Although they paint a pretty picture during a morning trail stroll  — Nevada is home to more than sagebrush, desert, and pine. One of our area’s biggest little secrets is its vast range of great outdoor adventures and Nevada national parks.

Want to get some fresh powder in at the start of the day and end it with a trail hike in the afternoon? Ready to watch the sunrise from Mount Rose’s summit? Maybe you can’t wait to bike Tahoe and have a beach picnic? Whether you’re seeking snow, sun, or summertime heat, there are plenty of things to do in Nevada and you can easily mix and match outdoor outings to your liking.

Don’t forget we’re also home to more than 300 natural Nevada hot springs, which takes relaxing in nature to a whole new level. If you’re looking for things to do outside, explore some of Northern Nevada’s best trails, parks, and free outdoor activities — and learn why so many think of Nevada as the best-kept outdoor playground secret.

Parks in Reno

Rancho San Rafael Regional Park

Sprawling across more than 570 tree- and grass-filled acres, Rancho San Rafael Regional Park offers outdoor enthusiasts various hiking, walking, biking activities, and sights.

As Washoe County’s largest park, it offers stunning views of downtown Reno and the University of Nevada, Reno from the “N” near the north end of the park. Dog walkers can find an extensive play area for their pets and birdwatchers can enjoy identifying various waterfowl in the wetland habitat. Wilbur D. May Arboretum & Botanical Garden offers a scenic backdrop for an event, picnic, or wedding and houses a meditative outdoor labyrinth.

Families can enjoy its playgrounds and pavilions — Peavine, Chinese Pagoda, and Lions Highland — which can be reserved for group picnics. It’s an idyllic backdrop to the Great Reno Balloon Race, featuring 100 hot air balloons that light up the predawn sky and colorfully dot the city’s landscape for three days in September.

Wingfield Park

If a bustling city park is calling your name, look no further than downtown Reno’s Wingfield Park. Tucked in between rising apartments, breweries and eateries, and the Truckee River, Wingfield offers a serene patch of nature to experience the pulse of the city. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy walking or biking the Downtown Reno Riverwalk, starting at Wingfield Park and following the river north to another sprawling and family-friendly outdoor location, Idlewild Park.

During the warmer months, Wingfield is the go-to spot for swimming in the river, or white water rafting during the Reno River Festival. It’s also a prime location for outdoor concerts, evening picnics, and festivals.

Sparks Marina

East of Reno, located in Sparks you can find the picturesque Sparks Marina, a 77-acre park surrounding a 100-foot-deep lake created in 1997 from Truckee River floodwaters. Stocked with various fish, including Rainbow, Cutthroat, and Brown trout, and various bass, catfish, and carp, the Marina offers great fishing, sunbathing, or volleyball playing on its two beaches and a two-mile walking and bike riding path.

In addition to a large playground, outdoor adventures can find ample room to picnic, take in the stunning views of the mountains in the distance, have a pet playdate at its dog park, or sit in the sun before grabbing a bite, seeing a movie or shopping at the nearby Outlets at Legends shopping center.

There are dozens of parks and recreation areas in Reno and Sparks. Discover new things to do outside with friends or solo as you explore the Silver State.

Walking and Biking Trails

Walking Trails in Reno

Oxbow Nature Study Area

Entering Oxbow Nature Study Area transports you to a secluded and peaceful slice of nature only a mile from downtown Reno. The less than a-mile walking trail loops through grasslands, lined with tall cottonwoods and willows, and offers ample places to sit and take in views of the Truckee River or a nearby pond.

Home to deer, beavers, trout, and waterfowl, this nature area offers an easy-going outing that will leave you feeling relaxed and connected to the outdoors with little effort. There are also several picnic tables and a restroom area, making this an ideal spot for a family outing.

Tom Cooke Trail

One of the best things to do outside when the weather is mild is hike, mountain bike, horseback ride, or trail run the Tom Cooke Trail. Located near the Truckee River and Mayberry Park, this trail provides some steep inclines, switchbacks, scenic views, and an opportunity to merge onto the Steamboat trail for additional exploration. It can be a relatively quick hike that offers you open spaces and Nevada landscapes without having to travel too far outside of the city. It’s also a pet-friendly trail and provides you the opportunity to hike further West toward Verdi or walk the ridge toward the Caughlin Ranch hills.

Learn more about the trails in the Reno-Sparks area and the various skill levels they require. Carson City and Washoe Valley hikes also offer breathtaking views, family-friendly trails, and rigorous mountain treks for those seeking to expand their explorations.

Incline Village Bike Trails

Tunnel Creek Trail

There’s something surreal about hiking around Incline Village. It’s an idyllic mix of forest and mountain air with clear skies and nature sounds all around. Some of the best views of Lake Tahoe can be taken in from the Tunnel Creek Trail.  While the trail is an uphill climb, the views from it are incomparable and sought out by outdoor enthusiasts. It’s ideal to travel the trail during warmer months — May to September — and you can anticipate a 4.7-mile moderate hike roundtrip, with options to mountain bike or trail run.

Tahoe Rim Trail

There’s nothing more breathtaking than coming through the forest to see Tahoe’s sprawling clear, sapphire-blue water. Now, imagine spending the day taking in those views from the rim of the lake. The expansive, 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail offers outdoor adventurers the opportunity to explore the Tahoe Forest areas from various entry points around the lake. The trail varies in skill level and terrain, providing hikers and mountain bikers ample possibilities to explore Tahoe.

Free Outdoor Activities in Northern Nevada

When the temperatures heat up, so do the opportunities to get outdoors and explore. The best thing about Mother Nature is that it doesn’t cost a thing to find fulfilling and exciting adventures in Northern Nevada. Whether you’re seeking to relax in the cool shade of the forest or want to hit some off-road desert trails, there are a wide variety of things to do outside.

Virginia City offers a bit of everything for everyone, including a scenic drive up into the foothills. Take a moment to stop in the canyon below the historic mining town at Old Geiger Grade Historic Marker — marking the point where old stages, mud wagons, and freighters carried passengers and precious cargo through treacherous conditions. Once in Virginia City, visit the old cemetery, walk Main Street, and check out the Visitor’s Center, historical buildings, old saloons, the train station, and St. Mary in the Mountains Catholic Church.

Seeing Tahoe from the seat of your bike is another great way to pass a warm day. The Incline Village to Sand Harbor Bike Path offers you scenic views of Tahoe’s east shore’s beaches and terrain as you travel from Incline Village to Sand Harbor State Park. The nearly three-mile paved bike path offers hikers, runners, and bicyclists an opportunity to learn about the history, geography, flora, and fauna of Tahoe via informative panels.

Whether you’re looking for things to do outside in the winter or the summer, with friends or solo, there’s no shortage of things to do in Northern Nevada. If you’re looking to make your adventure a permanent lifestyle, explore real estate opportunities with a Dickson Realty real estate agent today.