Exploring Nevada By Car

Eerie, abandoned, charcoal ovens from Ward.
Eerie, abandoned, charcoal ovens from Ward. | Source
The terrifying front office of the Clown Motel located in Tonopah.
The terrifying front office of the Clown Motel located in Tonopah. | Source

The Great Nevada Road Trip! (actually several...)

My explorations of Nevada got started when I began going to an annual event held outside of Las Vegas every spring. I was living in California when I started going, so a friend and I got the idea that we'd make a little road trip and travel around for a few weeks with our gathering in the middle.

Now a few years later, despite my having moved to Washington State, we've kept up the habit of the spring road trip in Nevada, exploring bits of Southern California along the way. By connecting the dots between friends we have in the state and using a few shared interests to pick attractions, we've managed to cover just about everything that's not owned by the government.

If you've ever been curious about taking a road trip in Nevada, here are some personal recommendations for places to go and sights to see!


On the road again...

Getting Away from Vegas

Most people who go to Nevada are there to go to Las Vegas. However, there's a lot to do if you just get outside the city. Not only does that give you a break from the traffic, the noise and the neon, but it gets you right into the natural beauty that is Nevada.

Red Rocks and the Calico Hills are a great destination for a day trip. If you are a hiker or rock climber, you'll probably want to stay for a few days. The layering of the rock formations is what gives the area it's name, and be sure to have a camera with you as it's just gorgeous.

A bit further north and east of Vegas is the Valley of Fire. This is Nevada's oldest state park and at sunrise or sunset you can see how the valley got its name. There are fantastic rock formations, ancient petroglyphs and some great campgrounds. This site is just over an hour drive from the city, and is a great stop if you are heading further north, or east to Utah.

The Extraterrestrial Highway is the nickname for Highway 375 and it takes you through Rachel, NV, the unofficial UFO capital of the US. The Little A-lee-inn Cafe is a perfect spot to stop for lunch, check out the ID4 monument and get cool alien gear for the folks back home. You can day-trip out here from Vegas, or make it part of your journey north or west.

If you take Highway 93 north, you'll want to make sure to stop off at the Great Basin National Park and explore the Lehman Caves. There's some wonderful roadside art as you approach the park and the educational tour of the caves has a fun, interactive element. It's also a great way to take a break from the desert heat.


Highway 50 - "The Lonliest Road"

Running across northern Nevada from east to west is Highway 50, nicknamed "the loneliest road in America." I do have to say, there's not much out there but the drive, however the landscape and the views can be very beautiful.

Our driving started in Ely, NV. This town was the northern hub of Nevada railway back in the day and is a good place to make sure you're well-stocked before you get out on the road. Just west of town is the Garnet Hill Recreation Area where you can go rock-hounding for natural garnets. These stones are reddish-brown due to their high concentrations of iron and can be gleaned from washes on the ridge or dug up if you've got a good rock hammer and some time to devote.

Just west of Eureka, NV are the Hickison Petroglyphs. In addition to seeing the ancient rock art, there's also a campground. Just past the petroglyphs is the town of Austin, NV. This is where we always stay along this road. The town is just a few hundred people but there are a few motels in town and a few places eat. They have a great historic cemetery just outside of town and although you can only see the Stokes Castle from the far side of a fence, it's very cool to check out.


Have you seen...?

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The ID4 monument is just outside Area 51Sherri's Ranch, home of the best sandwiches in all of Pahrump.The Egyptian goddess Sekhmet at the Temple in Cactus SpringsThe Goldfield Art Car Park
The ID4 monument is just outside Area 51
The ID4 monument is just outside Area 51 | Source
Sherri's Ranch, home of the best sandwiches in all of Pahrump.
Sherri's Ranch, home of the best sandwiches in all of Pahrump. | Source
The Egyptian goddess Sekhmet at the Temple in Cactus Springs
The Egyptian goddess Sekhmet at the Temple in Cactus Springs | Source
The Goldfield Art Car Park
The Goldfield Art Car Park | Source

Western Nevada

The main route along western Nevada is Highway 95, which heads south from Reno and ends up in Las Vegas.

Where 95 and highway 6 meet is the town of Tonopah. We've stopped here twice over the years, both time to eat lunch at a nice Mexican restaurant. We've never remembered the name, but it's the place with all the cars parked outside when compared to all the other daytime businesses.

Heading south from Tonopah, we were surprised and delighted to come across the Goldfield Art Car Park. These rolling art assemblies are the work of a man called Rocket Bob and this is where his art babies live when they aren't driving around Burning Man. We took pics and left a donation in the box.

After miles of signs promising the best jerky in the state, we had to stop in Beatty and see for ourselves. That was some damn fine jerky, for sure, and the local honey offers novel flavors too. Just outside Beatty (heading West) is the historic ghost town of Rhyolite. It's got a very cool open-air art museum nearby and some of the old gold-mining buildings and structures are still standing. This is a great stop if you are headed for Death Valley.

If you head south from Beatty, you'll pass through the extremely tiny town of Cactus Springs. There you can find The Temple of Goddess Spirituality Dedicated to Sekhmet, a project founded by the Center for the Study of the Gift Economy. This Goddess-dedicated space offers full moon rituals, women's mysteries and more.

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Nevada Travel Tips and Feedback - share your experiences 19 comments

MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 4 years ago from Northern California, USA

Wow! What a trip! All of the places you mentioned sound exciting. I've never heard of any of these spots. My family goes to Nevada every year to meet up. So, I think I will look some of these places up when we go next year.


glockr profile image

glockr 4 years ago

I love living in Nevada. Lots of cool things to see and I don't mean the casinos or other tourist traps. I especially like hiking along some of the abandoned rail lines. Favorite town is probably Silver Peak.


Bonnie & Bob 4 years ago

If you enjoy hot springs then stop at Bailey's Hot Springs on hwy 95 about 6 mi north of Beaty. We are here right now and the private baths are great and very reasonable.


Barbara Stickly profile image

Barbara Stickly 5 years ago

Highway 50 is indeed the loneliest road! If you go be sure to fill up your gas tank every chance you get. I planned to fill up at a place that didn't exist anymore and drove in to the next town on fumes. There is nothing in between so if you get stuck, you're stuck for a while!


deniborin profile image

deniborin 5 years ago from Indonesia

nice article


juneaukid profile image

juneaukid 6 years ago from Denver, Colorado

I greatly enjoyed your hub--Nevada, indeed, has many natural wonders that can easily lead one away from casinos and glitter. I like backcountry Nevada much better than Reno or Las Vegas!


cherylelvis 7 years ago

Used to live in Reno and absolutely fell in love with Nevada and the Great Basin. Travelled all over the state as much as I could and never got enough of its beauty. Great site. Thanks.


kiwi91 profile image

kiwi91 7 years ago from USA

Nevada truly is an eclectic state. The Extraterrestrial Highway is weird. We stopped at the Little Alie'inn Diner (I probably spelled that wrong) somewhere outside of Area 51. I don't think I've ever been somewhere more desolate than that stretch of desert. Then, you drive south and hit Vegas - the complete opposite, or drive north and hit alpine mountains and Lake Tahoe. It's an underrated state for sightseeing and road trippin'.


morgan 7 years ago

never had the time to take the family on a road trip but this post encourages me to find the time. thanks


msms profile image

msms 8 years ago

Nevada describes too well for everyone. You have painted a map with all colors.

Great reading


Karen Ellis profile image

Karen Ellis 8 years ago from Central Oregon

Hi Relache,

What I remember of Nevada was miles and miles of driving through nothingness. Where the only bathrooms were miles and miles apare. Not sure what that mattered as you rarely met anyone on the road and could have stopped just about anywhere, except there weren't many trees to to beind.

Anyway, of course we stopped in Vegas and had to go to Parumph to see where Art Bell lives.

Informative article, thanks.

Karen


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia

This looks like it could be a fun trip!


Bianca Bardot profile image

Bianca Bardot 8 years ago

I have to get to Nevada! You just reminded me how much more I'd like to go.. Thanks for the great hub!


relache profile image

relache 8 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

I recommend doing NV travel in the sprig or fall, when the temperatures are the best and you aren't bogged down with mud.


jonixk profile image

jonixk 8 years ago from Lisbon

If someday i could go to usa, this is one trip that i must take.


relache profile image

relache 8 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

This trip, we're concentrating on some spots on the western edge we've only ever passed through quickly before. The only thing that makes NV road trips long is having to drive around the very large and very mysterious military bases. Otherwise, it'd be really quick.


Wanderlust profile image

Wanderlust 8 years ago from New York City

Always wanted to explore Nevada by car. I've to Vegas a couple of times and flew to Grand Canyon, but never had a chance to take a road trip. Will keep in mind your recommendations for my next trip to Vegas. Thank you!


relache profile image

relache 8 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

I'm headed off for my fourth road trip in Nevada in just a few weeks. I fly down to meet my friend in the Bay Area and we drive from there. That way neither the flight nor the driving is too much.


Eileen Hughes profile image

Eileen Hughes 8 years ago from Northam Western Australia

You make me want to come over and have a look. Except I hate flying and that's a long long trip. thanks

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