Idaho’s capital and city with the highest population is Boise, which is located on the Boise River in the southwestern part of the state. Home to more than 228,000 people, the city has a lot to offer when it comes to both indoor and outdoor recreation opportunities. Boise’s downtown is its cultural center, with an active restaurant scene and nightlife, as well as the Boise Art Museum and Zoo Boise. The city is also the site of the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, the only human rights memorial in the United States.
While there are plenty of things to do in Boise, a road trip can be a lot of fun and a great opportunity to see new places. About six and a half hours southwest of Boise is Reno, Nevada. If you have a weekend available, pack up your car and hit the road; while the distance is relatively short, the journey is packed with unique and exciting things to see and do.
And once you reach your destination, there is more fun to be had. Located in northwest Nevada, Reno is about 22 miles from Lake Tahoe in a high desert river valley and is home to a thriving casino and tourism industry. At the foot of the Sierra Nevada, there are a number of ways to spend time outdoors in the area.
With plenty of options for camping in and around the city, you can spend a few days in Reno exploring before your return trip.
Less than one hour from Boise is the location of your first stop; the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge. Located outside of Nampa, the Refuge is on land that surrounds Lake Lowell and is a key area for breeding among mammals, birds and other animals. Birds like mallards and Canada geese, among others, rest and spend their winters at the Refuge, which is along the Pacific Flyway.
The Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge has been designated a “Globally Important Bird Area” by the American Bird Conservancy. There are two areas of the Refuge; one portion includes Lake Lowell and its surrounding area, while the second includes the Snake River islands. The Refuge engages in wildlife conservation projects and has a visitor center where you can learn more about the Refuge.
Less than one hour from Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge is Givens Hot Springs, which is located in the southwestern corner of Idaho on the Snake River. The site had been visited for some 5000 years by Native Americans and was settled in 1879, at which point it became popular to bathe and swim in and became a stop for those on the Oregon Trail.
The town of Givens Springs was settled by Milford and Martha Givens and William H. Dewey recommended building a hotel and resort at Givens Hot Springs in 1900. Ultimately, a hotel was built in 1903 by Martha Givens’ second husband Gustavus F. Yanke, though it was not rebuilt after it was destroyed by a fire in 1939. Both RV and tent camping are available for visitors to the hot springs.
About an hour and a half from Givens Hot Springs is Rome, Oregon, where you can check out the Pillars of Rome. Popular among photographers and nature enthusiasts, the Pillars of Rome are rock formations where light is reflected in multiple ways. The community of Rome got its name from the tall rock formations that are made of fossil-bearing clay that resemble ruins from Rome.
The formations are 100 feet in height and run about five miles in length and two miles in width. When the pioneers were traveling along the Oregon Trail, the Pillars of Rome were a landmark that brought memories of ancient Rome. The community of Rome is not just known for these rock formations; it is also an entry point for white water rafting down the Owyhee River, a trip which will take you through gorgeous canyons and offer views of wildflowers and wildlife.
About two hours from Rome is the town of Winnemucca, Nevada, where you can visit the nearby Winnemucca Dunes. Located in the northern part of the state, the Winnemucca Dunes are Nevada’s largest dune field, taking up nearly 40 miles. The dunes rise to a height of up to 100 feet and are a combination of sand trails and open dunes, which are stable as a result of vegetation near the dune field’s edge.
The main dunes are at an elevation of 4400 feet and are on both BLM land and private property. A visit to the Winnemucca Dunes is a great way to spend the day; capture amazing photos, enjoy a picnic, or explore the dunes on foot or by all-terrain vehicle. There are opportunities for camping as well, making it a perfect place to spend the night!
An hour and a half from Winnemucca is Lovelock Cave, the location of your next stop. This North American archaeological site is approximately 150 feet long and 35 feet wide. The Cave is considered one of the Great Basin region’s most important sites due to its conditions, which are good for preserving both organic and inorganic material. In 1984 the cave earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places and was the first major cave in the Great Basin to be excavated.
Before immigrants came to the area, it was home to the Northern Paiute American Indians, who used the Cave as a sacred place and stored many ancient artifacts. The drive to the Cave is about 20 miles from Lovelock and visitors can take marked trails to the Cave and experience it and its surrounding area.
About an hour and forty-five minutes from Lovelock Cave is your destination of Reno. Often called “the Biggest Little City”, Reno has a myriad of things to do and you will have no difficulty finding things that fit your interests. Downtown Reno has an updated Riverwalk area along the Truckee River, where you can roam and check out the galleries and restaurants that it has to offer. Another appealing way to spend time outdoors in the area is by visiting Lake Tahoe, which is about 40 miles south of Reno, where you can swim in clear water as well as enjoy exploring by boat and on foot on the area’s many trails.
The city offers minor league baseball as the home of the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. College sports are also popular and visitors can cheer on the teams of the University of Nevada, Reno. A whitewater park on the Truckee River in the downtown area offers whitewater events and a course with Class 2 and 3 rapids, which can be enjoyed year-round.
Looking for something to do indoors? The Nevada Museum of Art, which was founded in 1931, offers permanent collections separated into four different themes. There are also temporary exhibits and two outdoor sculpture gardens. The National Automobile Museum is another great stop; during your visit, you can see the 1973 Cadillac that was owned by Elvis Presley!
Planning to stay a few days? There are plenty of opportunities for camping in Reno and its surrounding area, so come and enjoy all that the city has to offer!