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10+ Hidden Gems and Secret Spots in Nevada

Last Updated on 25th September 2022 by Sophie Nadeau

Nevada is a US state which is located in the West of the country and is best-known as being home to Las Vegas, Death Valley, and Area 51. And while Nevada has plenty of must-see attractions and landmarks, it also boasts its own share of hidden gems and off the beaten path locations. Here’s your guide to the best secret spots in Nevada.

An area covering 286,367 km², the state of Nevada is bordered by Oregon, Idaho, California, and Arizona. Some of the top attractions in Nevada include Lake Tahoe, Hoover Dam, and Great Basin National Park. The best time to visit is during the spring and fall when the weather is at its best for exploring (not unbearably hot or cold) and the crowds are fewer than in the summer months.

spencer hot springs nevada

Lake Las Vegas

By JJ of The Minivan Bucket List

Las Vegas is best-known for its massive casinos and neon lights – or maybe even Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States. Because of that, most visitors overlook the hidden gem that is Lake Las Vegas.

It’s a small man-made lake located a little over 30 minutes east of the Strip and is home to golf courses, luxury homes and hotels, and a quaint European-style village. There are several shops and quaint restaurants overlooking the lake and there’s even a hotel over the water, with archways spanning from one side of the lake to the other reminiscent of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy. 

lake las vegas

There are no speed boats allowed, so it’s perfect for paddleboarding, kayaking, or cruising around in an electric boat. At the marina you’ll also find a giant inflatable water park and wakeboard cable park, in case you’re looking for kid friendly things to do in Las Vegas.

It’s a great place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the Strip and escape for a day to play at the waterpark and paddle around the lake, then have a meal at one of the bistros overlooking the water. It’s also the perfect spot for a longer desert retreat.

Stays at the 4-star Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort or Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort are surprisingly affordable. And you can use it as base of operations to explore nearby wonders like Hoover Dam and Valley of Fire. Whether you’re visiting for the day or taking an extended stay, Lake Las Vegas is quite the Nevada hidden gem!

lake las vegas

Exploring Lincoln County’s Rock Art Sites

By Megan of Time. Travel. Trek.

Southeastern Nevada’s Lincoln County has five distinct rock art complexes interpreted for the public to experience. You can find both petroglyphs (images pecked or carved in rock) and pictographs (images painted on rock) in these incredible archaeological sites.

White River Narrows – listed on the National Register of Historic Places – is one of the largest concentrations of prehistoric rock art in Lincoln County. It is renowned for its large-scale panels. Long rake-like figures, rows of bighorn sheep, and detailed abstract designs are commonly seen.

Ash Springs is easy to access and has an interpretive trail and guide available. The site’s rock art is dominated by abstract images as well as zoomorphs (animal figures) and anthropomorphs (human figures). Abstract imagery includes circles, rectangles, and large complex abstract designs covering entire boulders. 

Crystal Wash has two rock art sites. Both sites have interpretive trails and trail guides that are available from visitor register boxes. The area was used as a camp site from around 6,000 years ago until the arrival of Euro-American settlers. Crystal Wash’s rock art is dominated by abstract designs such as circles, spirals, and grids. 

The Mount Irish Archaeological District is a complex of archaeological and rock art sites made by Native Americans using the area for hunting bighorn sheep hunting and harvesting piñon seeds. There are three large rock art sites with interpretive trails and trail guides. Mount Irish has numerous Pahranagat Style anthropomorphs. The Pahranagat Anthropomorph Style is only found in Lincoln County and is Nevada’s only unique rock art style!

Shooting GallExploring Lincoln County’s Rock Art Sitesery is an archaeological district heavily used during the past 3,000 years. The site was used extensively by Native Americans for hunting, gathering wild plants and making rock art. Shooting Gallery has one of the largest concentrations of bighorn sheep figures in Nevada. 

Orientation and information about these cultural sites can be found at the Pahranagat National Wildlife Centre (Milepost 32 on US-93 near Alamo, NV). You can also find more information on Lincoln County, Nevada website. Choose “Exploring” then “Rocking” and “Rock Art” off the main menu.

white river narrows

Nipton

By Kenny of Knycx Journeying 

There are plenty of awesome locations to explore outside the Las Vegas Strip. For urbexers, there is a tiny abandoned town called Nipton located at the border of Nevada and California in the Ivanpah Valley, 50 miles away from Las Vegas.

The town has a population of 15 to 20 people, capturing a ghost town vibe with the history of its mining and ranching past for over 120 years. Nipton was once a mining town.

However, businesses pulled out decades ago, leaving the city deserted with a trading post and a few buildings. Without an efficient public transportation connection, the best way to visit Nipton today is by driving, it’s about an hour away from Las Vegas.  

The road trip to Nipton is a scenic one with a view of the Mojave Desert, and it’s an intriguing photo-taking spot with old buildings that remained untouched; the town has a small hotel for visitors who are looking for a peaceful getaway and stargaze at night.  

The uniqueness of Nipton attracted a specific group of tourists over the years and is also caught the attention of different investors. The town was acquired by American Green Inc, a marijuana-focused technology company, in 2017, with a plan to turn the town into a “cannabis-friendly hospitality destination”.

The town’s ownership has changed several times and in 2022, Nipton was once again sold to a Las Vegas company for US$ 2.75 million – with its development plan unknown, Nipton will stay as an offbeat travel spot.  

nipton

Area 15 & OmegaMart

By Catherine Xu of Nomadicated

Area 15 is the perfect place to have a one-of-a-kind experience in Las Vegas. It’s hard to describe Area 15 until you’ve seen it for yourself. Imagine a mix of sci-fi technology mall meets an art fair, and you’ll have a good idea of what Area 15 looks like.

Having just opened in September 2020, Area 15, located near the north end of the strip, is one of Las Vegas’ newest attractions and still waiting to be discovered by the masses.

With its unique blend of art and technology, area 15 offers something for everyone. On your way in, play in the Burning Man-inspired installations before you are whisked away to a neon utopia brimming with art displays, sellers, and 16 activities.

Play against your buddies in the arcades or on the zipline to see who’s the best. Experiment with all the latest tech: AI, VR, AR, and other exciting entertainment before sitting down at one of Area 15’s five unique dining experiences. Also, keep an eye on any live events that could coincide with your visit to Las Vegas.

Make sure you don’t miss out on Omega Mart, an Area 15 staple from the Santa Fe, northern New Mexico art collective Meow Wolf. At Omega Mart, you’ll follow a narrative in which opening a freezer hatch or retrieving a milk carton may take you to an enthralling inter-dimensional realm. Intrigued? Visit to see what’s “in store for you”.

area 15

18B Arts District

By Catherine Xu of Nomadicated

Welcome to 18B Arts District, one of the best places to experience Las Vegas off the strip. Referred to by the New York Times as “the least Vegas area in Las Vegas,” this vibrant and creative community is home to many artists, musicians, and performers.

After being neglected for years, this resurrected neighborhood now exudes an artsy, bohemian vibe. The glittering lights of the strip starkly contrast against the dazzling graffiti here, and the magnificent facades of the luxury resorts are replaced with low-key galleries and vintage shops.

If you happen to be in town on the first Friday of the month, come to the 18B arts district for First Friday. This monthly event, which has been held since 2002, features local artists, craft vendors, live music, and a large choice of food trucks and merchants.

At any other time, wander the back streets to discover massive wall murals or visit some of the local art galleries. The huge Art Factory hosts over 30 galleries, each one inviting you in to peer at the artist’s paint-splattered sculptures and multimedia canvases. Or, if you enjoy Banksy’s work, make a stop at Recycled Propaganda. Their witty political graffiti encourages you to stop and consider the significance of each piece.

Stroll through the streets, window shopping at vintage thrift stores and antique collections at the Antique Mall. Finally, snap a picture at the Elvis Chapel, an iconic shotgun marriage locale with a certain rock and roll theme.

secret spots in nevada

Virginia City

By Noel Morata of The Mature Traveler

One of the best hidden gems of Nevada is just a short ride from Reno to Virginia City. An old western town that grew very quickly into a boomtown because of the local silver mines that blew up the local population to 25,000 during this time frame.

The state of Nevada became the half of the production of both gold and silver from the Comstock in all of the United States. The area  developed many mines and the boomtown became a very popular spot for fast money, booze and gambling but also developed churches, hotels, three newspapers and three theaters.

virginia city nevada

But eventually mining and the town started to decline with the output diminished towards the end of 1878 and the area became more of a ghost town. The most recent census of 2020 actually shows that the town only has 787 people living in the city.

Today, the entire city is a living museum of the boomtown mentality of the area and showcasing all of the original remaining structures, museums, school rooms and other public and commercial buildings for visitors to explore. It really is a fascinating look at how mining created industry, a boom town mentality and opportunity to the many would be miners and industry that came to support this area.

virginia city nevada

Carson Valley

By Angela of Fitting in Adventure

It’s the pocket of Nevada you may not have heard of, but once you visit it is hard to forget! Just 20-minutes down the mountain from Lake Tahoe sits Carson Valley. Situated along picturesque Highway 395, four communities (Topaz Lake, Gardnerville, Minden, and Genoa) make up Carson Valley.  

The valley boasts year-round beauty and an abundance of wildlife. Genoa is the oldest settlement in Nevada and home to Nevada’s “Oldest Thirst Parlor,” Genoa Bar. Whether it’s relaxation time or adventure that interests you, Carson Valley will not disappoint.

carson valley nevada

Relax and soak in the same hot springs used by  Mark Twain, Teddy Roosevelt, and many more old west characters. But before you do, make those muscles sore on the valley’s hiking trails.

Its year-round hiking is complemented by more than 60 miles of maintained trails. Or maybe you want to visit the area’s local wild ones. Grab a wildlife tour guide, head out to the range and “meet” Nevada’s wild horses. (Of course, the guide keeps you at a safe distance.) Your inner foodie will be delighted by the local Basque-style dining too!

After you have enjoyed the museums, local restaurants, and trails in Carson Valley, you can always head up the mountain to visit Lake Tahoe too! Dress a little warmer for Tahoe though. While the snow often hits the mountain tops and Lake Tahoe, it rarely hits the floor of Carson Valley.

Carson Valley

Mizpah Hotel

By Theresa of The Local Tourist

Located in the small town south of Reno, the Mizpah Hotel is a destination in its own right. It’s a luxurious hotel that opened in 1907, and its attractions include more than its longevity: the elevator is the oldest operating electric elevator west of the Mississippi. 

Another attraction? The hotel also has a special, permanent guest. The legend of the Lady In Red is that a jealous ex-lover murdered a prostitute on the top floor of the hotel. She’s haunted it ever since.

The hotel closed in 1999 and remained vacant until California vintners Fred and Nancy Cline purchased the property in 2011 and completely renovated it. Now it’s one of many things to do in Tonopah, Nevada.

Inside, the hotel includes gaming in the lobby, which is decorated in period appointments. There’s a full bar, and because it’s owned by the Clines, their wines are the house choice. The rooms themselves offer amenities. You may, or may not, meet the Lady in Red and discover for yourself why USA Today 10 Best named it the #1 haunted hotel in America. If you want a better chance of having an encounter, you can book the very suite of her demise.

Right behind the hotel you can learn the meaning for the town’s being: the Tonopah Historic Mining Park. Learn about the original mining claims that prompted the construction of a hotel as luxurious as the Mizpah.

The Clines also own Tonopah Brewing Company if you’re more of a beer fan, and it’s just down the street.

Mizpah Hotel

Emerald Cave Kayaking

By Jenifer of The Evolista

One of the best hidden gems in Nevada lies right on the border of Arizona. In fact you’ll cross the state line multiple times during an Emerald Cave Kayaking trip since the dividing line is the Colorado River. 

An hour from Las Vegas, you’ll start your trip at the Willow Beach Marina in the Lake Mead Recreational Area. You can either rent a kayak at Willow Beach, bring your own inflatable kayak, or take an organised tour. 

If you are a beginner, a tour is probably best – but rest assured that the trip is on a beautiful, gentle section of the river. The other benefit of a tour is having a guide that will share interesting tidbits along the way.

You’ll paddle for 2 miles, passing the washes and canyons where Native Americans used to camp and trade along the shoreline. You can get out of the kayak and see some historical sights along the way. It’s a great opportunity to stretch your legs too.

Eventually you’ll reach Emerald Cave in Black Canyon, accessible only from the water. Ideally, you want to arrive around 3pm when the sun shines into the cave and the water turns a brilliant green. 

It’s also a good time to get there because most of the kayakers are gone and you’ll have a better chance to explore the small cave and take impressive photos without the crowds. To get the prettiest shot, back into the cave and shoot from inside looking out.

The crystal water is incredibly refreshing, especially on a hot day. Make sure to bring a hat, sunscreen, snacks and plenty of water. It’s a memorable experience unlike any other in Nevada.

Rancho San Rafael Park

By Rachel of Bucket List Places

Rancho San Rafael Park is 580 acres of diverse landscapes and ecosystems, from typical dusty sagebrush to manicured lawns to wetland habitats. The park itself is in Northern Reno, making it easily accessible if you fly or take a bus to the city.

The park land was formerly a ranch back in 1890 and didn’t officially become a park until nearly 100 years later in 1979. Nowadays, the park has grown to include a museum and botanical garden in addition to the sprawling lawns and sage grounds– although you can still tour the historic Ranch House.

The May Museum houses the collection of Wilbur D. May, who also provided the museum its name. On display, you’ll find an incredible variety of items and artifacts, from antique firearms to Japanese swords to Egyptian tomb items, Polynesian carvings, exotic taxidermy, and so much more! In addition to the bizarre permanent collection, the Museum also hosts traveling exhibitions and events. 

If you think of Nevada as only a desert, the Wilbur D. May Arboretum & Botanical Garden will prove you wrong! Named after the same philanthropic Reno resident as the May Museum, the May Arboretum is the jewel of the city.

The Arboretum creates an immersive showcase for the unique plants and animals native to the transition zone between the Sierra Nevada and the Great Basin Desert. With 22 distinct gardens and groves and hundreds of indigenous and ornamental plants, it’s easy to spend hours strolling past flowers and listening to songbirds.  

Of course, the park is most well-known for hosting the Great Reno Balloon Race– the world’s largest free hot-air balloon event! The race started back in 1982, just a few years after Rancho San Rafael became a park, and is now world-renowned and loved by locals and tourists alike. If you’re in town in September, it’s an absolute must-see.

Rancho San Rafael Park

Great Basin

By Allison of She Dreams of Alpine

Tucked away in the middle of nowhere near the Utah border, Great Basin National Park is truly a hidden gem in Nevada. The rugged landscape of Great Basin features ancient bristlecone pine groves, unique limestone caves, and the second highest summit in the state, Wheeler Peak.

Lehman Caves should be at the top of your must-see list in Great Basin National Park. These limestone caves are full of stalactites, stalagmites, and other fascinating rock formations. The only way to check out the caves is on a ranger-guided tour, so be sure to make reservations.

While Great Basin is one of the least-visited national parks and you can usually avoid crowds, the Lehman Caves are probably the most popular attraction, so the tours do tend to fill up in the busy season.

Hiking in Great Basin is the best way to explore the variety of terrain the park has to offer. Take the easy Bristlecone Trail for a peek at some of the oldest trees in the world, bristlecone pines. You can also head out a little farther on the Bristlecone Trail until it connects with the Glacier Trail. From the foot of the only glacier in Nevada, you get spectacular views of Wheeler Peak.

For panoramic views of Great Basin National Park, you can hike up to the 13,044 foot summit of Wheeler Peak. While the hike is challenging, it is not technically difficult, and it’s an awesome way to really take in this spectacular hidden gem in Nevada.

great basin

Spencer Hot Springs

By Agnes of The Van Escape

Spencer Hot Springs is undoubtedly one of Nevada’s hidden gems. Anyone who likes hot springs and wants to soak in them in the hot and endless desert – should put this place on their Nevadas bucket list.

Thousands of years ago, Native Americans used these lush springs, which are common in central Nevada. While hot springs are common in the area, Spencer is home to a cluster of natural springs on public land managed by the Nevada Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The land is public and open to all.

This location has become increasingly popular in recent years, so it’s best to get there early in the morning or evening. There are three small hot spring bathing sites available to visitors. They are full of natural hot spring water piped directly into the tubs.

The incredible thing is that each bather can determine the temperature by turning the water source on and off, so bathing is ideal in any season. At the source, the water temperature is constantly around 130 degrees Fahrenheit. In the bathtub, the water is about 106 degrees.

Primitive camping near Spencer Hot Springs is located on BLM land and is operated on a first-come, first-served basis. Campers may camp there overnight but must be at least 100 yards from a water source. Camping above the spring is prohibited because this water is an essential source of livelihood for the animals in this desert.

How to get there?
The nearest town is Austin, Nevada, about 19 miles from the hot springs. The coordinates of GPS are 39°19’36.8 “N 116°51’35.3 “W. The terrain and road in the desert are rough but accessible by a regular car.

spencer hot springs

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