Southern and Central Nevada is chock full of hidden gems that stretch the artistic senses, excite the imagination and refresh the soul with a combination of outdoor adventure and inquisitiveness. Locals, and adventurous tourists, can find themselves up-close-and-personal with dayglow boulders rising from nowhere; staring into the abyss of earthwork-sculptures, or inspired while wandering through an internationally-acclaimed open-air art museum.
ART IN THE DESERT
Internationally-acclaimed artists, bohemian free-thinkers and fun-loving art-inspired creatives have taken to the Nevada desert to create awe-inspiring art. Here are just a few of the must-see outdoor art installations and galleries.
Seven Magic Mountains: Punctuating the Mojave Desert with a poetic burst of form and color is Seven Magic Mountains featuring seven towering 30-foot stacked boulders painted in dayglow fluorescent colors. Meant to represent an intersection of natural and artificial, it’s a must for art lovers and Instagrammers. The installation is the creation of famed Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone and was produced by the Art Production Fund, New York and Nevada Museum of Art. Seven Magic Mountains is a short distance from Jean Dry Lake approximately 10 miles south of Las Vegas.
Double Negative: Hiding in plain sight about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, Michael Heizer’s Double Negative is one of the largest sculptures in the world at 1,500 feet long, 30 feet wide and 50 feet deep. More than 240,000 tons of rhyolite and sandstone were blasted and scooped away in 1969 and 1970 to create the negative sculpture now owned by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Located just outside Overton, the installation is considered one of the more significant works of earthwork movement and has sparked many academic and philosophical conversations.
International Car Forest Of The Last Church: Just outside of Goldfield, Nevada lies one truly weird experience – a forest of perfectly balanced, masterfully mural-ized junk cars called the International Car Forest of the Las Church. Visitors can enjoy this free, one-of-a-kind gallery comprised of more than 40 cars – some forcefully driven into the ground clawing toward the sky while others are perfectly balanced; propped against giant boulders or stacked on top of each other.
Goldwell Open Air Museum: Located just outside Rhyolite, Nevada, a spectacular ghost town off the road leading to Death Valley, California, is the Goldwell Open Air Museum. Ranked among some of world’s most unique places to experience art, the sculpture park features seven colossal sculptures that include a ghostly life-size version of Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper, a 25-foot pink woman constructed from cinder blocks, a 24-foot steel prospector and penguin, a gleaming tangle of chrome car accessories and a finely-carved winged woman who reaches for the sun from her perch atop a wooden pillar. Each piece was designed within the context of the landscape and should be interpreted as such. The museum is free and open to the public 24/7.
DELIGHTING IN NATURE’S BEAUTY – HIKE, BIKE, OFF-ROAD AND MORE
Boasting open wilderness, inspiring canyons, towering mountain peaks and hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails – the art and beauty of nature is everywhere throughout the Las Vegas valley and surrounding areas.
ATV and Dune Buggies
Amargosa Big Dune: These relatively undiscovered Amargosa Big Dunes create an ideal recreation area for ATVs and dune buggies as well as adventurous sandboarders. Located about 90 miles from Las Vegas and 15 miles east of Beatty, NV, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)-managed Big Dunes cover five square miles and tower about 500 feet. These hills are a well-kept secret and mostly used by locals.
Hiking and Off-Road Biking
Nature’s beauty is on full display as vibrant ancient red sandstone formations rise in sculpted shapes from the desert floor at Valley of Fire State Park – 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas – where a handful of short trails are good for all ages. While at Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, the majesty of 4000-year-old ancient rock art (petroglyphs) are there for the viewing while hiking the 3.7 mile Petroglyph Canyon Trail. And, a few miles outside Las Vegas on the valley’s western edge is Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area with 26 different hiking trails for the novice to the adventurer. For those who prefer generally cooler temperatures it’s the lush trails of Mt. Charleston only a short drive from Las Vegas and boasting more than 60 miles of trails with most treks starting at over 6000 feet in elevation with some culminating at the 11,916 feet Charleston Peak.
It’s an understatement to say that Las Vegas and surrounding suburbs are cyclist-friendly. With hundreds of miles of paved bike paths, riders can essentially circumvent the valley on two wheels. Biking is so popular and trail so easily accessible, the Regional Transportation Commission not only offers a detailed map of the valley’s bike trails, as well as a very popular Bike Share program.
HAUNTED HISTORY BUFFS
When dedicated artisans and performers in Nevada re-create history, it comes to life in the form of two of the state’s most famous (and maybe haunted) mining towns open for visitors to experience the wild west.
Tonopah Historic Mining Park located on the site of the original mining claims that started the silver rush. The 100-acre park encompasses portions of four of the original major mining companies. Actually located in Apache Junction, AZ Goldfield Ghost Town is truly an entertaining nugget. Complete with a gold mine tour, gunslinger re-enactments, legends of lost treasures, reptile museum and stores, the fun is worth the few hours’ drive from Las Vegas.