The Most Beautiful State Parks In Nevada

Autumnal colors thrive in the heart of Great Basin National Park, Nevada
Autumnal colors thrive in the heart of Great Basin National Park, Nevada | Courtesy of Travel Nevada
Marcelina Morfin

The landscape in Nevada can vary more than people might expect, from the gorgeous Lake Tahoe region to the beautiful and colorful desert of the south. The state has recognized many of these gems as state parks, along with some unique historic sites that are sure to impress. With a total of 23 state parks, Culture Trip has curated a list of the ten most beautiful you should put on your must-visit list.

Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park

Located in central Nevada, on the western side of the Shoshone mountain range, Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park is named after two things. The first is a turn-of-the-century mining town, Berlin, while Ichthyosaurs is a nod to the ancient marine reptile that once swam the ocean that once covered this land. Today, it is a great place to learn about the old mining town – now a ghost town – and to see and explore one of the largest collections of Ichthyosaur fossils in the world. The area is also home to many animals, including mule deer, cottontail rabbits, and western fence lizards to name but a few. You will also find camping spots and picnic areas, plus many tours are available, making this place a destination the entire family can enjoy.

Big Bend of the Colorado Recreation Area

One of the newest additions to Nevada’s state park list, Big Bend of the Colorado Recreation Area opened to the public in 1996. A popular destination, the park draws crowds due to the Colorado River, which provides plenty of water adventures — fishing, boating, swimming and more – for the outdoor enthusiasts. Big Bend also features a few hiking trails and a campground. Located in Southern Nevada, this state park is close to Laughlin, providing dining and shopping opportunities. If visiting during the summer, be sure to drink plenty of water as the temperatures can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cathedral Gorge State Park

Whether you’re an outdoor adventurist or an artist wishing to capture nature’s beauty, Cathedral Gorge State Park, located in the southeastern portion of the state, should be on your list of must-visit state parks in Nevada. Becoming a state park in 1935, this beautiful area features incredible spirals and cliffs that took millions of years to form – starting with volcanoes – and is brimming with a variety of flora and fauna. You can take a walk on one of the hiking trails, have a bite to eat in a shaded area, and even rest at a camping site.

The rock formations of Cathedral Gorge look like something from an alien planet

Fort Churchill State Historic Park

Once a US Army fort, this state park is today an area of preserved ruins that will certainly attract the eye of any history buff. Built in 1861, the fort was deserted a mere ten years later, and while it served other purposes over the years, eventually everything was left to the outside elements. Like the website states, ‘a visit to Fort Churchill requires some imagination’ due to the fact that some buildings no longer exist; however, nearby is the historic Buckland Station, a Pony Express stop. Like other state parks mentioned thus far, this one also has areas for picnicking and camping.

Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park

Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, with its jewel of a lake and verdant forest surroundings, is no doubt one of the prettiest, if not the prettiest, state park in Nevada and comprises of Sand Harbor, Spooner Backcountry, Cave Rock, and Van Sickle. To work on your tan, swim in the gorgeous (if a little chilly) Lake Tahoe and have fun with family and friends. Be sure to visit Sand Harbor and its 55 acres of beach. The Spooner Backcountry provides great opportunities for mountain biking in the summer, Cave Rock offers even more fun like boating, fishing, and swimming, while Van Sickle has historic sites, hiking and more.

The waters of Lake Tahoe are among the most inviting in all of North America

Mormon Station State Historic Park

Located in the charming town of Genoa, the Mormon Station State Historic Park is the site of the first permanent settlement of non-native people. Established in 1851, the park features a replica of the trading post – the original burned to the ground in 1910 – housing a museum with artefacts from the pioneer days. You’ll also find a picnic area and gazebo that is often used for celebrations like weddings. Genoa also has several attractions while you’re there, such as tasty eats, antique shopping and fun events year-round.

Spring Mountain Ranch State Park

Found in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, approximately 15 miles west of the Las Vegas area, Spring Mountain Ranch State Park is a beautiful 520-acre area. This little piece of luxury has been a working ranch and lovely retreat over the years with many famous owners, including Howard Hughes. Today the spacious ranch house serves as an information center for guests wanting to learn more about the area, plus visiting guests can take a self-guided tour of the property. Guided tours are also available, and there is even an outdoor theater. Keep in mind that there is an entrance fee when entering the park.

Valley of Fire State Park

Valley of Fire State Park is right up there with Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park as being one of the most breathtaking areas in Nevada. A completely different environment from its western Nevada counterpart, this southern beauty is the state’s oldest and largest state park and features red sandstone formations, limestones, shales, conglomerates, petrified wood, and Indian petroglyphs that date back 3,000 years. Grab a trail map and explore this park by foot, and don’t forget to bring a camera, as the sunlight can create some magical moments you will want to hold on to forever.

Valley of Fire

Ward Charcoal Oven State Historic Park

Ward Charcoal Oven State Historic Park can be found in eastern Nevada in the Egan Mountain Range, south of Ely. This lovely area is unique in that it is known for its six beehive-shaped ovens that were used from 1876 to 1879 to produce charcoal out of the area’s pinyon pine and juniper. It first became a monument in 1969 and a state park in 1994, and today, in addition to the ovens, guests will have access to hiking trails, picnic spots and even a campsite. The trails are also good for mountain biking when it’s warm and snowshoeing in the winter.

Wild Horse State Recreation Area

Situated on the northeast shore of the Wild Horse Reservoir north of Elko, the Wild Horse State Recreation Area is a place where family and friends can go to have a good time, either for the day or longer. This state park is perfect for the entire family, especially those who love outdoor adventures, because there is so much to do, from fishing to camping to hunting and boating. In winter activities expand to include ice skating, sledding, snowmobiling and skiing.

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