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Reno – The Best Adventure Hub No One Talks About

North America

This blog was created in collaboration with Visit Reno Tahoe & Quin Schrock

The best adventures near Reno, Nevada.

Growing up I spent every summer at my grandparents’ house in Reno. I passed the time browsing through dusty Encyclopedia Britannicas and a few decades worth of National Geographic magazines. I’d cut out pictures of far flung destinations and organize them into intricate collages – this was long before mood boards were en vogue. I wanted to make memories all over the world. To see as many places as possible. To be anywhere but there.

Looking back, I can’t help but smile at the irony. All that time I spent down in my grandparent’s basement, pouring over photos, day dreaming about other places, I was already exactly where I wanted to be. I just couldn’t see it.

All grown up, and a couple years into an unexpected career photographing destinations that only existed in the yellowed encyclopedia pages of my childhood, I’m able to see things with a little more clarity. It’s obvious now, that Reno Tahoe deserved a spot in one of my collages. It is after all, where the largest alpine lake collides with the Biggest Little City in the World! And the result is a beautiful contradiction of high adrenaline activities, burgeoning art scene, and remote solitude.

Whether you want to sleep under the stars in the Black Rock Desert, chill at a hipster cafe overlooking the Truckee River, or cliff dive into Tahoe’s blue abyss, Reno has you covered. It’s a “make your own adventure” situation, where the possibilities are endless. There’s only one thing that’s certain – this isn’t my grandparent’s Reno anymore. Then again, maybe it never was.

Relaxing on the beach at Secret Cove, Lake Tahoe.
Relaxing on the beach at Secret Cove, Lake Tahoe.

Driving through fall colors along the Truckee River outside Reno, Nevada.
Driving through fall colors along the Truckee River outside Reno, Nevada.

The City – Fun Things to Do In Reno

With an international airport servicing Reno with non-stop flights from all over the United States, it couldn’t be easier to get to and from your next adventure. But before you head to the desert, or hit the hiking trails, it’s worth exploring the city itself. Reno has undergone a sort of renaissance over the last decade or so, and there’s no better place to get a pulse on the creative, outdoorsy, culture the city is cultivating than by strolling through the Riverwalk District.

Standing under the famous Reno Arch Sign in downtown Reno.
Standing under the famous Reno Arch Sign in downtown Reno.

Featuring a pedestrian walkway along the Truckee River, the picturesque Riverwalk District is lined with restaurants, cafe’s, and art – lots and lots of art. From giant street murals, to playa art from bygone Burning Man years, there’s no shortage of eye candy to enjoy. So grab a coffee from my personal favorite, the Hub Coffee Roasters, or a pint from the Sierra Taphouse, and just start walking!

If you’re looking to get your adrenaline pumping you can always try surfing. That’s right, surfing! As the only outlet for Lake Tahoe, the Truckee River winds its way down through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, into ‘The Biggest Little City In The World,’ until it finally terminates at Pyramid Lake. Along the way there are a few standing waves suitable for getting your surf on. One of which, is located in Wingfield Park right smack dab in the middle of downtown Reno. Talk about a bucket list item! And if that’s not enough, you can tackle the world’s tallest climbing wall at Whitney Peak Hotel

The Reno Playa Art Park is situated in the heart of downtown Reno just north of the Reno Arch, and features retired art from Burning Man as well as a few gorgeous murals.
The Reno Playa Art Park is situated in the heart of downtown Reno just north of the Reno Arch, and features retired art from Burning Man as well as a few gorgeous murals.

The Desert – Best Things To Do In Black Rock Desert

Now that you’ve experienced some of Burning Man’s playa art first hand, it’s time to head out to the place where it all began – Black Rock Desert. Once a year during Burning Man, tens of thousands of people gather in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to create Black Rock City, a temporary metropolis dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. But at any other time of year, this unique landscape offers a special type of solitude that’s hard to find in today’s busy world.

Hour home for the night in Black Rock Desert.
Hour home for the night in Black Rock Desert.

Enjoying a hot spring on the edge of Black Rock Desert.
Enjoying a hot spring on the edge of Black Rock Desert.

Golden light as the sun sets in Black Rock Desert.
Golden light as the sun sets in Black Rock Desert.

Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and lightly-regulated, the Black Rock Desert provides a refuge for adventurous, self-reliant visitors interested in getting off the grid. Dotted with hidden hot springs, the area is perfect for primitive camping, off road driving, and just simply getting lost in wide open spaces. Once you’ve spent a little time there, it’s not hard to understand why so many people feel compelled to return to this barren stretch of earth year after year to reconnect with their inner psyche.

The Black Rock Desert is also home to Fly Geyser. Located on Fly Ranch, the geyser was created accidentally in 1964, after a geothermal power company drilled a test well at the site. The result is a rainbow colored geyser spewing thermal water from its mouth 24 hours a day. Owned by Burning Man, Fly Geyser is not currently available for public access, but you can take a tour of the property, through the Friends of Nevada Black-High Rock. Passionate volunteers offer three-hour guided tours of Fly Ranch, including Fly Geyser.

Fly Geyser in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada.
Fly Geyser in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada.

The Lake – Best Things To Do at Lake Tahoe

In a state that has more hot springs and mountain ranges than any other state (who knew!), Lake Tahoe is the undisputed adventure capital of Nevada. And with over 300 days of sun a year, the fun never stops!

A short drive from Reno takes you to the stunning alpine world of North Lake Tahoe, where crystal clear water, giant granite boulders, and quiet lakeside beaches wait. Mornings at the lake are beautiful, and the perfect time to get out on a human powered adventure. If you’re keen on taking a hike, Marlette Lake is a solid option. From the top of the trail you can get a unique “double lake” view of Marlette with Lake Tahoe glistening below in the distance. Alternatively, wake up for sunrise over Emerald Bay and then head up the short trail to Eagle Lake for a little taste of what the Desolation Wilderness has to offer.

Emerald Bay at sunrise.
Emerald Bay at sunrise.

It’s a short, but beautiful hike up to Eagle Lake from Emerald Bay lookout.
It’s a short, but beautiful hike up to Eagle Lake from Emerald Bay lookout.

After you’ve worked up a sweat in the mountains, it’s time to cool down on the Lake! During summer you can rent a kayak or paddle board at Sand Harbor and spend all day exploring the stunning east shore. Paddle around the huge rounded boulders that sit like private islands dotting the azure shallows. Make one your own for an hour or two, or keep exploring. For something a little different, rent a clear kayak from Wild Society, and stare into the depths of Tahoe’s famed blue water as the world drifts by.

For even more ways to make the most of your time at Lake Tahoe, check out 72 Perfect Hours At Lake Tahoe or The Best Photography Spots in Lake Tahoe!

We rented clear kayaks from Wild Society at Lake Tahoe.
We rented clear kayaks from Wild Society at Lake Tahoe.

Paddling through crystal clear water at Lake Tahoe.
Paddling through crystal clear water at Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe

A huge thank you to Visit Reno Tahoe  for partnering with us to make this experience possible.

Thank you for your time and support! – jess

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  1. Kim Daled says:

    I too was very fortunate to spend many summer days sailing, and swimming those incredible clear waters as a child and young adult. It still remains one of my favorite places . Thank you for capturing the essence of this magical place.

  2. Kirtan P. says:

    Amazing shots, Jess! Reno is definitely the "best adventure hub."

  3. Diana says:

    Wonderful post!! Went to Tahoe for the first time three years back and loved it!! Would love to kayak in one of those clear kayaks!
    Reno sure is pretty in autumn. Who knew? Going to have to check it out next time!
    Thanks so much for your insight and gorgeous photos!!

  4. Yvonne Chang says:

    When is the best season to visit?

    • Jess Dales says:

      It really depends on what you would like to do. It’s beautiful year round. Winter is best if you would like to ski or snow board, and the rest of the year is better for spending time on the lake. Hope you get the chance to check it out!

  5. I have never been to Reno and was not aware they have such a lovely river walk. I would definitely enjoy some time taking those clear kayaks rentals for an afternoon trip. Great photos.

  6. Tony says:

    Wonderful post as always and amazing shots! #wallpaperMaterial

  7. Sarah says:

    These photos are AMAZING. makes me want to leave my home and go on a Tahoe adventure RIGHT NOW (it’s 10 pm right now…)

  8. Lauren Walden says:

    Hi Jess! I stumbled upon your blog about a wk ago googling places to see in Tahoe! My hub and I just got back from South Lake Tahoe and went snowboarding at Heavenly – had a blast. Your pictures paddle boarding at Sand Harbor already has me planning a trip!!! I can’t wait 🙂 So happy I found you! 🙂

    • Jess Dales says:

      Hi Lauren! I’m so glad you had fun. I hear Tahoe is getting dumped on right now! It’s such a great year round location, it’s hard to pick just one season to visit. 🙂

  9. Ashley says:

    Hi, I stubbled across your blogs. WOW! Love all of it. I’d like to take a trip to Lake Tahoe. Is there a resort/lodging you’d recommend? Would you recommend staying in Reno or near the lake? Thank you.

    • Hi Ashley! Thank you so much for checking out the blog. Where you stay depends a lot on what you plan on doing while you are in the area. If you are planning on spending your entire trip up at Lake Tahoe, then I would probably look at staying somewhere up at the lake. But if you think you are interested in checking out some of the other areas in this blog, then Reno is a great option!

  10. Laura says:

    Thank you for your blog posts about Tahoe! I’m going there in Sept with my husband, baby, and our dog, for just two days but I’m so thankful to get to spend some time there and will definitely pick our spots to explore based on your posts! Thank you! 🙂

    • Hi Laura! Thanks so much for the note. Even in 2 days you will have so much fun, and September is generally a beautiful time of year to be there. I hope you have a wonderful vacation! 🙂

  11. Saleem says:

    Hi Jess! You’re an amazing blogger and inspiration for our travel. My gf and I planning to visit there in Mid October. Is it good time for the activities you mentioned here?

  12. Saleem says:

    Hi Jess! Your blog is amazing and inspiring for us to travel.
    My gf and I planning to travel in mid October , will it be good weather that time to do all activities you mentioned in your blog? Thank you 🙂

    • Jessica Dales says:

      Hi! So glad that you like the blog. A lot of the photos in this post were actually taken in October, so most activities will be possible. Of course, October is during the shoulder season, and you really never know what the weather will do. The year we went during October it was really nice out. But it could be really cold too. The only thing that might be possible in October is renting a clear kayak – I’m not sure that they are open during the fall.

  13. Jim says:

    Hi Jess am planing to take my wife to Reno for Our 12 anniversary. We going to have a week off from the kids So if you onlight me we’re We can stay & go. Ty!

    • Jessica Dales says:

      Hi Jim! Congrats on your anniversary. This entire blog post is actually about the places you can go and things to do around Reno. You can also check out my other blog posts about Lake Tahoe for more ideas. Other than what I have already included, some of the hotels have very nice spas that you might consider looking into for your special occasion. Have fun!

  14. Tara says:

    Hi there – very helpful info and stunning photos! I am a photographer (by hobby only) myself so I am in awe of these breath taking photos! I haven’t been much of an outdoorsy activity person but would like to try a short hike. Would you recommend a particular hiking spot for great photos and a short hike? also, are the ticks an issue as you hike around there?

    • Jessica Dales says:

      Hi. I’ve suggested a number of hikes in this blog post – all of which are on the shorter side. I’ve never heard of ticks being an issue in the area, but I would pack some bug repelant or wear long layers if you are concerned.

  15. CJ says:

    Wow those pictures of you kayaking on Lake Tahoe was just breathtaking! The water was just crystal clear!

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Hi, I’m Jess, an outdoor enthusiast based in Seattle. I grew up exploring the Pacific Northwest, and early on was infected with the travel bug. I tried to suppress my wanderlust in pursuit of a traditional career path, but after a short stint as a lawyer, I left the confines of my office to get back in touch with my roots. Now, I wander the world taking photos, making memories, and sharing my love for travel with others!

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