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Five Must-Do Magical National Natural Wonders in Nevada

1. Black Rock Desert - High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area. Located in northwest Nevada, about 150 miles north of Reno, this 1.2-million-acre land known for the Burning Man festival, is home to lava flows, alkali lake beds, desert canyons, soaring vistas, and diverse wildlife. It includes 10 wilderness areas totaling 752,000 acres, including: Calico Mountains, Black Rock Desert, East Fork High rock Canyon, High Rock Canyon, High Rock Lake, Little High Rock Canyon, North Black Rock Range, North Jackson Mountains, Pahute Peak, and South Jackson Mountains Wildernesses. Besides discovering a vast area of off-the-grid solitude and truly stunning landscapes, you'll also find the longest intact segments (180 miles) of the historic emigrant trails to California and Oregon used by early pioneers. Of course, before the pioneers, native peoples lived in the area, including the people of the Great Basin, who lived in the area about 10,000 years ago. Some definite sights to see include Black Rock Desert Playa (the dry lakebed of ancient Lake Lahontan), Trego Hot Springs (best in the late fall), Solider Meadows, Fly Canyon and High Rock Lake, Hardin City remains, The conservation area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Learn more: Black Rock Desert - High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area.

2. Great Basin National Park. Located in eastern Nevada, near the border with Utah, about 300 miles north of Las Vegas, this 77,000-acre park is notable for the 13,000-foot summit of Wheeler Peak, its groves of ancient bristlecone pines (the oldest living organisms in the world), sage-covered foothills, and the Lehman Caves (at the base of Wheeler Peak; guided tours available daily). The park gets its name from the Great Basin, a dry and mountainous region between the Sierra Nevada and Wasatch mountains. Besides the bristlecones, the park has 10 other species of conifers (including white firs, spruces, and Ponderosa pines), quaking aspens, more than 800 species of plants, and an abundance of wildlife (including cougars, bobcats, marmots, mountain sheep, elk, deer, jackrabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks, as well as hawks, bald eagles, owls, ravens, swallows, and more). The park has 12 trails, including: Bristlecone Pine Trail, Bristlecone-Glacier Trail, Alpine Lakes Loop Trail, Lehman Cave Trail, Sky Islands Forest Trail, Lexington Arch Trail, and Wheeler Peak Summit Trail. Don't forget a stop at the visitor center on Nevada 487 in Baker and the Lehman Caves visitor center on Nevada 488, a half mile inside the park. Before you leave, drive the 12-mile Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive. Learn more: Great Basin National Park.

3. Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Located in central western Nevada, with a headquarters in Sparks, about 40 miles southwest of Reno, as well as in other parts of the state, and even including parts that are in California, this 6.3 million acre forest is the largest national forest in the continental U.S., and contains 24 designated Wilderness areas, encompassing 1.2 million acres. Unlike most other national forests that tend to be one large area, the HTNF contains numerous fairly large, but non-contiguous sections scattered across the state (and a portion of California). The landscapes range from towering snow-capped peaks to wide open sage steppe, with elevations ranging from 4,100 feet all the way up to 12,374 feet, and from open desert to pinyon pine and juniper woodlands, to ponderosa pine forests, to spruce and aspen forests, and to alpine tundra. You'll find 40 campgrounds, 14 picnic areas, 46 trailheads, 1,872 non-motorized trails (including favorites Kinney Lakes, Raymond Peak, Secret Lake Loop), 1,698 and motorized trails, as well as two visitor centers: Galena Creek (on Mt. Rose Hwy, Reno) and Spring Mountains (on Kyle Canyon Road, Mt. Charleston). The name comes from two sources; Humboldt from the mountain range named after German naturalist Baron Alexander von Humboldt; Toiyabe from the Shoshone word meaning mountain. Wildlife in the forest includes bighorn sheep, mountain goats, cougars, raptors, beaver, deer, elk, antelope, wild horse, and burros. Learn more: Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

4. Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Located in southeastern Nevada and parts of northwestern Arizona, about 25 miles east of Las Vegas, this 1.5 million-acre area includes three of the four desert ecosystems in the U.S. (Mohave, Great Basin, and Sonoran), following the Colorado River corridor from the just north of the Laughlin, Nevada, to the westernmost boundary of the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, and includes both Lake Mead and Lake Mohave, both reservoirs created by Hoover Dam and Davis Dam, respectively. Visitors can find lots of recreational opportunities, including fishing, boating, swimming, and hiking. The NRA has nine designated wilderness areas, 500 animal species, 900 plant species, and 23 historical structures. Best hikes include Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail (7.5 miles RT), Owl Canyon Trail (2.2 miles RT), Callville Summit Trail (2.7 miles RT), Northshore Summit Trail (1 mile RT), Grapevine Canyon Trail (3.4 miles RT), Lake View Trail (4.7 mile RT), and Liberty Bell Arch Trail (5.5 miles RT; strenuous). Perhaps it goes without saying, but while there, Hoover Dam is a must-see. Learn more: Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

5. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Located in southwest Nevada, about 20 miles west of Las Vegas on SR 159, this 196,000-acre area within the Mojave Desert showcases large, red-rock sandstone peaks and walls (as high as 3,000 feet) called the Keystone Thrust, making it a very popular area for rock climbing and hiking; biking, horseback riding, and camping are also big. Visitors can easily take in the impressive views by driving the 13-mile one-way scenic roadway; several parking areas are available along the route for scenic overlooks and hiking trailheads. Some trails to consider include: Moenkopi (2 miles RT; panoramic views), Turtlehead Peak (5 mile RT; rock formations), Keystone Thrust (2.2 miles RT; main geological feature), Grand Circle Loop (11.3 miles RT; for total experience), La Madre Spring (3.3 miles RT; good wildlife viewing), and Oak Creek Canyon (2 miles RT; spring wildflower viewing). Start your adventure at the visitors center, which offers numerous exhibits and a bookstore/gift shop. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Consider visiting nearby Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, an old ranch which contains some of the oldest buildings in the state, including an 1860s blacksmith shop. Learn more: Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

To see a list of all the national natural parks, monuments, and forests in Nevada, go to our sister site, EmpoweringParks.com: Nevada Natural Park Wonders.

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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