15 Best Day Trips from Reno

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Immortalised in an REM song, Reno is a great choice for an out-of-town trip, whether you’re simply after a change of scene or want to hit up the great ski resorts in its surrounds.

It’s an entertainment hub, with a slew of casinos complemented by some great bars and restaurants downtown.

Located in the perfect spot in Nevada, right by the Sierra Nevada mountains and Lake Tahoe, is is great to scope for trips away for the day.

It’s within easy reach of some Californian gems as well, so don’t restrict yourself to staying in-state.

Here are 15 of the best day trips from the ‘biggest little city in the world’.

1. Lake Tahoe

Lake TahoeSource: topseller / shutterstock
Lake Tahoe

As far as nature goes, Lake Tahoe might be one of the best spots around to get a glimpse of the beauty of the earth.

It’s got surprisingly great beaches and clear, fresh water to frolic in – rent a paddleboard or a kayak for some active fun.

Plays and other events are sometimes held around the edge of the lake, so keep an eye on local news to be informed.

Stay until dark to witness some of the clearest skies you’ve ever seen and get a proper look at the stars.

2. Carson City and the Carson Valley

Carson ValleySource: Jeffrey T. Kreulen / shutterstock
Carson Valley

The petite state capital of Nevada isn’t too far from Reno, and has a lot to offer for the day tripper, with its easily walkable central district.

There are plenty of funky coffee joints, live music and cultural events happening all the time, so keep your eyes open as you wander the streets.

If you head south from the city, you’ll find yet more gems, like Genoa with its old bar and Gardnerville with its history of Basque settlers.

3. Unionville

Unionville, NevadaSource: Ken Lund / Flickr

Unionville’s main claim to fame is that it was once the site of a cabin owned by Mark Twain.

Besides this, it’s got natural appeal in bucket loads, and deserves a visit in its own right.

It’s not surprising that the author took great inspiration here; the wildflowers scattered across the rustic scenery provide the perfect backdrop for ponderous pursuits like writing.

There’s the chance for some wildlife spotting too – wheeling birds of prey form impressive silhouettes against the sky.

Pay a visit to the nearby hot springs, or grab yourself a farm-fresh breakfast from one of the many cottages around town.

4. Ruby Mountains

Ruby Mountains, NevadaSource: Justin Mair / shutterstock
Ruby Mountains

The ruby mountains are surely one of the pinnacles of skiing around this part of the world.

Perhaps not for the faint-hearted, the ski fields up here are un-marshalled and untamed, with mile upon mile of pristine powder stretching across the peaks if you time your visit right.

You won’t be competing with the crowds, that’s for sure.

If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can also push the boat out here for a heli-ski trip; definitely not for beginners, but certainly the experience of a lifetime for those brave enough.

5. Virginia City

Virginia City, NevadaSource: Purplexsu / shutterstock
Virginia City

For a taste of the Old West, make sure to head to Virginia City – you can even take a scenic train ride to get there from Carson City.

Virginia City has all the things you’d expect and then some: The Prostitution Museum and the Suicide Table are two of its more unusual attractions.

Still, well worth visiting for something a bit different.

Virginia City’s mining past makes it a historic place to visit, but in its modern iteration it’s got a thriving art culture centered on St Mary’s Art Centre.

6. Pyramid Lake

Pyramid Lake, NevadaSource: Terry W Ryder / shutterstock
Pyramid Lake

One of Nevada’s best natural attractions is the 125,000-acre Pyramid Lake, whose shores dip in and out of a Paiute tribal reservation.

It’s one of the largest natural lakes in the state, and offers plenty of opportunity for wandering around its picturesque fringes – though you should make sure to check whether you need a permit from the tribal office.

There’s also a Paiute Tribe Museum and Visitor Center for those interested in learning more about the history of the place and its people.

When you’ve had your history lesson, you can take a picnic down to a scenic spot and admire the view.

7. Black Rock Desert

Black Rock DesertSource: Robert Stolting / shutterstock
Black Rock Desert

Made famous for being the place where the world land speed record was broken and for hosting the spectacular Burning Man festival in summer, Black Rock Desert is more than worth a trip at any time of year.

This alien landscape is one of the largest flat surfaces found anywhere in the world, with over 200-square-miles of craggy ground covered in sagebrush and scrub.

It’s a mind-boggling place to simply stand and stare at the horizon, but there are hiking and biking options too, and the stargazing is fantastic if you can stay until dark.

You can also soak in hot springs, but be careful not to stay too long or dip a toe in the wrong one – they can be dangerously hot.

8. Highway 50

Highway 50, NevadaSource: Natalia Bratslavsky / shutterstock
Highway 50, Nevada

It might sound unusual to take the time out of your holiday just to drive along a road, but this one is a bit special.

Highway 50, or at least the Nevada section of the 3000-mile route, is known as the loneliest road in America, which surely merits a road trip for the day.

There are plenty of cool spots to stop at along the way to mitigate the loneliness, and you might also get the opportunity to see wild mustangs along your route.

The appeal lies in its emptiness – nothing but open road and deserted scenery; this is the real America.

9. Eldorado National Forest

Eldorado National ForestSource: AlessandraRC / shutterstock
Eldorado National Forest

Hop across the border to California and you’ll soon find yourself in an area chock-a-block with beautiful national forests.

El Dorado is just one of these, and it’s a fantastic place to while away the day.

Hiking trails abound through the pine trees, and you’ll find some stunning views of the Sierra Nevada mountain range without even trying too hard.

The air is fresh and the terrain steep, so make sure you come prepared with suitable clothing.

If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to find a hidden spot for an al fresco picnic to round off this perfect nature-lovers’ day trip.

10. Sand Mountain

and Mountain Recreation Area, Fallon, NevadaSource: Ajinkya9 / shutterstock
Sand Mountain

The Sand Mountain Recreation Area just off Highway 50 is certainly a unique place to visit for the day.

These massive dunes were left behind after Lake Lahontan dried up and provide plenty of outdoorsy entertainment options to visitors – hiking, biking, motor biking, and dune-buggying.

Take the time to stretch your legs, but make sure you also listen carefully; in the right moment, you might just hear the sand sing.

No, really, the composition of the sand in this area means that it can be heard as it drifts over the dunes, which is an incredibly rare and beautiful phenomenon.

11. Hickison Petroglyphs

Hickison PetroglyphsSource: Famartin / Wikimedia
Hickison Petroglyphs

One of the most impressive Native American sites in the state is the Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area.

Over 10,000 years of history can be found in this place, in the form of abstract line drawing, thought to be one of the earliest forms of rock art in the west.

The setting for these fascinating pieces is beautiful, too, with trails leading up to viewpoints of the longest Nevada mountain range, the Toiyabe Range.

Bring lots of water to accompany your hikes, and spend a few hours looping around to get a full picture of the area.

12. Skiing at Mount Rose

Mount Rose, NevadaSource: Albert H. Teich / shutterstock
Mount Rose

Conveniently located at under an hour away from downtown Reno, the Mount Rose ski facility offers some excellent relaxed skiing, with solid options available for both beginners and advanced skiers.

It’s not hugely overpopulated, like many ski resorts across the world, and it gives some seriously great scenic routes down the mountain.

Confusingly, Slide Mountain is the place where the runs are actually located, despite the resort being named after Mount Rose.

Snowshoeing and cross country skiing are also on offer.

13. Steamboat Hot Springs

Steamboat Hot SpringsSource: Ken Lund from Reno, Nevada, USA / Wikimedia
Steamboat Hot Springs

For a super convenient and quick trip away from Reno, head to the glorious Steamboat Hot Springs, just twenty minutes out of town.

It’s certainly a relaxing way to spend the afternoon and you’ll be joining the ranks of generations of ordinary folks who’ve spent some serious hours in these hot pools.

Geothermal energy forms a big part of life in northern Nevada.

14. Lunar Crater

Lunar Crater, NevadaSource: Famartin / Wikimedia
Lunar Crater

Another bonkers natural landscape can be found at Lunar Crater, aptly named, given its out-of-this-world appearance.

The crater itself is 130-meters deep, and in the late ‘60s was used as a training ground for the astronauts tipped to go on the Apollo space missions.

Surrounding the crater are still more geological wonders – from lava fields and deep fissures in the earth to ash piles and extinct volcanoes.

15. Sacramento

SacramentoSource: Andrew Zarivny / shutterstock

Head across state lines for a big old road trip across to California.

The state capital has a lot to offer – museums like the Railroad museum, the state capital itself, and a thriving downtown area, as well as all the standard fare you get in big cities, like great dining options.

Sacramento also has a fascinating history stemming from the Gold Rush era, so the history nuts among you can really go wild here.

It’s surprisingly pretty for a large city, with a picturesque waterfront and plentiful parks – it really is a pleasant place to spend a day.

15 Best Day Trips from Reno:

  • Lake Tahoe
  • Carson City and the Carson Valley
  • Unionville
  • Ruby Mountains
  • Virginia City
  • Pyramid Lake
  • Black Rock Desert
  • Highway 50
  • Eldorado National Forest
  • Sand Mountain
  • Hickison Petroglyphs
  • Skiing at Mount Rose
  • Steamboat Hot Springs
  • Lunar Crater
  • Sacramento