming, the place where some of the most important U.S. casinos have been opened since the early 1930s.

The best known is the Golden Gate, which opened in 1931 as the Sal Sagev Casino (the impresarios had decided to name it after the casino city, reversing its name).

Over the years casinos of all kinds have proliferated, known worldwide, such as the Bellagio, the Venetian, the Caesars Palace, the Riviera Hotel & Casino, and many others.

The pulsating artery of the city is Las Vegas Boulevard, also known as “The Strip,” where the most spectacular hotels and casinos are located.

The city is constantly bustling with all kinds of events: shows, concerts, sports competitions, rallies and conventions.

Also very famous is Fremont Street, buzzing with stores, hotels and restaurants, equipped with a cable car and a very atmospheric pedestrian street illuminated by lights and laser beams.

If you prefer the quiet of nature to the glitter of the city, you cannot miss a visit to Lake Tahoe.

This is located on the border between California and Nevada and is one of the most celebrated wonders of the U.S. nature. This is the deepest lake in the U.S., just behind Crater Lake in Oregon.

It is distinguished by emerald-colored waters and a backdrop of snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains. Everything here is dominated by the blue and green of lush, unspoiled nature.

Valley of Fire, Nevada
Valley of Fire. Las Vegas, Nevada.

Read also: 7 Thrilling Outdoor Activities near Las Vegas

Valley of Fire and Red Rock Canyon

If one wants to discover a more rugged and hostile, but no less spectacular, nature, one has only to get into a car and drive into the Valley of Fire, taking the road of the same name. This winds along the slopes of a rocky desert streaked with pink, red and white.

The landscape is incredible to the point of being mesmerizing. One can also continue on foot inside the park to discover its more hidden sides.

It is always red that dominates these landscapes, even in the case of Red Rock Canyon, which stands majestic with its reddish sandstone rock formations, offering itself even to intrepid climbers and cyclists.

Another of the region’s canyons, Grapevine Canyon is particularly well known for its Spirit Mountain. As we climb the mountain’s 1,720 m (5,000 ft), it is possible to admire ancient petroglyphs etched by the Mohave Indians who once populated the area.

In Nevada you can also find many remains of once inhabited, now deserted locations. One example above all is the ghost village of Rhyolithe.

This had sprung up in conjunction with the gold rush that inflamed Nevada in the early 1900s. However, within a decade or so of its founding, all activity was abandoned and the village remained completely deserted. This is not the only mysterious place in this area.

Nevada attracts curious people and mystery enthusiasts from all over. In fact, this state is home to the famous Area 51, the top-secret U.S. base about which stories are told of incredible scientific experiments and UFO sightings, all of which are shrouded in absolute secrecy.

There are many stories of UFO sightings in Nevada, many people claiming to have seen strange figures in the skies or in the desert dunes of the region. However, these may not be mirages.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Las Vegas, Nevada.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Las Vegas, Nevada.

Black Rock Desert

Between late August and early September in the Black Rock Desert, 150 km north-northeast of Reno, one of the most incredible events ever takes place. We are obviously talking about Burning Man, the iconic annual desert festival named after the giant human effigy that is traditionally burned to celebrate the event.

Eight days of freedom, imagination and individual expression are experienced, days in which performances and art exhibitions, fairs, games and workshops follow one another.

You can admire futuristic installations and make the most unpredictable acquaintances in a desert that is transformed into one of the most dreamlike and magical settings ever.

Read also: Sandboarding and Dune Riding in Nevada

Nevada Desert FAQs

What are the most popular desert destinations in Nevada?

Valley of Fire State Park is a must-visit for its otherworldly beauty. The park is home to towering sandstone formations, colorful rock spires, and ancient petroglyphs.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is another popular desert destination for its hiking trails, rock climbing, and stunning views of the Las Vegas Strip.

Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the contiguous United States and is home to some of the most extreme desert landscapes in the world.

Black Rock Desert is home to the annual Burning Man festival, as well as stunning sand dunes and volcanic landscapes.

What are the best outdoor activities in the Nevada Desert?

The Nevada Desert offers a wide range of thrilling outdoor activities for adventure seekers. Here are some of the best activities to enjoy in the desert:

  1. Hiking and Backpacking: Explore the vast desert landscapes on foot, taking in the stunning vistas and unique geological features. Popular hiking spots include Red Rock Canyon, Valley of Fire State Park, and Great Basin National Park.
  2. Rock Climbing: With its rugged cliffs and rock formations, the Nevada Desert provides excellent opportunities for rock climbing enthusiasts. Areas like Red Rock Canyon and Mount Charleston offer various climbing routes for all skill levels.
  3. Off-Road Adventures: Hop on a dune buggy, ATV, or off-road vehicle to experience the thrill of exploring the desert’s sandy trails and remote areas. Places like the Mojave Desert and the sand dunes near Fallon are perfect for off-road adventures.
  4. Horseback Riding: Embark on a scenic horseback riding excursion and immerse yourself in the tranquility of the desert. Several ranches and stables in Nevada offer guided horseback tours through the desert terrain.
  5. Stargazing: The Nevada Desert boasts vast expanses of clear skies, making it an ideal destination for stargazing. Find a remote location away from light pollution, set up your telescope, and marvel at the breathtaking celestial views.
  6. Hot Air Ballooning: Take to the skies in a hot air balloon and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the desert’s majestic landscapes. The peacefulness and panoramic vistas make for an unforgettable experience.
  7. Canyoneering: Discover hidden canyons and explore narrow slot canyons with the help of rappelling, hiking, and scrambling techniques. The canyons around Lake Mead and Cathedral Gorge State Park offer exciting opportunities for canyoneering.
  8. Wildlife Viewing: Observe the diverse wildlife that thrives in the desert environment. Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep, desert tortoises, coyotes, and various bird species. Wildlife refuges like Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge provide excellent opportunities for wildlife observation.
  9. Photography: Capture the stunning beauty of the desert with your camera. From vast desert vistas to unique rock formations and colorful sunsets, the Nevada Desert offers endless photography opportunities.

What is the best time of year to visit the Nevada Desert for outdoor activities?

The best time to visit the Nevada Desert for outdoor activities is during the spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) seasons when the temperatures are milder. Summers can be extremely hot, so it is advisable to plan activities in the early morning or evening.

What are some popular attractions on the Las Vegas Strip?

Some popular attractions on the Las Vegas Strip include the Bellagio Fountains, a choreographed water fountain show; the High Roller, a giant observation wheel offering panoramic views of the city; The Venetian, a resort with a replica of Venice’s Grand Canal; and the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas, a half-scale replica of the iconic Parisian landmark.

What makes Lake Tahoe special?

Lake Tahoe is renowned for its natural beauty. It is the second deepest lake in the United States, after Crater Lake in Oregon. The lake’s emerald-colored waters are surrounded by the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains, creating a stunning backdrop. Visitors can enjoy the serene and unspoiled nature, with opportunities for various outdoor activities.

What is the Valley of Fire?

The Valley of Fire is a scenic area located in Nevada, near Las Vegas. It is characterized by its unique rock formations in shades of pink, red, and white, which create a mesmerizing landscape. The valley offers scenic drives and hiking trails, allowing visitors to explore its hidden corners and appreciate the natural beauty of the area.

What can I expect to see at Red Rock Canyon?

Red Rock Canyon, located near Las Vegas, is known for its majestic red sandstone rock formations. It offers a range of recreational opportunities, including hiking, rock climbing, and cycling. The vibrant red hues dominate the landscape, creating a visually stunning environment for outdoor enthusiasts.

What is notable about Grapevine Canyon?

Grapevine Canyon, situated in Nevada, is famous for its Spirit Mountain and ancient petroglyphs. As you ascend the mountain, which reaches a height of 1,720 meters (5,000 feet), you can admire the intricate rock carvings left by the Mohave Indians who once inhabited the area. It provides a glimpse into the rich history and cultural heritage of the region. logo icon

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