If you’ve ever visited Nevada outside of the bright lights of Las Vegas, you know that there’s so much more to the state than just gambling and slot machines. This rings true for West Wendover, a small town on the Nevada-Utah border within Cowboy Country. Surrounded by mountains and salt flats, West Wendover has enough to keep a family busy for three adventurous days in the desert!
This story was created in partnership with City of West Wendover and the Nevada Division of Tourism. All photos by Tobey Schmidt.
Day 1: Welcome to West Wendover!
If you drove into West Wendover from the east, you probably noticed the expansive, white salt flats that seem to swallow the freeway—you may have even stopped at the rest stop to have a closer look. The Bonneville Salt Flats is an ancient dry lake bed from the Pleistocene Lake Bonneville. The salt flats are known to be the largest of many in the Great Salt Lake area.
We recommend seeing the flats at sunrise, from the Bonneville International Speedway just 10 miles out of West Wendover. Drive into the abyss and capture the sunrise. You can walk around, ride your bike, or even have a dance party—whatever your heart desires! Traveler pro tip: try to catch the salt flats after it rains, as the water will add a stunning reflection.
After a nice morning exploring the salt flats, drive back into town for some grub and a tour of the Wendover Historic Airfield. The airfield is the most original remaining World War II Army Air Forces training base in the country. During the war it served as a training base for B-17 and B-24 bomber crews. As a visitor you won’t be looking at artifacts inside of glass cases, you’ll actually be walking where the airmen walked, inside the very same hangars where they housed the heavy bombers.
Day 2: Get Outside!
Start another morning off with adventure and drive just 30 minutes south of town to a geothermal lake known as Blue Lake. The lake is fed by several warm springs, keeping the water at a consistent 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s a popular spot for scuba divers to keep up on their skills in the middle of the desert. We didn’t go for a dive or a swim, but we did enjoy the views and the peaceful remoteness.
If you have a 4WD vehicle, or even better, a side-by-side, you’ll love exploring the back roads outside of West Wendover. Just north of town in the Silver Island Mountains and Leppy Hills Mountains, there are plenty of dirt roads leading to ridges and beautiful vistas. Some areas can be accessed by a normal 4WD vehicles, but many will need high-clearance as well. Stay until sunset to get the best view of Pilot Peak in the distance.
After the sun sets, drive west out towards 3-mile hill, looking back at West Wendover. This is your opportunity to see the curvature of the Earth with your own eyes! This is only possible in a handful of places in the world, and West Wendover happens to be one of them because of how flat the ground is and how long it goes on for. Look back towards the trail of linear lights along the railroad tracks and you should be able to see them start to drop near the back—that’s the Earth’s curvature!
Day 3: Don’t Leave West Wendover Without One Last Adventure!
If you’re staying in town, you may be able to walk over to the Leppy Hills trail system, that’s how close to town it is! Before jumping back into your car on the road, we recommend getting a bit of exercise in on the Leppy Hills Loop. Whether you want to walk or ride your bike, this trail system offers 5 miles of hard pack gravel, making for easy terrain. Enjoy the blooming wildflowers if you happen to be visiting in the spring!
Stay safe, play safe, and when your car is covered in white dirt and brown sand, and your legs are tired from hiking, and your face sore from smiling, you know it’s time to head home. Whether West Wendover was your destination or a stop along the way, we’re sure that you won’t regret stopping in this little desert oasis.