Nevada winter
Heavenly Village

Heavenly Mountain Resort

Heavenly Mountain Resort

Après Everything: How to Win Winter in the Silver State

From sand to snow and trails to tales, Nevada is easily the best wintertime destination in America.

Whether you’re a powder hound seeking the fluffy stuff or a snowbird bent on escaping it, with a range in elevation from 481’ in the sunny Mojave Desert to over 13,000’ in some of our dozens of powder-packed mountain ranges, Nevada is easily the most diverse state for wintertime fun in the entire United States. 

World-class skiing and riding? Check. Desert hiking and mountain biking? Got it. Gallivanting among ghost towns and Sagebrush Saloons? There’s simply nowhere better. 

No matter what kind of adventures you’re chasing this winter, discover why Nevada is the best place to find it, with this list of our favorite ways to get out there—as well as where and what to do to celebrate an unforgettable day in the Silver State.

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 us and future generations.

Snow Sports and Chill Resorts

North Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, North Las Vegas, Elko

As the most mountainous state in the Lower 48 (yep, you heard right), Nevada naturally promises top-notch skiing, riding, and more—and not just around our slice of world-famous Lake Tahoe. That said, let’s start there.

North Lake Tahoe’s “small-but-mighty” Diamond Peak Ski Resort earns its title as “Tahoe’s hidden gem” with a family-friendly atmosphere and the basin’s incomparable “Big Blue” panoramas—especially from the Snowflake Lodge deck, where skiers and riders can reward themselves with hot cocoa or a signature Snowflake Snuggler from the Million Dollar View Bar.

South Lake Tahoe’s state-straddling Heavenly Mountain Resort is famous among skiers/riders for its unmatched 3,500 vertical feet and 97 runs across 5,000 acres—as well as among families, thanks to Heavenly’s Adventure Peak play park, which offers snow tubing, sledding, and the Blue Streak Zip Line. From there, the Heavenly Gondola drops you off at Heavenly Village, the epicenter of dozens of highly rated restaurants and bars, 40 local and name-brand shops, family entertainment, and plenty of other ways to end your perfect Tahoe day.

Meanwhile, Las Vegas naturally takes things up a notch. There’s an après-ski pint at the lodge everywhere; but down here, there’s also soothing sore legs with a trip to a lavish casino spa. One hour from the Strip, Lee Canyon has 24 lift-serviced trails and 445 total acres of skiable terrain. When your kids (or quads) need a break, hit the tubing hill. Or hop on a guided snowshoe tour. You’ll feel a world away from Las Vegas, but still be back in time for happy hour.

Wanna get extreme? Elko’s fabled Ruby Mountains are home to 11,000’ peaks, untouched bowls, and some of the driest, fluffiest flakes in the U.S., beckoning backcountry powder hounds to go where ski lifts can’t. Skin up yourself, or catch a lift with Ruby Mountains Heli-Experience, one of the nation’s premier heliskiing outfits since 1977. Afterwards, relax like royalty at the family-run operation’s Ruby 360 Lodge, a five-star chalet with uninterrupted views of the mountains you just shredded.

Snowshoes and Fire Pit Views

North Lake Tahoe

They don’t call it Chickadee Ridge for nothin’. Grab the fam and pack the snowshoes—many local retailers rent them by the hour or day in Incline Village and Reno—head up to Mount Rose Wilderness Area, just west of the Mount Rose Summit on NV-431, and start stompin’ towards Tahoe. A beginner-friendly, about-a-mile-long walk carries you up to breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe, where, sure enough, a bunch of cute little birds just might flutter down to say hello. 

Then head down the hill to the Hyatt to heat things up by the fire at the Lone Eagle Grille in Incline Village. The sprawling indoor restaurant and lounge boasts big, beautiful fireplaces and towering windows with Tahoe-sized views, but the real action is outside—at the lakefront fire pit. We can think of few better places to perch up for a stunning Lake Tahoe sunset (and maybe a sundowner or two). All ages welcome. 

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

Feeding the birds (or any other wildlife) is not only extremely uncool, it’s also illegal. Wild animals have specialized diets, and they can become malnourished or die if they are fed—or become dependent upon—human food. But you don’t need it anyhow; the chickadees are so habituated to people that they will likely land on your empty, outstretched hand—even without a snack to lure them.

Death Valley’s Evening Finale

Amargosa Valley

With summer temps topping 120℉, the hottest, driest, lowest place on the continent is far more welcoming in winter, when you can explore its alien landscapes without melting from the heat. Snow-capped peaks reaching 11,000’ can make for stunning scenery while cool days allow for more time exploring famous sights like the Mesquite Sand Dunes, Golden Canyon, and the Badwater Basin salt flats. 

As well as for investigating Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, a crowdless, literal desert oasis just a half-hour east, where 23,000 acres entice winter wanderers with lush wetlands, stunning sapphire spring pools, and interpretive trails among endemic plants and animals, including the world’s rarest fish.

Wash the desert sand off your feet before slipping into the year-round heated pool and hot tub at the #WeirdNevada wonder that is the Longstreet Inn Casino & RV Park. Fill your belly at the steakhouse; then claim a plush chair in the lounge, where the resident singing entertainer may ask for your help working his fog machine—just make sure your table isn’t the one reserved for the property’s resident cat.

River Trails & ‘Dam’ Good Cocktails

Boulder City

Balmy-temp winter adventures beckon just 45 minutes south of Las Vegas, on land and (sometimes hot) water, in Boulder City, “The Town that Built Hoover Dam.” Surefooted hikers can scramble down the two-mile trail—with the assistance of eight fixed ropes—to the Colorado River’s edge, where the reward of a long soak at Gold Strike Hot Springs awaits. (Winter is ideal, considering summer temps close the trail altogether.) 

Prefer paddlin’? The Black Canyon Water Trail carries kayakers to the same glorious spot, as well as to sandy beaches, waterfalls, and the aptly named Emerald Cave, by way of an abundance of desert bighorn sheep, osprey, great blue heron, and other cool canyon critters.

Meanwhile, mountain bikers beeline it to Bootleg Canyon, a IMBA certified-Epic playground home to 35 miles of dusty desert singletrack across two dozen trails, ranging from easy loops to rocky technical rollers to killer gravity-testing downhill long-bombs.

Afterwards, all trails lead back to Historic Downtown Boulder City for post-adventure relief. For vino and elevated eats, make your way to Milo’s Cellar & Inn. For juicy burgers, pub grub and draught beers, shoot for mobster-inspired The Dillinger Food & Drinkery. And for adults-only ambience, soak up the Prohibition-era vibes and live tunes at Clevelands Lounge, located in the historic Boulder Dam Hotel’s basement.

Hiking, Biking, Climbing & Down-timing

Las Vegas, Caliente, Panaca, Pioche

As with Death Valley, winter is a cooler, calmer season to explore southern Nevada’s most popular attractions—minus the millions of other visitors. Hikers and cyclists love Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area for its red-banded canyons and sandstone peaks, while climbers flock to some of the continent’s best vertical routes. Meanwhile, trails at Valley of Fire—Nevada’s first and largest state park—wind among unearthly rock formations, dotted with more calling cards from Nevada’s first people. 

Day-trip these gems; then saunter back to Circa in Downtown Las Vegas to simmer down next to rooftop fire pits with sweeping Vegas vistas and clink cold drinks in hot tubs.

Further east in the adventure mecca of Caliente, climbers rejoice in aptly named Rainbow Canyon, where 3,000’ walls harbor two state parks and next-to-zero competition for sport and trad routes on limestone and basalt with beautiful corners and clean, blank faces. Meanwhile, mountain bikers go bonkers at Barnes Canyon, home to dozens of miles of singletrack arranged in loops that get more technical and challenging the farther and higher you go. 

Let your heart rate settle at Panaca’s homey Pine Tree Inn & Bakery or spike right back up (if you’re lucky) at the haunted hotspot that is Pioche’s historic Overland Hotel & Saloon, replete with themed rooms and a classic Sagebrush Saloon downstairs.

Ghost Towns & Sagebrush Saloons

Statewide

Here in the state with the most ghost towns, it’s easy to walk through the past. Even better, after a day of exploring still-standing structures—from stamp mills and stores to the cabins once occupied by the stalwarts who built it all—there are often storied places where you can “drink in” the history. Enter Nevada’s Sagebrush Saloons.

Belmont boasts a 100-foot-tall brick chimney (once used for target practice by training WWII pilots) and the walls of a combination stamp mill with 60-mile views of Monitor Valley. Wander among old miners’ digs and townsite ruins, or go big and schedule a tour of the impressive Belmont Courthouse, courtesy of Friends of the Belmont Courthouse. Then dip into Dirty Dick’s Belmont Saloon, a ramshackle building that’s been slinging libations since 1867—including over an original wooden bar that now has a quaint downward tilt. 

Rhyolite claims the title of “Nevada’s most photographed ghost town,” thanks to Hollywood film-famous facades like the old bank, train depot, and Tom T. Kelly’s Bottle House—monuments to Nevada’s boomtown days on the edge of Death Valley. Walk where 5,000 residents once prospered; then do as one of the town’s wooden buildings once did and retire to Beatty’s Happy Burro Chili & Beer, which serves up satisfaction exactly as advertised.

Due to its current population of around 300 residents, Goldfield, Nevada is technically a “living ghost town,” but this former ore mecca (once Nevada’s largest city) gets in the spirit with story-filled tours of Goldfield Historic High School, the Tiffany Lamp-studded courthouse, and the Goldfield Hotel—all certified extremely haunted by virtually every paranormal outfit, on TV and otherwise. Afterwards, raise a glass to Nevada’s past at the 1905-built Santa Fe Saloon, home to abundant old-school ephemera and “Nevada’s Meanest Bartender” (although we think she’s pretty swell).

Bed Down: Union Street Lodging B&B (Austin), Jackson House Hotel & Tea Room (Eureka), Historic Hotel Nevada & Gambling Hall (Ely)

Winter Road Trip on the Loneliest Road in America

Learn more about the Loneliest Road in America here

It’s always cruisin’ season in the Road Trip Capital of the USA, including along one of the nation’s most iconic stretches of road. In fact, thanks to snow-capped peaks and seas of sagebrush bright glistening in the bright Nevada sun, winter is one of our favorite times to hit up Highway 50. Some things are definitely closed until spring; but here’s what isn’t.

After a hot dip in our capital town’s Carson Hot Springs Resort, shoot east to Fallon’s Sand Mountain Recreation Area, where you can climb and then skip or sled down a six-story sand dune. Past Austin, detour down to Big Smoky Valley for a legendary Bunker Hill Bloody Mary at the Lucky Spur Saloon before a natural soak at one of Spencer Hot Springs’ three classic “cowboy tubs.” 

While Great Basin National Park’s upper elevations are beautifully blanketed in deep snow (usually until at least late June), creekside hikes become snowshoe strolls and the rare shield  formations and “draperies” inside the stunning Lehman Caves system are just as cool (well, and warm, for that matter) in winter as they are in summer. Heat things up back in Ely with one of the state’s best chorizo burgers at Racks Bar & Grill or a juicy steak at the Cellblock Steakhouse—the only restaurant we know of that serves up fine cuisine in your own private jail cell.

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 us and future generations.

Experts Only: Black Rock Desert

Gerlach and beyond

First things first: Despite its Burning Man fame, the Black Rock Desert—especially the fabled Playa—is not for the casual rent-a-car weekend warrior in any season. However, if you have the right adventure-mobile (4×4 plus high-clearance, packed with plenty of supplies), a worthy crew, and are sufficiently versed in Nevada’s Dirt Road Code, this 1.2-million-acre swathe of far-flung, high-desert majesty can be your wintertime wonderland. 

Unless you’re camping (which you can do almost anywhere), we recommend base-camping in the community of Gerlach, “Center of the Known Universe,” at Bruno’s Country Club, Motel & RV Park—the go-to Black Rock Desert staging ground since 1952. 

Day trip to magical destinations like the whimsical, mile-long, art installation-dotted track of Guru Road; the solar-powered, landscape-inspired, 1974-founded, husband-and-wife ceramics workshop and art studio known as Planet X Pottery; and even (if you’re up for a bumpy journey) Soldier Meadows Hot Springs

Then toast the day’s exploits back at Bruno’s with Picon Punches (Nevada’s unofficial state cocktail) and ravioli that’s unchanged from the way the late Bruno learned it in the Old Country.

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

If it’s anything other than bone-dry, DON’T DRIVE ON THE PLAYA.  Check recent conditions with Friends of Black Rock or a Gerlach business before coming.