With its rich history, varied culture and diverse ecology, the Silver State boasts a myriad of marvels – even one you can see from space. These natural and man-made marvels all have interesting stories to tell. You can hear their tales in the windswept whispers of the desert terrain, beneath the state’s national parks and from high above a bustling neon playground.
From the northeast peaks of the Ruby Mountains to the buzz of the world-famous Las Vegas Strip, here are 15 Nevada marvels you have to see to believe.
1. The Valley of Fire State Park, Overton
Named for its raging red sandstone rock formations, the 36,000-acre Valley of Fire is home to a variety of distinctively shaped sandstone, limestone, shale and conglomerate rocks as well as petroglyphs, panoramic desert views and recreational marvels.
One formation you will never forget is the surprisingly lifelike Elephant Rock, view-able from Valley of Fire Highway near the park’s East entrance. Park and hike about .03 miles to see it up close.
2. Fly Geyser, Hualapai Geothermal Flats, Gerlach
Created accidentally through well drilling in 1964 (whoops), Fly Geyser is located on private gated property about a third a mile from State Route 34, but can be seen from the road spewing scalding hot water up to 5 feet in the air.
The geyser owes its red and green facade to thermophilic algae.
3. Sand Mountain, Sand Mountain Recreation Area, Fallon
Sand Mountain stands out amidst a purple and brown mountain backdrop, just north of Highway 50, the “Loneliest Road in America.”
Comprised of sand from the dried-up Lake Lahontan, the 400-foot dune is a popular spot among off-roaders, hikers, snowboarders and campers.
4. Pyramid Lake
Another remnant of Lake Lahontan, Pyramid Lake is one of Nevada’s largest natural lakes and a hotbed for fishery. The beautiful lake, located in the desert about 40 miles from Reno, is fed by the Truckee River.
5. Bellagio Fountains, Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas
There’s nothing quite like seeing this dancing fountain in person. The music, the mist and the water, soaring to heights beyond 400 feet in the air, will captivate and keep you coming back for more – and with a playlist of more than 30 different songs, you may never see the same show twice.
6. Lehman Caves, Great Basin National Park, Ely
While some marvels in Nevada shoot up from below, others are hidden beneath the ground. At Lehman Caves, the unique geology of the limestone stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, popcorn and other delicate formations are view-able on a guided tour.
7. Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe
North America’s largest Alpine lake, Lake Tahoe awes visitors with its clear waters and gorgeous panoramas. Located on the eastern shoreline of Lake Tahoe, three miles south of Incline Village, Sand Harbor is a popular year-round attraction with sunbathing, swimming, hiking and watersports.
8. Lake Mead, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Boulder City
Lake Mead is one of the largest man-made lakes in the Western Hemisphere and the largest reservoir in the United States.
Lake Mead’s water levels are at an all-time low and a visible white ring surrounds it. Even as the water drops, the natural desert beauty and recreational opportunities remain bountiful.
9. Hoover Dam, Boulder City
Constructed during the Great Depression, the Hoover Dam not only keeps Lake Mead in its place, it’s also the country’s largest provider of hydroelectric power. The Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, an arch bridge straddling Nevada and Arizona, opened to vehicle traffic in 2010.
The power plant inside of the dam, seen only on a guided tour, is one of Nevada's marvels in and of itself.
10. Lunar Crater National Natural Landmark, Great Basin
Good news for those of you without NASA clearance. You don’t have to fly to the moon’s surface in order to explore a crater. Remote and isolated, this 400-acre, 430-foot-deep volcanic marvel is a National Natural Landmark.
11. Sedan Crater, Nevada Test Site, Mercury
This man-made crater is the result of the thermonuclear Sedan Nuclear Test at the Nevada Test Site. Located 12 miles southwest of Groom Lake (Area 51), it can be seen from the Earth’s Orbit.
12. Cathedral Gorge National Park, Panaca
Explore eroded rivulets of soft siltstone and clay shale at one of the state’s original four national parks. Located along U.S. Route 93, the formations are fun for hiking and climbing.
13. Lamoille Canyon, Elko
The largest valley in the Ruby Mountains, this glacier-carved, 12-mile canyon goes by many nicknames including "Nevada's Yosemite," "Grand Canyon of Nevada" and the "Nevada Alps." Explore on a 12-mile scenic drive or pull-over, park and take a hike.
14. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Las Vegas
If you’re seeking a view that rocks, take in the gorgeous desert landscapes, native plants, vast wildlife, layered red rock formations and towering cliffs on a 13-mile scenic loop of Red Rock Canyon. Of course, if a certain site catches your eye, there’s plenty of opportunity to park, picnic and explore, including an interactive Visitor’s Center.
15. The High Roller, LINQ Promenade, Las Vegas
This Guinness record-holding observation wheel is the tallest in the world, making it a view-worthy and relatively new addition to the Las Vegas skyline (2014). The 30-minute ride offers 360 degree views of Las Vegas.
On the way up you can peak into the Flamingo’s pool area and check out the tops of parking garages as you rise with the Las Vegas Strip. At the top you can see the Bellagio fountains and other unique Strip views, as well as the greater valley and surrounding mountains.