Nevada is a land of extreme and varied landscapes, with the highest record temperature at 125 °F (52 °C) and the coldest at -52 °F (-47 °C). The northern region is within the Great Basin; the middle region is covered in valleys and mountains, some of which are over 6,000 feet tall. The southern part of Nevada sits within the Mojave Desert, which is renowned for blisteringly hot summer days but cool chilly winter nights. This land of extremes has given way to some of the strangest and most unique landscapes across the US, some of which are hard to believe unless you see them!
10 Antelope Canyon
One of the most iconic and other-worldly landscapes in the US is striking Antelope Canyon. Although it is found in Arizona, it is an easy day trip from Las Vegas (Nevada). This spectacular canyon is a slot canyon which is a long, narrow channel with sheer rock walls. It sits in the Navajo territory and is a sacred place amongst the indigenous groups of Arizona. The canyon has an upper and lower section, and visitors can hike out to the sheer rock face at Horseshoe Bend and stop at a scenic overlook for views of Lake Powell.
9 Ward Charcoal Ovens
For a completely surreal view in Nevada, take a trip to the Ward Charcoal Ovens Parks. It is about 20 miles out of Ely, Nevada in White Pine Country. They are six 30-foot beehive-shaped ovens that were built in the late 1800s to provide charcoal for two silver smelters in the area. Charcoal was only made here for a few years because after the silver smelters were shut down, there was no need for the charcoal, so the ovens were abandoned. Today, they make an interesting and historical day trip.
8 Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Just an hour outside Las Vegas but the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in the Mojave Desert feels like a whole different world. There are a whole host of impressive canyons and the gorgeous red and cream Calico Hills. A one-way 13-mile scenic drive is the best way to see of the region’s most spectacular spots, but there are also more than 30 miles of hiking trails and many incredible climbing routes around the 3,000-foot cliffs.
7 Black Rock Desert
Up in northwest Nevada is the Black Rock Desert National Conservation Area, which encompasses nearly 400,000 acres of mountains, canyons, and hot springs to explore, but what makes this region look so out-of-this-world are the incredible, vast alkali flats. There are roughly 120 miles of emigrant trails perfect for historic and wildlife sightseeing, and there are plenty of opportunities for off-roading and land-sailing on the eerie Black Rock Desert.
6 Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is one of the driest and hot of all places on Earth, so it is easy to forget that this isn’t a whole other planet. It is actually located below sea level and is a land of complete extremes, with recording-breaking temperatures in the summer but often snow on the top of the jagged peaks. Some highlights of the park include Furnace Creek, Badwater, and Zabriskie Point, and desolate Rhyolite, a ghost town left from the Gold Rush.
5 Bonsai Rock
On Lake Tahoe, between Hidden Beach and Sand Harbor, lies Bonsai Rock. The rock juts out from the water, and on top grows some small trees. The trees will never grow big because of the barren location on the rock, giving visitors a unique insight into life in a desolate environment. The lake itself is the second deepest alpine lake in the United States (after Crater Lake) and is incredibly beautiful.
4 Fly Geyser
Fly Geyser is one of those places which you have to see to believe. Most are surprised to learn that it is actually a manmade geyser through a series of mishaps. Back in the early 1900s, the area was searched for irrigation water, and after drilling a well, it was realized that the hot geothermal water was not ideal for agriculture, so they left the area. About 60 years later, a geothermic energy company returned to test the geyser for its geothermal waters and after the tests, they resealed the geyser. But they must not have sealed it well because soon later, a new geyser (Fly Geyser) popped up close by and has been growing substantially since. Now Fly Geyser shoots out water 5 feet into the air, and the mineral deposits from the water build-up continue to grow. The minerals, along with thermophilic algae, are responsible for their spectacular and other-worldly colors.
3 Valley Of Fire State Park
Another spectacular day trip from Las Vegas is the Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada’s biggest and oldest state park. The name comes from the bright-red sand dunes that appear to be on fire when hit by the sun at just the right angle, and this incredible valley is known for its multicolored swirls of rock. It is also home to native Indian petroglyphs, believed to date back over 3,000 years. Some of the more iconic rock formations include Elephant Rock, Natural Arch, Fire Wave, Atlatl Rock, Seven Sisters, and White Domes.
2 Bristlecone Pines Of The Great Basin
The Great Basin National Park is relatively unknown and is one of the least visited of all the national parks. Within the park stand two Bristlecone pine trees, one dead and one alive. They are thought to be the longest-living non-clonal organisms in the world and are named Prometheus and Methuselah. Prometheus was studied by researchers who decided to cut the tree down and found that it was approximately 4,800 years old. The living tree, Methuselah, is roughly the same age and is now protected by the national park. They are extremely adept at withstanding harsh weather, including the freezing cold temperatures and harsh winds, which sometimes batter the park.
1 Cathedral Gorge State Park
In contrast to many of the red rock formations found in Nevada, Cathedral Gorge is comprised of soft clay deposits which once formed a freshwater lakebed. These deposits have eroded into spires and columns, making a very unique and other-worldly landscape. For spectacular panoramic views over the state park, hike up to the Miller Point Overlook.