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Nevada’s Hidden Treasures

Plenty of Nevada visitors dream of striking it rich in places like Reno and Las Vegas, but some of the state’s greatest treasures lie hidden far from these gaming destinations.

With millions of acres of dramatic desert and a Western heritage as wild as any, Nevada has no shortage of great sites for groups to explore. Whether groups are interested in history, nature or Americana, these lesser-known Nevada attractions will make memorable stops for travelers who have spent too much time in bigger destinations.

Great Basin National Park in Baker is a natural treasure, and Cathedral Gorge State Park in Panaca preserves the site of some incredible rock formations. In a desert oasis not far from Las Vegas, Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway offers a brand-new look at the flora and fauna of the area.

In central Nevada, groups can explore historic silver and turquoise mines at Tonopah. And Elko, in the northeast corner of the state, gives them the chance to relive the pioneer days at the California Trail Interpretive Center.

Nevada’s Great Basin

It takes some effort to get to Baker, a town 304 miles north of Las Vegas and 395 miles east of Reno at the end of “The Loneliest Highway in America.” But groups that make the trip will be rewarded by the scenery of Great Basin National Park.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, Great Basin National Park is a desert mountain ecosystem that features a system of caves, 5,000-year-old bristlecone pine trees and some of the darkest night skies in North America. Groups can tour the Lehman Cave ecosystem on ranger-guided hikes or see views of the 13,603-foot Wheeler Peak during a 12-mile scenic drive. The park also has numerous hiking trails through ancient forests, as well as two visitor centers.

There isn’t much lodging in the park or in Baker, but groups can stay 75 miles to the west in Ely, also home to the Nevada Northern Railway and Cave Lake State Park.

Siltstone Canyons

If your group needs a break from the fast-paced action of Las Vegas, consider taking the 166-mile drive north for a day to visit Cathedral Gorge State Park, where millennia of erosion has created one of the most dramatic landscapes in North America.

This 2,000-acre state park preserves land that was once home to the Fremont, Anasazi and Paiute people. It is most notable for the canyons and spires created by the flow of water through siltstone over thousands of years. This erosion has left striking formations in the rocks, and visitors can climb and explore the rocks to see the colors and patterns up close. The park has hiking trails leading from the valley floor to the scenic overlook, where visitors can get sweeping views of the canyons.

About 10 miles north of the park, the town of Pioche offers the best options for group meals or overnight accommodations.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.