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5 Best Places to Visit in Nevada that aren’t Las Vegas (in order)

I love Las Vegas but Nevada has so much more on offer than just Sin City. I recently visited Nevada on a girl’s road trip and discovered that this state has so much on offer that I had never heard of before. I think Las Vegas is so world-famous it can overshadow the other attractions in this beautiful state.

So here are the five best things I did in Nevada that weren’t Las Vegas, in order.

5. Cathedral Gorge State Park

Cathedral Gorge State Park

Cathedral Gorge State Park

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Cathedral Gorge State Park 11

Cathedral Gorge State Park Cathedral

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Cathedral Gorge State Park 10

Cathedral Gorge State Park

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Cathedral Gorge State Park 9

Cathedral Gorge State Park

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Cathedral Gorge State Park 8

Cathedral Gorge State Park

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Cathedral Gorge State Park 7

Cathedral Gorge State Park

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Cathedral Gorge State Park 6

Cathedral Gorge State Park

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Cathedral Gorge State Park 5

Cathedral Gorge State Park

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Cathedral Gorge State Park 4

Cathedral Gorge State Park

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Cathedral Gorge State Park

Cathedral Gorge State Park

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Cathedral Gorge State Park

Cathedral Gorge State Park

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Cathedral Gorge State Park

Cathedral Gorge State Park

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I had never heard of this beautiful state park before visiting Nevada. Established in 1935, this state park spans over 1,600 acres and is renowned for its dramatic, cathedral-like spires and narrow canyons formed by erosion over millions of years.

The only word I can think of to describe the feel at Cathedral Gorge is otherworldly. The park has been formed by wind and water over thousands of years. Its distinctive formations, known as hoodoos, result from the erosion of soft bentonite clay. These tall, slender spires rise from the canyon floor, creating an intricate maze of passageways.

Cathedral Gorge State Park is located in northeastern Nevada, about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Las Vegas. Your first port of call on arrival should be the informative Visitor’s Centre. From here, drive the short distance to Cathedral Caves. Park and then explore Cathedral Caves, Sand Caves and Moon Caves.

The formations aren’t really caves in that they are not fully enclosed. It is possible to walk between/among some of the hoodoos. Moon Caves is home to many of the longer atmospheric slot canyons.

We spent most of our time at Cathedral Gorge in the Cathedral Caves. This was due to limited time and also because they were so beautiful and interesting to explore. If you have more time (a full day would be ideal to really explore this park) head to Miller’s Point at the north end of the park and take the 3 mile Juniper Draw Loop path.

Top Tip: Time your visit to Cathedral Gorge State Park for late afternoon. The formations in the park are at their most spectacular in the late afternoon sunlight.

4. Free Range Art Highway US95

Free Range art highway

Free Range Art Highway US95

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International Car Forest

Free Range art highway

Free Range Art Highway US95

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International Car Forest

Free Range art highway

Free Range Art Highway US95

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International Car Forest

Free Range art highway

Free Range Art Highway US95

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On the road

Free Range art highway

Free Range Art Highway US95

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Goldwell Open Air Museum

Free Range art highway

Free Range Art Highway US95

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Goldwell Open Air Museum

Free Range art highway

Free Range Art Highway US95

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Goldwell Open Air Museum

Free Range art highway

Free Range Art Highway US95

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Goldwell Open Air Museum

Free Range art highway

Free Range Art Highway US95

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Goldwell Open Air Museum

Free Range art highway

Free Range Art Highway US95

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Tom Kelly Bottle House

Free Range art highway

Free Range Art Highway US95

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Tom Kelly Bottle House

Free Range art highway

Free Range Art Highway US95

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Rhyolite Ghost Town

Free Range art highway

Free Range Art Highway US95

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Rhyolite Ghost Town

Free Range art highway

Free Range Art Highway US95

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Rhyolite Ghost Town

Free Range art highway

Free Range Art Highway US95

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Tonopah's Main Street

Free Range art highway

Free Range Art Highway US95

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Tonopah

Free Range art highway

Free Range Art Highway US95

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The Clown Motel

Free Range art highway

Free Range Art Highway US95

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Inside the Clown Museum at the Clown Motel

Free Range art highway

Free Range Art Highway US95

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7 Magic Mountains

Free Range art highway

Free Range Art Highway US95

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7 Magic Mountains

If you love modern art and all things quirky then the Free Range Art Highway or US 95 is the perfect Nevada road trip for you! If you were to explore the entire road, the 500 odd miles would probably take three full days and cover the distance between Las Vegas and Reno.

Some of the highlights of the Free Range Highway include:

Goldwell Open Air Museum

This unique outdoor art museum features a life-sized Last Supper, a 24-foot miner with his penguin friend (Tribute to Shorty Harris), a pastel-colored cinder block lady (The Pink Lady) , an inspirational message (Keep Going), a Serving Ghost and more.

7 Magic Mountains

Just a 30 minute drive from Las Vegas, these seven stacked towers created by artist Ugo Rondinone stand more than 30 feet high. They stand in a large open-air area and, with their fluorescent colors, feel like a hallucination as you drive towards them. This exhibition opened in 2016 and was intended to last two years. It has become so popular that the seven towers are still standing and there appears to be no end in sight for this very insta-friendly attraction.

The Big Dune

The Amargosa Big Dune Recreation Area sits just off US 95. These are the closest dunes to Las Vegas and are also what are known as singing or booming dunes. There are only 30 of these dunes in the world and three are in Nevada. Go off road, grab a board or just park and enjoy the beauty of these untouched dunes.

The Clown Motel

Perhaps you are braver than me, but clowns really terrify me. But I couldn’t resist the over the top macabre that is the Clown Motel. Yes, this is an actual motel with rooms where you can stay (although I certainly didn’t). You might get a room on bloody boulevard or stay in the Exorcist room. But that’s not all. This motel is home to the largest private collection of clown figurines and memorabilia in the world – and of course a gift shop.

International Car Forest of the Last Church

Local Goldfield resident Mark Rippie created the International Car Forest of the Last Church to break the Guiness World Record for the biggest car forest (again I didn’t know car forests existed until this trip!). He was joined by two other artists, and together, they planted over 40 vehicles (buses and cars) nose first in the ground and then set to using them as canvases.

Rhyolite

The town of Rhyolite was once home to 5,000 gold seekers. It has been abandoned for more than 100 years, and its dilapidated buildings have appeared in many TV shows and films. It definitely has a ghost town vibe, so don’t visit at night!

Tom Kelly Bottle House

This unique property was built entirely from medicine, beer and whisky bottles between 1905 and 1906. Owner Tom Kelly collected 50,000 bottles from the 50 saloons operating in Rhyolite at the time and built a three-bedroom house that still stands.

And here are some of the towns along the highway for all types of rest stops:

Beatty: Try to time your trip to Beatty with lunch or dinner so you can enjoy the outstanding chili at Happy Burro Chili and Beer and/or the fantastic BBQ at Smokin’ J’s. If you’re looking to stay the night check out Beatty’s Motel 6.

Tonopah: The 110-year-old Mizpah Hotel is a tourist attraction on its own right, where you’ll feel transported back to Nevada’s mining era heydays. And the restaurant is a great place to grab dinner.

3. Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

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Entrance to Red Rock Canyon 

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

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Calico Basin

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

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Calico Basin

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

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Calico Basin

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

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Plants and fauna in Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

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Landscapes driving through Red Rock Canyon - it's not just red rocks!

Red Rock Canyon

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Beautiful Red Rock Canyon covers more than 195,000 acres and was Nevada’s first National Conservation Area. It is almost unfathomable that this beautiful and wild region is just 17 miles west of Las Vegas. Start your visit to Red Rock Canyon at the Visitor’s Centre. Your first priority after this should be the 13 mile Scenic Drive. This drive covers some of the highlights of Red Rock Canyon and if you are only able to do one thing whilst visiting Red Rock Canyon make it this.

When we visited Red Rock Canyon our time was limited so we headed straight to the Scenic Drive and made my first stop Calico Basin. It is a relatively short walk from the car park to the amazing red landscapes of Calico Basin and some fantastic views. If you’re into hiking and climbing this is a great area but you will need considerably more time than I had.

We then headed to the High Point Overlook to catch some stunning views. If we’d had more time I would have added in stopping at the Sandstone Quarry and the Petroglyph Wall Trail. Next visit!

NB: Make sure you buy your timed entry pass for Red Rock Canyon BEFORE you visit. This pass MUST be purchased in advance to enter the park.

2. The Extra-Terrestrial Highway Route 375

Extra Terrestrial Highway

Extraterrestrial Highway

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Alien Research Center

Extra Terrestrial Highway

Extraterrestrial Highway

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E.T. Fresh Jerky

Extra Terrestrial Highway

Extraterrestrial Highway

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Alien Research Center

Extra Terrestrial Highway

Extraterrestrial Highway

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Alien Research Center

Extra Terrestrial Highway

Extraterrestrial Highway

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E.T. Fresh Jerky

Extra Terrestrial Highway

Extraterrestrial Highway

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E.T. Fresh Jerky

Extra Terrestrial Highway

Extraterrestrial Highway

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Alien Cowpoke Gas Station and General Store

Extra Terrestrial Highway

Extraterrestrial Highway

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Little A'Le'Inn

Extra Terrestrial Highway

Extraterrestrial Highway

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Little A'Le'Inn

Extra Terrestrial Highway

Extraterrestrial Highway

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Alien Cowpoke Gas Station and General Store

Extra Terrestrial Highway

Extraterrestrial Highway

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Alien Cowpoke Gas Station and General Store

Extra Terrestrial Highway

Extraterrestrial Highway

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Alien Cowpoke Gas Station and General Store

Extra Terrestrial Highway

Extraterrestrial Highway

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Alien Cowpoke Gas Station and General Store

Extra Terrestrial Highway

Extraterrestrial Highway

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Little A'Le'Inn

Extra Terrestrial Highway

Extraterrestrial Highway

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Area 51

Extra Terrestrial Highway

Extraterrestrial Highway

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Area 51 Alien Center

Extra Terrestrial Highway

Extraterrestrial Highway

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Area 51 Alien Center

Extra Terrestrial Highway

Extraterrestrial Highway

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The umm Alien Brothel

Extra Terrestrial Highway

Extraterrestrial Highway

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Area 51 Alien Center

Extra Terrestrial Highway

Extraterrestrial Highway

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Area 51 Alien Center

Extra Terrestrial Highway

Extraterrestrial Highway

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Extra Terrestrial Highway

Extraterrestrial Highway

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ET Fresh Jerky

Nevada’s State Route 375 is the closest main road to the infamous Area 51 and has been developed to highlight all things extra-terrestrial! Former Area 51 employee Bob Lazar told the world of top secret government projects involving life from beyond our galaxy and this is what has drawn people to this area in Nevada (and Bob claims to have seen a UFO on this highway). The fun photo opportunities along this road are endless. Here are some of the highlights:

Extra Terrestrial Highway Signs

There are fantastic photo opportunity signs all along the Extra Terrestrial Highway.

E.T. Fresh Jerky

Beef Jerky was very popular in the old west as it could be stored without spoiling. But who knew aliens were also big fans of jerky? E.T. Fresh Jerky has an extensive range of jerky as well as dried fruit, candy, nuts and more. I am not a big fan of jerky but I really enjoyed the amount of photo opportunities available at ET Fresh Jerky. These included a “crashed” UFO, cowboy aliens street art, alien signage, an alien Trump, blow up and alien statues for posing and an incredible range of alien souvenirs.

Alien Research Center

You won’t miss the giant silver two-storey high aliens that let you know you’ve arrived at the Alien Research Center. The Alien research Center also has some nice signage for photos. Alas, it was closed when I tried to visit. Not sure what had happened to the local owners but it seemed suspicious…..

Alien Cowpoke Gasoline & General Store

This is an actual gas station and store (more alien souvenirs) and some fun photo opportunities. there is an Area 51 school bus, my favourite bathroom for humans and aliens, alien merchandise and a trailer with hay bales and alien sculptures that suits photos.

Little A’Le’Inn

This roadside motel/restaurant/gift shop is located in the tiny town of Rachel (population: 70). Inside, you’ll find more alien souvenirs and can enjoy an alien burger. Outside there are alien murals, UFO and Alien statues, an excellent space ship parking sign and if you eat at Little A’Le’Inn you can sign in on alien wifi!

Area 51

Rachel is the closest ‘town” to the infamous Area 51. Area 51 isn’t really signed so you’ll have to ask around a bit in Rachel for directions. Do remember that Area 51 is still a government facility rather than a tourist attraction. They don’t welcome visitors coming too close and all you will see is one building and a barbed wire fence. But it is Area 51!

Black Mailbox

The black mailbox is literally a black mailbox but it is located at a spot where those keen to explore all things extraterrestrial have been meeting for decades. Bob Lazar used to bring visitors here and told them this was one of the best places to see potential alien aircraft.

Area 51 Alien Center

The Area 51 Alien Centre is actually on US 95 rather than on the Extra-Terrestrial Highway but it has a massive range of alien merchandise plus it is where an alien brothel is located. That isn’t a typo.

Stay in Caliente the night before hitting the Extraterrestrial Highway. Rest up at the charming Shady Motel. Head next door to the Knotty Pine Restaurant and Lounge for both dinner and lunch. And for a good coffee head to the Barrow Brew Co.

1. Valley of Fire

valley of fire

Valley of Fire

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valley of fire

Valley of Fire

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valley of fire

Valley of Fire

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valley of fire

Valley of Fire

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valley of fire

Valley of Fire

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valley of fire

Valley of Fire

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valley of fire

Valley of Fire

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For me, if you only do one thing in Nevada that isn’t visiting Las Vegas it should be a trip to the amazing Valley of Fire. This is the oldest and largest state park in Nevada and there is so much to see and do. Its flaming red sandstone formations date back to pre-historic times. The name “Valley of Fire” was coined by travelers in the 1920s who reported that the area looked like it was on fire.

If you only do one thing when you visit the Valley of Fire (and you should do many things but just in case) make it the short hike to see the amazing Fire Wave. These giant rocks with red and white stripes are absolutely stunning as is the hike.

The White Domes Hike is also very popular and offers a change of pace with white rather than red rocks. Or take the short walk to Mouses’s Tank, a natural rock basin in a canyon. If you’re a fan of petroglyphs check out the Atlatl Rock Hike. While you’re there check out Arch Rock. And don’t miss Elephant Rock near the east entrance to the Valley of Fire.

You’ll easily spend a full day exploring the beautiful Valley of Fire and its 46,000 acres. It is only a 45 minute drive from Las Vegas so makes for a perfect day trip or take advantage of one of the park’s 72 camping sites.

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