From majestic mountain ranges to shifting sand dune landscapes, Nevada has some of the most breathtaking state parks you'll find in all of North America. As one of the top southwest destinations alongside desert giants like Utah and Arizona, the Silver State contains a range of popular natural attractions such as Wheeler Peak, the Lehman Caves, and a healthy chunk of the Colorado River. Since you can't be in a hundred places at once, we've narrowed down the options. Submitted for your approval, here's our top 10 list of Nevada's best state parks.
The 9 Best State Parks in Nevada
1. Valley of Fire State Park
At only a little over 45 miles northeast of Las Vegas, Valley of Fire State Park tops our charts thanks to its breathtaking Aztec sandstone formations and enchanting petroglyphs. Featuring quite a few mountain biking and hiking trails, the park is an excellent destination for anyone looking to take an easy day trip out of Sin City while avoiding the crowds of world-famous national sites like Red Rock Canyon and the Hoover Dam.
2. Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park
Want to enjoy some ghost town vibes and dinosaur fossils all at once? Then Berlin-Ichthyosaur is your huckleberry! Named after the ancient demon fish whose remnants still haunt the area, this park is ideal for those who want a natural and cultural experience. In addition to its exciting attractions and guided tours, the park is an excellent place for camping, hiking, and more.
3. Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park
Located in the Sierra Nevadas on the Silver State's border with California, Lake Tahoe is an excellent destination for aquatic recreation. Whether you're more into swimming the beaches of the sand harbor, boating at cave rock, or fishing in Spooner Lake, this easy-to-access park is a must for road trips in the Reno-Carson City area.
4. Spring Mountain Ranch State Park
Like Valley of Fire, Spring Mountain is a good choice if you're looking for outdoor recreation in the Las Vegas area but don't want to deal with the crowds at Red Rock Canyon. In addition to the sort of red sandstone rock formations you'll find in the neighboring national recreation area, Spring Mountain is a good spot for horseback riding and kayaking, not to mention more simple pleasures like bird watching.
5. Cathedral Gorge State Park
Cathedral Gorge is situated on Highway 93 in Eastern Nevada, making it an excellent choice for backcountry hikers who prefer the more remote reaches of the state. What's more, the park is just outside the town of Panaca, which is billed as the oldest Western settlement in Nevada.
6. Echo Canyon State Park
Echo Canyon is located in the central-east part of the Silver State, making it an excellent place to add to your itinerary if you're doing a state park roundup that includes other destinations like Cathedral Gorge. The park has a reservoir where you can enjoy a range of aquatic recreation, not to mention conveniently sheltered picnicking areas and a handful of campgrounds.
7. Fort Churchill State Historic Park
As its name suggests, this historic state park is home to the ruins of a long-gone 19th-century fort that was once a stop on the Pony Express. The park has a campground, visitor centers, and trails that run along the Carson River.
8. Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park
Once used for smelting, the Ward Charcoal Ovens contrast eerily with the natural desert landscape. Next to these historical relics, the park's primary draw is its off-highway vehicles trails and access to BLM land. It's also suitable for rustic pursuits like camping, hiking, and fishing.
9. Spring Valley State Park
Open year-round, Spring Valley is part of the eastern cluster that includes Echo Canyon and Cathedral Gorge sites. Although it isn't quite as exciting as the other two, it has modern facilities, historic sites, and opportunities for aquatic recreation.
10. Big Bend of the Colorado State Recreation Area
Although Big Bend is technically a recreation area, it's a pretty popular spot for all things water, so we decided to stretch the rules and tack it on at the end of the list anyway. The recreation area's sandy beaches are located in the Mojave Desert across the Colorado River from the city of Riviera, not far from Nevada's southernmost point.
Honorable Mentions: Other State and National Parks to Visit
While we obviously can't fit all of Nevada's fantastic state parks on a top 10 list, we'd be doing you a disservice if we didn't mention a few of the best runners up. Along with our winners, we can vouch for these awesome outdoor destinations:
- Kershaw-Ryan State Park
- Beaver Dam State Park
- Dayton State Park
- Wild Horse State Recreation Area
- Cave Lake State Park
- Washoe Lake State Park
Additionally, some of the USA's most famous national parks, monuments, and recreation areas are located in the Silver State. Since we couldn't include them above, we thought it prudent to hype them down here:
- Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
- Lake Mead National Recreation Area
- Death Valley National Park
- Great Basin National Park
- Basin and Range National Monument
- Gold Butte National Monument
- Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument
What's your favorite state park in Nevada? Help people decide where to go on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!