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Five Best State Parks to Enjoy in Nevada

1. Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Historic Park. Located in central Nevada at about 7,000 feet elevation on the western slope of the Shoshone mountain range, 20 miles east of the town of Gabbs, about 150 miles southeast of Reno, this 1,540-acre park and historic preserve protects undisturbed ichthyosaur fossils and the ruins of the old mining town of Berlin. More than 40 ichthyosaurs -- an ancient marine reptile that swam in the warm ocean that covered much of Nevada 225 million years ago -- were found in the area and removed, but several were left intact and can be viewed in a large barn (to protect the fossils from the elements); the fossils are a designated National Natural Landmark. Berlin was established in 1896 when gold was found in the area, but about 20 years later the town became uninhabited; today, visitors can see the old town cemetery, as well as various buildings, including homes and shops -- preserved in a state of arrested decay. Beside the two main features, the park also offers camping, picnicking, hiking, and guided tours (during non-winter months). Upper elevations of the par contain pinyon pines and Utah juniper. Late spring and early fall are best times to visit. Learn more: Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Historic Park.

2. Cathedral Gorge State Park. Located in a long and narrow valley in southeastern Nevada off of the Great Basin Highway (US 93), just outside the town of Panaca, about 150 miles northeast of Las Vegas, this 2,000-acre park and nature preserve offers trails, picnic areas, camping, and a visitor center. Of course, the main feature of the park are the richly colored canyons of Cathedral Gorge, which began with explosive volcanic activity that deposited layers of ash hundreds of feet thick, followed by erosion from an ancient freshwater lake that covered the area about a million years ago. Visitors can explore the cave-like canyons and cathedral-like spires throughout the park using a 4-mile loop trail. Campground features 22 sites (with electric hookups) available on a first-come, first-served basis. Open year-round. Learn more: Cathedral Gorge State Park.

3. Cave Lake State Park. Located in east-central Nevada, at an elevation of about 7,000 feet, 15 miles east of the town of Ely, about 250 miles north of Las Vegas, this 4,500-acre park. Cave Lake is actually a 32-acre reservoir created by the construction of Cave Creek Dam in 1932, and quite popular for trout fishing, as well as boating and swimming. The park also contains two campgrounds (Elk Flat and Lake View, available only on a first-come, first-served basis) as well as picnic facilities and hiking trails (including Steptoe Creek Trail, Cave Springs Trail, Cave Lake Overlook Trail, and Twisted Pines Trail). Winter activities include ice fishing, ice skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. Note: Animals living in the park include elk, deer, bobcat, mountain lion, and coyote. Great Basin National Park about an hour's drive away. Learn more: Cave Lake State Park.

4. Spring Valley State Park. Located in southeast Nevada, not far from the border with Utah, about 22 miles northeast of Pioche, about 200 miles northeast of Las Vegas, this 926-acre recreation area that includes the 60-acre Eagle Valley Reservoir is a popular site for fishing (trout), boating, swimming, camping, picnicking, and enjoying shore birds and water fowl. Volcanic tuff and sediment, found along the hillsides upstream from the reservoir, give the park a beautiful light-grey, pin, and white backdrop. Two somewhat primitive campgrounds are within the park: Horsethief Gulch and Ranch. Several ranch buildings from the late 19th century still exist in the park, with one being used as the park headquarters. Learn more: Spring Valley State Park.

5. Valley of Fire State Park. Located in southeastern Nevada, just southwest of Overton, about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas, this 40,000-acre recreation and nature preservation area is a National Natural Landmark, and the state's oldest park; it gets its name from the bright red sandstone (Aztec Sandstone) formations that are scattered throughout -- and which can appear on fire in the afternoon sunlight. The park offers trails, two campgrounds (RV sites have power and water hookups), and picnicking (including the remains of three cabins built in the 1930s for travelers by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), as well as a visitor center (with exhibits on geology, ecology, and history of the park and area). Ancient petrified trees and petroglyphs dating back more than 2,000 years are found thought the park. Be sure to hike the 2-mile scenic loop trail, which has views of two natural arches: Arch Rock and Piano Rock. Valley of Fire Road, the main road for accessing the park is a Nevada Scenic Byway. While in the area, check out Lake Mead National Recreation Area, just to the east. Learn more: Valley of Fire State Park.

EmpoweringSites.com CEO Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is an educator, author, and blogger, as well as founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including EmpoweringAdvice.com. Dr. Hansen has been helping empower people to achieving success his entire adult life. He is also founder of EnhanceMyVocabulary.com, MyCollegeSuccessStory.com, and EmpoweringRetreat.com. He is a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. Dr. Hansen is also an educator, teaching business and marketing at the college level for more than 25 years. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com. You can also check out Dr. Hansen on Google+, as well as Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.

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