Winter’s not done yet, but this recent spate of sunny, spring-like days have caused the tulip bulbs in my yard to sprout. The warm temps also bring to mind road trips, hiking and hot springs. In a nod to the upcoming season, here are five places outside of Reno with the word “spring” in the name.
Spring Mountain Ranch State Park. This state park is within the boundaries of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area — a popular recreation area that draws more than 2 million people a year — which I think is why it is sometimes overlooked. But Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, about 25 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip, offers an unexpected patch of green in the middle of the desert well worth seeing. With colorful mountains all around, the 520-acre park is a picturesque place to hike and picnic, and guests also can check out the visitors’ center, a ranch house once owned by Howard Hughes.
Spring Mountain Ranch State Park is open year-round. There is a $9-per-vehicle entry fee; $7 for Nevada residents. For more information, visit the website parks.nv.gov, and click on the “Parks” link.
Spring Mountains National Recreation Area. Spring Mountains National Recreation Area is 35 miles northwest of the Las Vegas Strip, but a world away in terms of environment. The 316,000-acre park, often referred to as Mount Charleston after the area’s signature 11,916-foot peak, has spectacular mountain scenery and a variety of ecosystems. The best way to get a handle on it is to stop by the newly opened Visitor Gateway Center, 2525 Kyle Canyon Road, which explains the area’s seven distinct plant communities as well as its history.
Hiking, mountain biking, picnicking, camping and horseback riding are allowed here. In winter, it’s a great area for snow play and snowshoeing, and there is a commercial ski resort, Lee Canyon (formerly Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort), within its boundaries. Spring Mountains National Recreation Area is part of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest; for more information, visit the website www.fs.usda.gov/htnf, and click on the “Quick Link” to “Spring Mountains National Recreation Area.” For things to do, visit the website for GO Mt Charleston, a partnership between the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, the Great Basin Institute and Southern Nevada Conservancy, gomtcharleston.com.
Springs Preserve. This 180-acre cultural center is on the site of the former Las Vegas Springs, which once supported life in the Las Vegas Valley before increasing water use caused it to go dry in the early 1960s. Today, the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Springs Preserve campus is home to museums — including the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas —exhibits and galleries and more. Hiking and biking trails meander through native habitat and archeological sites.
Springs Preserve is at 333 S. Valley View Blvd. in Las Vegas. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, and the Nevada State Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Admission to Springs Preserve is $18.95, $10.95 children ages 5 to 17.
Spring Valley State Park. Spring Valley is one of five state parks in Lincoln County, about 200 miles north of Las Vegas, off U.S. 93 and centered by the towns of Pioche, Panaca and Caliente. Spring Valley’s big draw is the 59-acre Eagle Valley Reservoir, currently managed as a put-and-take sport fishery. Pitch a tent here, and Spring Valley can be your base camp to visiting Cathedral Gorge, Echo Canyon, Kershaw Ryan and Beaver Dam state parks, all within an hour’s drive. The nearest town is Pioche, a small community with the Million Dollar Courthouse, open from May through October, and Boothill Cemetery, which recalls the community’s Wild West roots.
Spring Valley is open year-round. There is a $7-per-vehicle entry fee; $5 for Nevada residents. For more information, visit the website parks.nv.gov, and click on the “Parks” link. For more on Pioche, visit Lincoln County’s tourism site, lincolncountynevada.com, then click on the “Discovering” link.
Spencer Hot Springs. Soak in a natural hot spring while gazing at the Great Basin Desert landscape. Spencer Hot Springs, just off U.S. 50 and southeast of the town of Austin, has a developed tub and a below-ground pool. It’s on public land managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management, near the Toquima Cave Campground in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. The water is about 192 degrees, according to the Toquima Cave Campground web page.
Spencer Hot Springs is about 192 miles east of Reno. To get there from Reno, take Interstate 80 east and then U.S. 50 east past Austin. Go south on Nevada state Route 376 and make a quick left on Nevada Forest Road 001, a dirt road, for about seven miles to get to Spencer Hot Springs.
Chris Moran has lived in Reno since 1996, and currently works at the Nevada Division of Tourism as a public relations specialist. She is a former editor and writer at the Reno Gazette-Journal, and has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley. Her hobbies include skiing, hiking, reading, photography, coffee and coffeehouses, and exploring Nevada. Check out her blog at www.ChrisinNevada.wordpress.com.