Stunning mountain landscapes, beautiful national and state parks, endless open spaces and year-round activities can be found in Nevada, one of the largest states in the USA.
I was lucky enough to spend nine days in this versatile state and am ready to return.
Impressive Sights in Great Basin National Park
In eastern Nevada on the border with Utah, I first visit Great Basin National Park, which was declared a national park in 1986 and encompasses 310 square kilometers. A scenic drive takes you to the 3,962-meter Wheeler Peak with stunning views of mountains partly covered in snow. Here, you can take advantage of the park’s many hiking opportunities, including a fascinating plant that is protected in the national park: the 5,000-year-old bristlecone pine, which you can discover on the Bristlecone Trail.
On the eastern flank of Wheeler Peak lies a highlight of the Great Basin National Park: the Lehman Caves. The nearly three-kilometer-long limestone and marble cave lies at about 1,829 meters high. It features many unusual formations, including a large numbers of cave shields that make stalactites look like draperies. As we enter one of the caves on the tour, I jokingly suggest that we throw a party there. Our guide tells us that this space is in fact called the "Dance Hall" and rumour has it that people used to have large gatherings here. That’s how the cave got its name. Apparently, during the time of prohibition, there were parts of the cave that were turned into speakeasies. Who knows how much truth there is to it, but I could almost picture these parties.
Stalactite formations in Lehman Caves, Great Basin National Park
Quiet in Cathedral Gorge State Park
A bit off the beaten path south of Great Basin National Park is my personal highlight, the Cathedral Gorge State Park, founded in 1935. During the Pliocene Period millions of years ago, a lake covered the Meadow Valley, where the gorge is located today. You’ll want to marvel at the colorful dried deposits and sediments known as the Panaca Formations. The soft rocks have been carved due to erosion, leading to unique step-like sandstone formations that look like cathedrals as well as cave-like narrow passages. When I discover a narrow entrance a bit farther, some mysterious passageways take me inside these stones, where I linger for a while and indulge in the complete silence. One insider’s tip for you: Come in the late afternoon when the sun illuminates the rocks in rich orange tones.
Cathedral Gorge State Park in Panaca
Time Travel into History in Ely
North of Great Basin National Park outside Ely is the Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park, where time has stood still. After driving on a gravel road, you will be rewarded with the curious sight of six beehive-shaped stone ovens. Built in 1876, during the mining boom, these massive brick ovens once produced high-quality charcoal as fuel for the smelting of silver.
Finally, I completely immersed myself in the olden days – specifically 1905 – when the Nevada Northern Railway in Ely was built. For the first time in my life, I got to see a real steam locomotive. I hear the whistle and off we ride, passing by the beautiful mountain landscape for this 90-minute tour. Everything is so wonderfully preserved and restored that you simply forget our present time for this moment.
Have you packed your bags and arranged a taxi to the airport yet? Come soon to Nevada to explore these impressive parks.
Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park in Ely