Backpacking in Nevada: TOP 5 Multi-Day Trails

Ultralight Backpacking in Nevada: A backpacker standing in Red Rock Canyon

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Backpacking in Nevada offers immense variety for outdoor enthusiasts, from the rugged peaks of the Ruby Mountains to the windswept trails of the Black Rock Desert, including popular destinations like the Sierra Nevada.

And that’s what this post is all about – backpacking in Nevada. We’ll provide tips to help you prepare for backpacking in this diverse state as well as showcase the TOP 5 multi-day trails in Nevada.

Interested? Let’s get started.

Key Tips for Backpacking in Nevada

  • What to expect: Nevada’s deserts and mountains are tough but beautiful for backpacking. It gets really hot during the day and cold at night, so bring layers. Water is scarce, and the trails are rocky. It can be challenging, especially in isolated areas with little shade. If you’re up for it and like solitude and unique features, Nevada is rewarding. But, it’s best for experienced backpackers who can handle tough conditions.
  • Essential gear: When backpacking in Nevada, it’s super important to bring lots of water and electrolyte supplements because of the dry climate. Wear lightweight, breathable clothes for sun protection. Use a GPS device to help navigate on faint trails, and make sure to bring plenty of physical maps and a compass too.
  • Wildlife: Nevada hosts potentially dangerous wildlife, including venomous rattlesnakes, some mountain-dwelling black bears, cougars, scorpions, and spiders like black widows and brown recluses. Biting insects can also pose risks, potentially causing allergic reactions.
  • Wild camping: You can go backcountry hiking and camping in Nevada’s public land, but there are some rules to follow. Your stay is limited to 14 days, and there might be local restrictions, so be aware of those. Always stay at least 100 feet away from streams or water sources. Keep in mind that Nevada’s backcountry areas are remote, so there’s no drinking water or firewood for campfires.
  • Best times to go are from late spring to early fall, around May to September. The summer months, especially June to August, are popular due to mild weather and favorable trail conditions, offering opportunities to explore the state’s diverse landscapes. Fall, from September to October, is also a good time with comfortable temperatures and potential for beautiful scenery.

Top 5 Backpacking Trails in Nevada

Nevada’s top multi-day backpacking trails, which showcase the state’s immense natural beauty:

1. Tahoe Rim Trail

The photo shows a serene mountain lake surrounded by evergreen trees with snow-capped peaks in the background

Length: 166.6 mi / 268 km
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 26 870 ft / 8190 m
Location: Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 20 300 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

This challenging 166-mile loop near Incline Village, open July-September, is a rugged multi-day backpackers’ trail with scenic Tahoe vistas, crossing through The Desolation Wilderness and reaching 10,286 feet at Relay Peak. Conditions require caution, preparation for changing weather, and experience hiking steep, exposed sections with stream crossings.

2. Ruby Crest Trail

The image shows golden autumnal trees scattered across a rolling grassy field under a bright blue sky

Length: 36.6 mi / 58.9 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 9714 ft / 2961 m
Location: Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 4800 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

The Ruby Crest Trail is a remote 36.6-mile point-to-point backpacking route in the Ruby Mountains near Elko, Nevada. It offers stunning high alpine scenery with granite peaks, mountain lakes, and flower meadows along its challenging terrain. The multi-day hike requires navigation skills and preparation for steep climbs, rugged descents, and solitude across its scenic yet demanding path.

3. Toiyabe Crest Trail

The photo shows a hiker overlooking the city of Reno and the mountainous landscape from the summit of Peavine Peak in Nevada

Ken Lund, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Length: 36.4 mi / 58.6 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 11 076 ft / 3376 m
Location: Arc Dome Wilderness
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 5000 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

The Toiyabe Crest Trail is a remote 36.4-mile point-to-point backpacking route near Round Mountain, Nevada, offering solitude and scenic views. The challenging route has 11,076 feet of elevation gain and is ideal for experienced backpackers seeking stunning vistas and seclusion. Proper preparation and navigation skills are needed for the demanding climbs and descents along the trail through the Toiyabe mountain range.

4. Ruby Lakes Trail

The photo depicts wispy clouds drifting over the rolling foothills leading up to the snowcapped Ruby Mountains in remote northeastern Nevada

H Flannery, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Length: 24.7 mi / 39.7 km
Type: Out and back
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 7230 ft / 2204 m
Location: Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 3350 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

The Ruby Mountains Trail is a scenic yet challenging 24.7-mile out-and-back route near Spring Creek, Nevada, taking experienced backpackers about 15 hours to complete. The July-September season offers spectacular wilderness views of alpine lakes and the Ruby Mountains along its remote path up to 10,000 feet. Proper preparation and supplies are essential for this strenuous mountain hike with changeable weather, rugged sections, and limited water sources between Furlong Creek and Overland Lake.

5. Spring Mountain Divide Trail

The photo shows a rugged, rocky landscape dotted with evergreen trees in the foreground, with snowcapped mountains looming in the distance

Length: 24.6 mi / 39.5 km
Type: Out and back
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 8349 ft / 2545 m
Location: Mount Charleston Wilderness
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 3460 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

The scenic yet strenuous 24.6-mile Bristlecone Trail near Indian Springs is an out-and-back route taking experienced hikers about 16 hours to complete roundtrip. The May-October season provides beautiful mountain wilderness views in Mt. Charleston, with the trail climbing to around 10,000 feet through forests and meadows. Proper preparation and adequate water sources are essential for this remote mountain hike, as the route has rugged sections and the only reliable water source is Wood Spring.

Annual Weather Averages

Keep in mind that Nevada can have hot temperatures, so it’s essential to plan trips accordingly and stay hydrated:

  • Spring (March-May): Mild temps of 50-70°F with wildflowers blooming at lower elevations. At higher elevations, snowmelt swells rivers and some trails still inaccessible.
  • Summer (June-August): Hot, dry temps from 90-100°F. Afternoon thunderstorms possible. Best to backpack at higher elevations for cooler weather.
  • Fall (September-November): Cooler temps of 60-80°F make for pleasant hiking conditions. Less chance of rain. Leaves changing color at higher elevations in October.
  • Winter (December-February): Frigid temps with highs of 30-50°F and lows well below freezing. Snow common in the mountains. Technical winter gear required.

Prior to choosing your gear, review the weather data for Nevada (Las Vegas):

High °F58637178899910510395816757
Low °F404451576676828172604740
Rainy days343210222223
Note: This table is approximate; weather can change with altitude.

Alternative Backpacking Destinations

Not sure if Nevada is right for you?

Don’t forget to check out our backpacking guides for Utah and Oregon.


Can I have a campfire while backpacking in Nevada? 

Campfires are extremely risky and restricted in Nevada’s arid backcountry due to the potential for uncontrolled wildfires. Most public lands prohibit ground fires outside of developed campground rings. Stoves are highly recommended for cooking. Gathering wood is often prohibited as well.

What are some safety tips for backpacking in Nevada?

Exploration of Nevada’s rugged wilderness comes with risks, so come prepared when venturing into its beautiful nature and outdoors. Check trailhead information boards for permit requirements before starting your backpacking trip. Stay on marked trails as the open desert can make navigation difficult without proper skills. Experience the tranquility of nature but remain vigilant for wildlife encounters. Carry plenty of water and sun protection as dehydration is a real danger. Inform someone of your trip details since trails are remote. Shake out boots and use trekking poles to avoid stepping on venomous creatures. Bring emergency communication devices in case you get lost, and beware of flash flooding in slot canyons during monsoon season. With the right preparation, you can safely enjoy exploring Nevada’s scenic backcountry while embracing the outdoor challenges it presents.

How to deal with wildlife encounters while backpacking in Nevada?

Make noise periodically to avoid surprising them, and never approach or crowd them. Give wildlife plenty of space, watch where you step, and use trekking poles for stability. Keep food properly stored, don’t feed wild animals, and learn proper removal techniques if bitten or stung. Carrying bear spray, snake bite kits, and knowing first aid can help you handle wildlife encounters.

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Leading the pack is our editor-in-chief, Alex Jardine – an ultralight evangelist who's hiked over 10,000 trail miles across the globe. He's basically a walking outdoor encyclopedia. This dude loves testing out the latest and greatest products, so you can trust his recommendations are always well-informed and reliable.

We treat all our suggestions like advice from close trail buddies. No fluff, just real insights from folks who live and breathe the outdoor life.

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