This steep granite range is a little-known but striking gem rising from the arid lowlands of Nevada's Great Basin desert. From Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway near Elko, hike the 40-mile Ruby Crest National Recreation Trail, a heart-pounding path that takes in the best of its namesake wilderness. Highlights include switchbacking through pocket valleys and crossing airy passes to Green Mountain.
Contact: Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, (775) 752-3357; www.fs.fed.us/htnf.
Great Basin National Park
Great Basin contains huge limestone caverns, ancient bristlecone pine groves, and the highest peaks of the rugged Snake Range. Backpack the 13-mile Baker Lake-Johnson Lake loop trail, with its excellent views and plentiful water. Or, have a go at Wheeler Peak (13,063 feet) via the Northwest Ridge Trail.
Contact: Great Basin National Park, (775) 234-7331; www.nps.gov/grba.
Boundary Peak Wilderness
Located along Nevada's southwestern border, this wilderness is named after the state's highest summit (13,143 feet). You'll find steep country here, with narrow, colorful gorges plunging thousands of feet into the Great Basin desert. For endless blue-sky views, climb Boundary Peak via the 4,400-foot-elevation-gain Boundary Peak Trail that begins 60 miles north of Bishop, California.
Contact: Inyo National Forest, (760) 873-2400; www.r5.fs.fed.us/inyo.