Nevada’s Hidden Treasures

With about 85 percent of their total land space firmly in the public domain, Nevada is one of the few states in the United States where you can roam free. In this itinerary, we are going to show you the whole of the state, from North To South, East to West, and a few hidden gems in between.

#thisismyroute

Prepared by:
James

States:
Nevada

Start/End:
Las Vegas, Nevada

Total miles:
1,600

Suggested days:
At least 14

Type:
scenic road trip

Recommended for: 
First-timers to the United States, honeymooners, photographers, road trippers, Ghost Hunters
Suggested season: 
year round

Overview

This route is perfect for those who want to experience the beauty of the open road and some of America’s most untamed areas. In other words, you will get to experience a true American road trip that includes old western ghost towns, intriguing American culture and unimaginable scenery, and of course, Vegas, Baby!  You will begin by arriving at McCarran International Airport. The bright lights of  Las Vegas and the myriad of fun things to do here will tempt you……but don’t be pulled by the seductive Siren Call of the Strip. Save it for the end of the trip, when you have a chance to unwind and relax after your epic Nevada road trip. Besides, you don’t want to take the chance that you gamble away all your gas money. On this trip many of the drives between towns will be around three hours, but when you get to the western part of the state, we would recommend finding a place to stay either in Reno or Carson City, and spending the next few days exploring the Sierra Towns of Virginia City, Silver City and the Lake Tahoe Region. Through the course of this trip you be travelling through some of the most vast expanses of the Lower 48. Eastern Nevada is a place of sun drenched stretches of rocky, rolling hills and flowering desert plains. It is a unique beauty, and one that will build lasting memories. So get in, buckle up and shift that car into drive. You are about to experience some of the best the United States has to offer.

How to Prepare

We recommend approximately 14 days for this trip in order to experience each town and activity without feeling too rushed. You have a lot of miles to cover, so we suggest spending at minimum, a day at each stop.  This itinerary is full of suggestions of some of the best places to fully experience the area, with overnight stops in the towns along the way. Plan your trip accordingly so that you experience the places that spark your interest the most. These areas can be crowded in the summertime, and for good reason. There are multiple events and the weather is beautiful. Wintertime is still beautiful in these places, however, because Nevada is a high desert climate, the chances of inclement weather making road driving dangerous is high.. On the other hand, summertime temps in these places can often exceed 100 degrees, so take that into account as you decide your travel dates. A good portion of this trip will be spent in the western and southern parts of the state, but don’t be in too big a rush to get there, take the time to enjoy all the amazing places that you have traveled so far to see, especially the unique mining and ghost towns. Though this itinerary is a day to day guide, it is only a guide and you should feel free to adapt it however you want, taking as much time as you need to fully experience this wonderful part of the world

DAY 1: land in Las Vegas, travel to Caliente

2.5 hours/130 miles

This is a shorter day for a good reason. We suggest arriving early into Las Vegas and renting your car from the airport and setting out east toward your first stop, Caliente. Caliente is the only incorporated town in Lincoln County and is a great first stop for you to acclimate to the splendor of Nevada. We would recommend one stop you make before you get into town is to stop for a selfie at the Extraterrestrial Highway where you turn onto U.S. 93. It will definitely be a talking point for your trip.

Best place to stretch your legs:

Cathedral Gorge

Best museum:

Caliente Railroad Museum

Best place to soak your cares away:

Panaca Hot Springs

Best place to learn about Nevada:

Basin and Range National Monument

Can’t Miss It:

Delmar Ghost Town

Best place for dinner:

The Side Track

DAY 2: The Great Basin National Park and Ely

2 hours 13 minutes/130 miles

With Ely as your ultimate destination, you are going to make a right hand turn at the intersection of Highway 50 and head to one of the United State’s most remote and rarely visited National Parks, Great Basin National Park. Based around Nevada’s second tallest mountain, Wheeler Peak, Great Basin National Park is a vast expanse of desert ecology which does not exist in this capacity anywhere else in the world. To get the most out of your trip, your first stop should be to the Lehman Caves Visitor Center. They will help you on your way. After Great Basin, when you get into Ely, head to the Prospector Hotel and Gambling Hall. Along with a great night’s rest, you can test out your skills for Vegas.

Most unique experience:

Ward Charcoal Ovens

Can’t miss it:

Ely Renaissance Village

Shop local:

Smoke Signals Trading Post

Best museum:

Northern Nevada Railway Museum

Eat a steak in an old jail cell:

The Cell Block

Have a drink and maybe sing a little karaoke:

Corner Tracks

DAY 3: Wendover Will and the bonneville Salt Flats

2 hours/120 miles

Have you ever seen a bullet-shaped race car hit 482.646 mph? Would you like to? The Bonneville Salt Flats would be the place to do it. First opened in 1911, the salt flats are located northeast of West Wendover and are a sight to behold. Stretching over 30,000 acres, the flats are exactly what the name says, straight, flat and staggeringly beautiful. Before heading out there, however, stop first at the West Wendover Visitor and Convention Bureau. They can give you all the information you need. One thing you must do while in West Wendover as well, is get a selfie with Wendover Will.  It’s a famous landmark with visitors from all over the world taking a selfie and then posting it to the West Wendover website.

To read more about West Wendover, click here.

Best hike:

Leppy Trails

Best summit: 

Pilot Peak

Can’t miss it:

Horizonic Viewpoint

Best Mueum:

Wendover Airfield

Best place for dinner:

Pancho and Willies

Best place to unwind with a cocktail and maybe play a little blackjack:

Peppermill Poker Room

DAY 4: Elko

2 hours/120 miles

We know you are going to be hungry this morning, so one last thing we recommend you  do before leaving West Wendover is grabbing a bite to eat. And there is no better place to do it than the Copper Kettle Cafe. Hunger satiated, hit the road for your next stop, Elko. Elko is the largest city in and county seat of Elko County, Nevada, United States. Straddling the Humboldt River, Elko is the principal city of the Elko Micropolitan Statistical Area, a micropolitan area that covers two counties  and a population of around 20,000.  First stop to make in Elko is the Downtown District. It’s a great way to get a taste of the town and orient yourself before heading out into the wider area.

Best scenic Byway:

Angel Lake Scenic Byway

Best burger and beer:

Mattie’s Taphouse and Grill

Where the locals go for fun:

Good Time Charlies

DAY 5: The Dusty Winnemucca Road

7 hours/160 miles

The easiest way to get to Winnemuccca is to head straight down I-80. But this is an epic road trip, and it’s never about the easiest way, its about the most fun way. That’s why today you are going to head north out of Elko along Highway 225, over the Independence Mountains on Highway 789 and through two classic western ghost towns, Tuscarora and Midas. At 7 hours this is a long drive day, so we recommend starting early, the distance is short, however, right around 160 miles, so take that into account for gas consumption. Any car should be able to make it 160 miles on a full tank, but just in case, you might want to think about taking some spare fuel. Once you get to Winnemucca, head to the Bodie Howard Memorial Pool to cool off

Best place for a hike:

Winnemucca Mountain

Can’t miss it:

Winnemucca Sand Dunes

Best place to shop local:

Northern Nevada Trading Company

Best place to try lady luck:

The Model T Casino

Best place for dinner:

Chihuahua’s Cantina

Best place for pancakes:

The Griddle

DAY 6: Down Lonely Highway 121 to Fallon

2 hours 45 minutes/127 miles

Fill up your fuel tank, and head south out of Winnemucca on Highway 121. They don’t call Highway 121 the “Loneliest Road In America” for nothing.  According to NDOT’s records, a mere 10 cars travel this 127-mile stretch of road on a daily basis. And you will have the pleasure of being one of them.  Once you get into Fallon, you will start to notice that you are heading out of the desert and into the Sierras. After your lonely road to Fallon, we would recommend heading to the Slanted Porch and grabbing a cocktail. It’s the perfect place to wash the trail from your throat.

Best place for a hike:

Grimes Point

Best photo op:

The Shoe Tree

Best museum:

Churchill County Museum

See some wildlife:

Stillwater Wildlife Refuge

Visit a distillery:

Frey Ranch Distillery

Best place for dinner:

Vn Pho

DAY 7: Carson City

1 hour 14 minutes/62 miles

So! The next few days are going to be a slight departure from how the earlier week has gone. Today this itinerary is going to take you to Carson City, the capital of Nevada and your home for the next four days. From Carson City, you will be within striking distance to Reno, the mining towns of Virginia and Silver City and Lake Tahoe, all without having to move hotels. And speaking of hotels, one place you should definitely consider staying is the Deer Run Ranch Bed and Breakfast. It’s a great place and the breakfast’s are spectacular. When you get to Carson City, your agenda is going to be all about the things to do within City Limits.

Best place to learn about the Great State of Nevada:

Nevada State Museum

Best way to see the area:

Take a ride on a WWII fighter plane

Pretend you’re Willy Wonka:

Chocolate Nugget Candy Factory

Best place for a stroll:

Downtown Carson City

Best place for dinner:

Red’s Old 395 Grill

Try Lady Luck:

Max Casino

DAY 8: The eastern shores of Lake Tahoe

Roughly split down the middle, Lake Tahoe has shoreline in both Nevada and California. The majority of our suggestions are going to take place along the Nevada side, but it’s okay with us if you want to hop the border and check out the California side as well. South Lake Tahoe is a great resort town, so feel free to wander where your desires want. A good place to stop to orient yourself to the crystal blue waters and Lake Tahoe would be the Carson City Culture and Tourism Authority.

To read more about the California side of Tahoe, click here.

Best hike:

Horsetail Falls

Can’t miss it:

Skunk Harbor

Best place to go for a swim:

Nevada Beach

Best photo op:

Logan Shoals Vista Point

Best place to shop and stroll:

Incline Village

Best cowboy bar:

The Desert Rose

DAY 9: Reno and the Donner Pass Tragedy

Before you head to head to Reno for the day, we are going to take you on a little detour across the border into California  to experience one of the most famous and tragic incidents in American History. Located about 95 miles northwest of Carson City is Donner Pass, named after the ill-fated Donner Party. The Donner Party was a group of American pioneers that set out for California in a wagon train in May 1846. Departing from Independence, Missouri, they were delayed by a series of mishaps and mistakes and spent the winter of 1846–7 snowbound in the Sierra Nevada. Some of the pioneers resorted to cannibalism to survive. Directly before the pass is the Donner Memorial State Park, which is located on the site where the snowbound emigrants spent that winter. The park contains the Emigrant Trail Museum and the Pioneer Monument dedicated to the travelers of the Emigrant Trail. From Donner Pass, head back through Truckee, CA towards Reno. It’s time to relax a bit and the Reno Riverwalk District is just the place to do it. Located in the heart of Reno along the Truckee River, this area has plenty of things to keep you entertained. Want to put some money on Lady Luck instead? Reno has you covered. There is any number of sublime casinos in the area, most of which have free shuttles.

Best photo op:

Rainbow Bridge

Best hike:

Milk Lake Trail

Can’t miss it:

Donner Lake Interpretive Trail

Best place to get some Souvenirs:

Reno eNVy

Best steak:

Atlantis Steakhouse

Best night out:

Death and Taxes Provisions and Spirits

DAY 10: The quest for Silver

3 hours 45 minutes/244 miles

The mid 19th century was defined in the United States by the discovery of gold. It led to a mass exodus from the Eastern parts of the U.S of hopeful miners  looking to strike it rich in the goldfields of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Nevada is no different, with one small exception. Mining in Nevada began not for gold, but silver. The discovery of the Comstock Lode in 1859 is considered one of the most important mining discoveries in US history; it virtually ended the California Gold Rush, as prospectors flocked to Nevada in search of the silver “mother lode.”  Your trip today will take you to some of these historical mining towns: Silver City, and Virginia City .  While your goal is to explore these two towns, there are great little towns like DaytonGold Hill and Mound House to visit as well.

Best place to see a ghost:

The Washoe Club

Best place to get a photo:

Silver Terrace Cemetery

Best place to shop:

Virginia City Mercantiles

Best tour:

Chollar Mine

Best place to grab lunch:

Red Dog Saloon

Most unique experience:

Silver City Cemetery

Best place to explore a ghost town:

Gold Hill

Best place to get a taste of the Old West:

Virginia City Outlaws

Best museum:

The Way It Was Museum

Best place for local brews:

Virginia City Brewery and Taphouse

DAY 11: Tonopah and the Big Smokey Valley

3 hours 45 minutes/220 miles

Today your drive is going to take south along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas. There are going to be some pretty good places to take some scenic photos, so make you stop to fill up your camera. Once you get into Tonopah, our recommendation would be to first get a room for the night at the Clown Motel. We aren’t sure if you have heard of this motel, but it has become world famous over the past few years, if for nothing else than being quite unlike any motel anywhere, ever. We won’t go into too much detail here, but a quick Google Search will tell you everything you want to know. It will be an experience you won’t soon forget. From Tonopah, head north on 376 into the Big Smokey Valley for a great scenic drive and the small near-ghost towns along the way. When you get to Spencer Hot Springs, take a well deserved soak before you turn around and head back again to your room at the haunted Clown Motel.

Best lunch in the Great Smokey Valley:

Blitz Creek

Best museum:

Tonopah Historic Mining Park

Visit your neighbors from the Clown Motel:

Old Tonopah Cemetery

Best BBQ and Beer:

Tonopah Brewing Company

Best place to train for Vegas:

The Mizpah Club

Best sway to see the stars:

STARGAZING PARK

DAY 12 through 14: Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada

3.5 Hours /210 miles

It’s Vegas, Baby! Man oh man, where do we even start? Las Vegas is an internationally renowned destination. You could arguably spend a month here and still not do all the things there are to do. We are going to do our best to give you a number of places to go, divided up into different areas of interest, because Las Vegas is way more than just casinos. But speaking of casinos, each casino has a specific theme or individual concept and we will explore those, but at the heart of a casino is undoubtedly gambling, so here is a comprehensive guide to help you research where you want to go. As far a place to stay, you should also stay in a casino. They are the height of luxury and offer great packages and deals. But which one? Well that is up to you as well. As far as all the other great things to do, perhaps the best place to start would be the Las Vegas Visitors Information Center.  They have everything you need to help you make the most of your stay.

GET OUTDOORS

Visit a waterfall:

Mary Jane Falls Trail

Go for a swim:

Gold Strike Canyon

Best scenic drive:

Red Rock Canyon

Best hike to a great view:

Turtlehead Peak Trail

GET some culture

Learn about the Mafia in Las Vegas:

The Mob Museum

Best place to take the kids:

Discovery Children’s Musuem

Best place to learn some history:

Nevada State Museum

Most eclectic museum:

The Liberace Museum

GET an experience

Cant miss it:

Las Vegas Big Bus Tour

One of a kind experience:

The Hoover Dam

Take a gondola ride:

The canals at the Venetian

Get a bird’s eye view of Las Vegas:

Vegas Balloon Rides

GET some tickets

Best place see acrobatics-themed rock and roll:

Beatles-Love at Cirque du Soleil

A Vegas Icon:

Barry Manilow at the Westgate

Best tribute show:

All Shook Up-A Tribute to the King

Get ready to laugh:

Penn and Teller

GET some food

Best sushi in the state:

Kabuto

Best buffet:

The Buffet at Wynn Hotel

Best place for seafood:

The Oyster Bar at the Palace

Eat a  Michelin meal:

Rose. Rabbit. Lie.

GET some fun

Best place to dance:

Omnia

Can’t miss it:

The Strip

Best way to get wet:

Cowabunga Bay

Go ride a go kart:

Las Vegas Mini Grand Prix