1. Only Nevada could provide the right atmosphere for Burning Man.Photo: Ian Norman (Lonely Speck)
Which is why the Nevada desert has been the only venue for the event since the ’80s. Sorry, San Francisco.
2. There are more hot springs here than pretty much anywhere.
In fact, there are over 300 of them in the state. A Las Vegas local favorite is Goldstrike Hot Springs, where numerous soaking pools are accessible along a 6.5-mile round-trip hike, parts of which require a rope-assisted boulder scramble.
3. Vegas’ pool clubs are a hotter, hipper, crazier scene.
Especially on the weekends. And only in Vegas can can you swim up to both the bar and blackjack tables.
4. Nevada’s largest and oldest state park looks like this:
Plus a visit means you get to tell everyone you spent your weekend in the “Valley of Fire.” What’s not to love?
5. And the national parks have the sickest names.
Enter Death Valley. “Hottest, driest, lowest,” brags the website for this national park straddling the border of Nevada and California. Highs average 116 degrees in July, putting something of a damper on exploring outside the air-conditioned confines of your vehicle. In contrast, winter is hiking season, with polished canyons, rolling sand dunes, and snowy peaks to traverse. Even the Badwater salt flats, nearly 200 miles of barren landscape that sits 282 feet below sea level, can be downright pleasant.
6. It’s 1 of 7 US states with no income tax.
7. It has some of the best rock climbing in the US.
The Aztec sandstone here is covered with a thin black desert varnish, which makes it stronger and gives it more incut edges than other major sandstone climbing spots in the country. And by the time Red Rock Canyon received its National Conservation Area designation in 1990, intrepid climbers had already been exploring and mapping out routes for 20 years. Talk about pioneering!
8. It’s home to North America’s largest alpine lake.
Stretching for 22 miles along the Nevada-California border, after the Great Lakes, Tahoe is actually the largest US lake by volume. It’s ringed by ski resorts, postcard mountain peaks, and resort and local communities.
9. Nevada has more mountain ranges than any other Lower 48 state.
In addition to its 314 named ranges, Nevada has at least 100 more that cut through the desert anonymously, with a total of 40 peaks that exceed 10,000 feet in elevation (the highest of which is Boundary Peak at 13,147).
If you’ve never done it, check out Nevada on Google Maps with the “Terrain” layer turned on. It’s a trip.
10. There’s an accidental man-made geyser in Washoe County.
You’ve seen pictures of it — it looks like something out of Super Mario World. Sadly, the geyser is located on private property and is therefore closed to the public. Less sad are the wealth of personal accounts and tutorials available online for seeing it anyways.
11. Area 51 is real.
There’s even a ton of armed guards who’ll literally chase you away if you come too close.
12. Nevada’s gone foodie.
Aside from the Las Vegas Strip, where celebrity chefs throw it down nightly, Nevada’s culinary scene has been quietly experiencing a renaissance of farm-to-table, locally minded indie restaurants, festivals, and food trucks.
Case in point: Reno’s Midtown district. What was once a swath of abandoned storefronts is now a place I won’t hesitate to recommend the best poutine outside of Canada at Saint James Brasserie, a selection of over a hundred fancy cheeses at Wedge, or a bison burger with a local brew at Midtown Eats.
13. And there’s some seriously fine beer here, too.
Thanks to some recent changes in legislation, Nevada’s distilleries are also thriving. And here, they take drinking local seriously. To be considered “craft,” distillers need to produce tiny batches of booze — no more than 10,000 per year (to put that in perspective, big name-brand liquors sell close to 70,000 cases a day), with at least 90% of their ingredients sourced from within the state.
14. Wild mustangs and burros roam free.
There are approximately 25,000 wild horses and burros in the state — that’s about half of the entire country’s wild horse population.
15. Most US gold comes from Nevada.
And it yields way more gold than California. In fact, Nevada produces 80% of all the gold mined in the country today, and actually ranks among the top national producers in the world. You can still find sizable nuggets in every county of the state with nothing more than a gold pan, a lucky stream or river, and disciplined, monk-like patience.
16. It’s the “birthplace” of Mark Twain.
In 1861, a young Samuel Clemens arrived in Virginia City to try his hand at prospecting. After spending a year attempting to find work in the mines, he eventually was hired and got his start as a feature writer for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. As his coverage of the bustling frontier mining town grew, Clemens adopted a pen name: Mark Twain.
17. You can see a “sandstorm frozen in time.”
Way out in the Gold Butte region of Nevada, rock formations have developed undisturbed for millions of years. Just look at Little Finland’s twisty sandstone landscapes!
18. It has some of the darkest night skies anywhere in the US.
Once you escape the brightness of Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada’s dry air and vast skies equate to awesome star gazing opportunities, especially at Great Basin National Park aka that quintessential Bob Ross painting where you can see some mountains, some water, some snow, and happy little trees. It’s also home to over 320 species of wildlife, including 238 species of birds alone. All that, and the oldest living trees on Earth.
19. There are petroglyphs…everywhere.
Nevada’s basically covered in ancient graffiti, some of which dates back as far as 10,500 to 14,800 years. And Winnemucca Lake, just northeast of Reno, is the site of the oldest known petroglyphs in North America.
20. The largest intact ichthyosaur skeleton in the US was found in Nevada.
21. There’s a town that hosts cowboy poetry gatherings.
For the last 31 years, thousands of spur-toting cowboys from all over the nation have descended on Elko’s Western Folklife Center for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, when cowboy culture and the Old West are celebrated through literature, music, and other arts.
22. And where else can you see camel and ostrich races in the US?
This September Virginia City will be hosting its 56th Annual International Camel & Ostrich Races, where jockeys vie for the fastest humpback (the camels reach speeds up to 40mph).
23. There are whole websites chronicling all of Nevada’s ghost towns.
24. Practically all the old alien movies were filmed here.
Well, all the movies of yesteryear, where a team of space explorers land on Martian terrain and hop over red and tan swirly boulders around cliffs and up canyons, were most likely filmed in Nevada. In fact, coupled with the heat, you’d swear you were on a planet closer to the sun, where life is scarce and getting jumped by a Tusken Raider is a semi-legitimate concern. Plus, have you ever seen a rattlesnake?Dune-quality.
25. It has really weird theme parks.
The next time I’m on the hunt for some dirty entertainment in Vegas, I know where I’ll be going. What looks deceptively like a barren construction site is actually Dig This, a heavy equipment sandbox full of obstacle courses and activities designed to challenge your hand-eye coordination.
26. And it’s sunny as hell.
Las Vegas sees sunshine for no less than 85% of annual daylight hours. Take that, everywhere else.
This article references the following sources from Matador:
20 truths about Nevada you never would have guessed, by Sarah Park
15 things every Californian should know about Nevada, by Abby Tegnelia
14 reasons to hit Las Vegas in winter (that have nothing to do with the Strip) by Sarah Feldberg
Travel guide to the coolest small towns in Nevada, by Kristen Bor
8 of the finest clothing-optional hot springs in Nevada (and how to find them) by Kristen Bor
14 reasons Nevada kicks ass (that have nothing to do with Las Vegas), by Alex Scola
7 things to do in Vegas besides gamble, by Sara Benson