Driving along the highway on I-80 at 80mph the world blurs by. Desert, sky, what was that, an 87 foot tall tree? Must have been seeing things. But peddling a bike along the gravel roads around West Wendover, Nevada, that’s when you really start getting into the details.
This story was created in partnership with The City of West Wendover and Travel Nevada.
Stupid and Salty
Now do that for 200+ miles and you can come back and say you saw West Wendover for real. During my recent visit to West Wendover, Nevada, I had the opportunity to spectate the Salty Lizard and Stupid Pony gravel grinder bike races. They are one-of-a-kind events, to say the least, and it will get you just about as in touch with the high desert as you can handle. The race is the brainchild of West Wendover local, John Hernandez who grew up biking in the area and was inspired to share this incredible and overlooked spot with others. And he’s right: once you get off the highway is when your adventure really begins. Dirt roads forever, winding through jagged desert peaks and huge expanses.
Event better, no matter when you visit you can have this experience. Put the car in park, hop on your bike, and ride through this unique landscape and really get to know West Wendover, Nevada.
Getting a New Perspective
About five miles south of town, something starts to happen. The landscape stretches out and the monstrous nearly 11,000 foot silhouette of Pilot Peak starts to rise over West Wendover. Its stark presence reaching out from the middle of the desert is intriguing and dramatic. When I was there it had just snowed up high, making views of this iconic peak truly breathtaking.
This area is a migratory path for hawks and the gateway to some great hiking trails. But at the end of an adventurous day, simply looking back into the sunset over Pilot Peak was an unforgettable way to experience it.
A Night on the town
A big day of biking, hiking, and birding (or maybe just one of those activities) calls for food, and lots of it. Hot preferably. Pancho and Willies is the spot I found for steaming fajitas. A margarita too? If you insist. Friendly waiters and hundreds of cacti make it an interesting and entertaining spot to eat, and you can keep the winning streak going in the adjacent casino or opt for some live music in this very walkable town.
Diving into the Desert
Scuba diving… in the desert? Just 30 minutes from West Wendover, Blue Lake is a geothermal hotspot over 60 feet deep that offers 75-degree waters. This makes it a mecca for diving practice and instruction. In fact, I happened to be there when the great people of Dive Magic from Boise Idaho were enjoying this unique diving destination and showed me the ropes. If you forgot to pack your dive gear, dip your toes in the water and enjoy the warm waters, fishing, and wildlife watching. (Pro tip: pack bug spray).
Soaking up the Sunset
The Bonneville Salt Flats. It’s where land speed records are set and where sunsets come alive. After a rainstorm, this perfectly flat piece of earth turns into a gigantic mirror to soak up all the beauty. Driving out into my own little corner of the salt flats and taking it all in was a magical moment to say the least.
Why West Wendover, Nevada?
I spent three days getting to know this little desert town and it stuck with me. It’s a vast place that has something for everyone and room for everyone to do it. I loved waking up and peddling to a bike trail without having to get back in the car. I loved watching the clouds paint patterns of light across the jagged hills. I loved, most of all, meeting genuine people who were happy to see me there and eager to share why this spot is much, MUCH, more than what you see from the highway.