Outdoors

Editors’ Picks

Best outside place for outsider art

Thunder Mountain Monument, about 135 miles east of Reno, has been catching the attention of passersby for nearly half a century. Sprawled across several acres of land alongside Interstate 80, it’s a massive folk art installation. For a time, it was also home to its creator, Frank Van Zant, and his family. Accounts vary as to why Van Zant—a World War II veteran, sheriff’s deputy, forest ranger and private investigator—stopped his 1946 Chevy pickup near Imlay, Nevada in 1968. The family was, ostensibly, moving somewhere farther east. But the truck and the trailer it pulled never moved again. Instead, Van Zant built a three-story, 50-foot-tall daub-and-bottle building around the trailer. It’s one of several buildings on the property, each covered almost entirely in bas relief and freestanding sculptures of Native Americans. Odds and ends, from tires to typewriters, are embedded among the bottles. Old cars and pilfered highway signs create a perimeter around much of the monument. Interpretive texts give some insight into Van Zant’s motivations and what life at the monument was like for his family—but the joy of this place lies in questions it provokes and leaves unanswered.

Best graffiti art park (now that American Flat is gone)

American Flat was a 190-acre ruin, formerly a 1920s mill complex, more recently a weird-ass, backwoods, safety-code-violating paradise, an unofficial graffiti art park whose crumbling concrete columns, walls and factory-like buildings were covered with simple tags and elaborate murals. Now, American Flat is no longer. The BLM deemed it too unsafe and demolished it in 2015. But—did you know that there’s another graffiti-bedecked ruin that makes for an equally satisfying jaunt? From a parking spot on Donner Summit Road near Donner Summit Bridge, outside of Truckee, it’s a quick scramble up a boulder-dotted slope to reach a string of train tunnels, dug with picks and gunpowder in the 1860s and abandoned in the 1990s. If you get tired of traipsing through dim, dank tunnels punctuated with strange-shaped windows and ever-changing graffiti exhibits—which you won’t—there’s more to explore from the same spot: Washoe petroglyphs, the China Wall historic landmark, probably a geocache or two and a dazzling view of Donner Lake.

Readers’ Picks

Best bicycle-ride destination

1. Truckee River

2. Lake Tahoe

3. Peavine Mountain

Best golf course

1. Lakeridge Golf Course

1218 Golf Club Drive, 825-2200

2. The Club at Arrow Creek

2905 Arrowcreek Pkwy., 850-4653

3. Washoe County Golf Course

2601 Foley Way, 828-6633

Best local hot springs

1. David Walley’s Hot Springs Resort and Spa

2001 Foothill Road, Genoa, 782-8155

2. Carson Hot Springs Resort

1500 Old Hot Springs Road, Carson City, 885-8844

3. Steamboat Hot Springs

16010 S. Virginia St., 853-6600

Best picnic spot

1. Rancho San Rafael Regional Park

2. Idlewild Park

3. Lake Tahoe

Best place to ride a personal watercraft

1. Lake Tahoe

2. Pyramid Lake

3. Boca Reservoir

Best place to swim

1. Lake Tahoe

2. Pyramid Lake

3. Truckee River

Best ski resort

1. Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe

22222 Mt. Rose Highway, 849-0704

2. Squaw Valley Resort

1960 Squaw Valley Road, Olympic Valley, California, (800) 403-0206

3. Northstar California Resort

5001 Northstar Drive, Truckee, California, (800) 466-6784

Best snowboarding

1. Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe

22222 Mt. Rose Highway, 849-0704

2. Squaw Valley Resort

1960 Squaw Valley Road, Olympic Valley, California, (800) 403-0206

3. Northstar California Resort

5001 Northstar Drive, Truckee, California, (800) 466-6784

Best spot to hike

1. Lake Tahoe

2. Tahoe Rim Trail

3. Galena Creek Regional Park

Best hiking trail

1. Hunter Creek Trail

2. Tahoe Rim Trail

3. Mt. Rose Trail

Best spot to run around naked

1. Burning Man

2. Lake Tahoe

3. Secret Cove

Best spot to smooch under the stars

1. Windy Hill

2. Lake Tahoe

3. Burning Man

Best street for biking

1. Riverside Drive

2. Mayberry Drive

3. Holcomb Avenue