Exploring Nevada By Car
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!
Explore Off the Beaten Path
Eastern Nevada from South to North
- Hiking Around Las Vegas, Red Rocks, Calico Tank
Free information about hiking around Las Vegas. Includes descriptions, driving directions, GPS waypoints, and special details.
- Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
Dedicated in 1935, Valley of Fire is Nevada's oldest State Park. It is located only 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
- GORP - Great Basin National Park - Caving
NV Travel Guide
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.
Nevada Road Maps
Highway 50 - "The Lonliest Road"
- White Pine Tourism, Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development
- Nevada Northern Railway
Nevada Northern Railway Historical Operating Railroad Museum in Ely, Nevada
- Austin, Nevada
I've stayed here a few times. Our fave motel is the Pony Canyon. And we always eat at the International Cafe. The historic cemetery is interesting as is Stokes Castle.
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 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.
Looking for something....different?
Highway 95 Points of Interest
- Town of Tonopah, Nevada- Queen Of The Silver Camps
Silver was discovered here in 1900, which sparked one of the biggest mining booms in the state. Many of the town's buildings, such as the Mizpah Hotel and the Nye County Courthouse, were built in the early 20th century.
- The Haunted Goldfield Hotel in Goldfield Nevada
In the almost ghost town of Goldfield, Nevada is the historic and reportedly very haunted Goldfield Hotel.
- Beatty, NV
Located just 7 miles east of the Death Valley National Park border, 40 minutes from Furnace Creek, and about 100 miles north of Las Vegas, Beatty, Nevada is your home base for desert adventure!