More than 50 million annual visitors certainly aren’t wrong about visiting our wild, beautiful state. Big-name locales like Valley of Fire and Red Rock Canyon reel in multitudes from around the world—in every season, to boot—and for good reason.
However, at the very same time, the Silver State also beckons to seekers of serious solace and solitude. Sound like you? If you’re ready to really get away from it all, bolster your bucket list with this handful of crowd-free, lower-key—but no less trip-worthy—Nevada destinations within road trip range of Las Vegas.
Because no one does “off the beaten path” like Nevada
Before traveling our state’s spectacular backroads, brush up on Travel Nevada’s Dirt Road Code to ensure that you, your crew, and your adventure-mobile are totally prepared for a fun and safe excursion.
- Gold Butte National Monument – Mesquite
If that “ditch the crowds” angle piqued your interest, this remote, rugged 300,000-acre slice of the Mojave Desert may be your best bet. The recently established monument boasts star-studded skies, ghost town history, impressive petroglyph panels, unique vantages of Valley of Fire and Lake Mead—so close yet SO far from the throngs of visitors there—and some of the dreamiest sandstone formations in the state. Just remember, this is serious desert backcountry. Rugged roads, distant services and sweltering summers are only fun if you are prepared to survive them. Don’t get us wrong; Gold Butte begs to be explored. Just be sure you do your homework and study our Dirt Road Code and our Recreate Responsibly tips before you head for those reddish-hued hills.
Distance from Las Vegas: 2 hours/95 miles | Find it on the Neon to Nature road trip
- Basin and Range National Monument – Alamo
The largest of Nevada’s National Monuments at more than 700,000 acres, Basin and Range stands out with its spectacularly unique geologic, natural and cultural history. Golden eagles soar over towering peaks as desert bighorn sheep hoof it around sweeping valleys dotted with unusual rock formations and the petrified remains of ancient sandstorms, including one of Nevada’s most breathtaking (and only) natural arches. Admire ancient art in the form of 4,000-year-old petroglyph panels at the Hiko and White River Narrows. As with Gold Butte, this is real-deal off-grid territory here, so make sure you know what you need to know to stay safe as you meander these much lesser-traveled dirt roads, tracks and trails, which you’re likely to be navigating solo.
Distance from Las Vegas: 2+ hours/125+ miles | Find it on the Extraterrestrial Highway road trip
- Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge – Amargosa Valley
About a million-and-a-half people get extreme in Death Valley National Park each year, but a fraction of that number are lucky (and in-the-know) enough to take in this literal desert oasis, just a half-hour jaunt east. An island within the massive Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Ash Meadows’ 23,000 acres are marked by wide-open desert uplands, lush wetlands and stunning sapphire spring pools among the collective home of nearly 30 species of endemic plants and animals—the highest such concentration in the U.S.—including the Devils Hole pupfish, the world’s rarest fish. Wander the interpretive trails and boardwalks, scope out mysterious Devils Hole, or turn up at nighttime for a quiet and mesmerizing celestial show.
Distance from Las Vegas: 2 hours/93 miles | Find it on the Death Valley Rally road trip
- Beaver Dam State Park – Caliente
Nestled against the Utah border, Nevada’s quietest and most remote park rewards a one-hour dirt road ramble with stunning scenery, marked by deep, stream-cut canyons among lovely mixed-conifer forests. Amble along easy trails to breathtaking lookouts, past fin-like erosional features, and up to multiple waterfalls. Beaver Dam Creek harbors trout-packed honey holes (if you’re into tenkara-style angling, this place is paradise!) and plenty of evidence of the critters that earned this park its name. Numerous tree-shrouded campsites in this designated Watchable Wildlife Area lie within earshot of trickling streams, wild turkeys and even bobcats. Many times of year, you may have the entire park to yourself. [4-by-4 not generally required in dry months, but always call the park office to check the dirt access road’s conditions: 775-728-4460]
Distance from Las Vegas: 3.5 hours/185 miles | Distance from Caliente: 1 hour /34 miles | Find it on the Great Basin Highway road trip
- Lunar Crater National Natural Landmark – Off US-6 between Tonopah and Ely
Wanna know what Buzz and Neil were feelin’ as they bounced around on the moon? In our state, you can. Lunar Crater wasn’t actually hollowed out by a wayward space rock, but its resemblance to features on the actual moon earned it a NASA designation as a “Terrestrial Analogue Site,” meaning the landscape was authentic enough for astronauts to train here in preparation for actual lunar missions. From Lunar Crater’s rim, you can view 20 extinct volcanoes in the surrounding hills; while you’re at it, be sure to also check out the Lava Beds just a little further down Highway 6 to the north. Located in the far middle of Nevada, down a dirt road off low-traffic Highway 6, you aren’t likely to have to share this stunning spot with any other humans.
Distance from Las Vegas: 3.75 hours/240 miles | Find it off the Extraterrestrial Highway road trip
Worth The Trip
These Silver State gems are a little more farther-flung from Las Vegas. That said, they should definitely still be on every Silver State solace seeker’s adventure radar.
- Walker River State Recreation Area – Yerington
The latest and greatest addition to the Nevada State Parks system provides direct access to the stunning and still-wild East Walker River. Spanning 12,000 acres and 29 miles of picturesque river and rangeland, this storied slice of the Silver State promises top-notch camping, hiking, wildlife viewing, off-highway vehicle (OHV) exploring, and fly fishing. Fishermen have known about these waters for generations, and the fabled Elbow section can pack out on summer weekends, but the recently opened Pitchfork Ranch offers seven literally gorge-ous miles of river to fish, kayak, canoe or float along a nicely mapped 7-mile water trail. Add in 16 tree-covered campsites (for tenters and RV-ers alike) and nice facilities, and you’ve got yourself a lovely riverfront escape.
Distance from Reno: 1.5+ hours / 85+ miles | Find it off the Free-Range Art Highway road trip
- Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge – Denio
Established in the 1930s to rehabilitate the nearly extinct pronghorn antelope, the country in and around this 572,896-acre refuge (our second-largest and easily most remote) in the Silver State’s far northwestern corner is an outdoor-oriented solitude seeker’s dream. High-desert tableland panoramas are broken up by lush springs, waterfalls, fish-filled lakes and winding canyons—including unrivaled Thousand Creeks Gorge. Recreation opportunities are infinite, but some of our favorites include soaking in Virgin Valley Warm Spring after rockhounding for Nevada’s state gemstone, the legendary Virgin Valley black fire opal. Up here, it’s easy to get yourself a hundred miles (or more) from gas, pavement or people—so pack wisely and come prepared.
Distance from Reno: 4.5+ hours / 300+ miles | Find it on the Burner Byway road trip
- Jarbidge – Northern Elko County
It doesn’t get farther away than Jarbidge. And we mean from most places; this is one of the Lower 48’s most remote towns and wilderness areas, which is exactly why it’s awesome. This historic, backcountry mining town is set in a canyon cut by the redband rainbow trout-packed Jarbidge River, thickly lined with aspen, and towered over by nearly 11,000-foot peaks. Although the population only ranges from around 11 to about 100 seasonally, summer and fall visitors still have their choice of abundant boondockin’-style camping and a few nice lodging options—and two Sagebrush Saloons (because Nevada)—in between forays into the truly untamed mountain landscape ensconcing it all. An absolute recreationalist’s paradise, the nearby Jarbidge Wilderness and surrounding terrain entice anglers, off-roaders, shutterbugs and all manner of off-grid outdoor enthusiasts.
Distance from Elko: 3.5 hours /105+ miles | Find it on the Rubies Route road trip
In love with the Silver State as much as we are? Learn what you can do to help us keep the places we cherish special—and open—for ourselves and future generations of Nevada adventurers.
Members of the editorial and news staff of the Las Vegas Review-Journal were not involved in the creation of this content.