Winter Sun Fun
Escape the cold weather at these state parks.
Few people picture T-shirts and shorts when planning their winter adventure. In southern Nevada, however, that’s the perfect wardrobe. From November through February the daytime temperatures are rarely below 60 degrees, and the great outdoors beg to be enjoyed before the return of summer’s blast-furnace temps. That said, both Big Bend of the Colorado and Spring Mountain Ranch are packed with plenty of reasons to visit any time of year.
BIG BEND OF THE COLORADO
Nevada’s most southern state park—Big Bend of the Colorado State Recreation Area—wanders along the shores of the Colorado River just south of Laughlin. The shoreline is dotted with covered shelters, picnic benches, horseshoe pits, and sandy beaches.
Each winter, snowbirds of all stripes flock to the campground that features mostly pull-through sites for RVs up to 60 feet. The park is also ADA friendly; three campsites are reserved for those with permits, and parking and beach access points are accessible for most, with rubber mats occasionally snaking down toward the water.
The park’s location offers natural splendor of every variety. The number of trails accessible from the campground is impressive. There are 4 miles of trails in the park, and the surrounding hills have oodles of trails, also. You can even ride dirt all the way to Boulder City if the mood strikes. The area is home to abundant wildlife, such as cottontail, fox, beaver, and even the occasional bobcat or bighorn sheep. Roadrunners compete with quail for mesquite beans, while numerous waterfowl look on.
In the summer, temps can soar to 120 degrees, so it’s no wonder the shores of the rolling river call to guests. If you come during peak season, plan to arrive early before the parking lot fills for the day.
SPRING MOUNTAIN RANCH
Water in the desert is scarce, naturally, and when discovered, word spreads. For more than 10,000 years, the six bubbling springs in the desert near Las Vegas have drawn attention, first from southern Paiute then pioneers and settlers. By the 1870s, a 528-acre working ranch was in place. It changed names a few times and went through a host of owners—German actress Vera Krupp and Howard Hughes, among them.
Spring Mountain became a park in 1974 when the state bought the ranch after plans to develop it into a massive housing project failed. A guided tour is a must, so contact the park for the current schedule. Visitors can roam parts of the house, and volunteer docents fill in the blanks of history with fascinating stories. Memorabilia from Krupp includes a secret room, plus some of her furniture and glamorous clothing.
After a tour, venture outside where walking trails allow access to much of the property, including two of the oldest buildings in the state. A massive lawn dotted with picnic tables and barbecues gives families a place to relax as sunlight plays off the colorful hills above.
The park hosts many programs and special events including weekly yoga and living history lectures that bring the ranch’s past to life. Super Summer Theater comes to the park each year. A tradition since 1976, this is a big party, with visitors bringing picnic baskets, blankets, chairs, and beverages for a night of theater under the summer sky.