Basque food and ghost towns, stargazing and river rafting —
Experience Nevada’s “Don’t Fence Me In” attitude this summer
TravelNevada debuts five summer experiences in five Nevada territories, encouraging travelers to follow ancient Basque pilgrimages, traverse ghosts towns, explore alpine lakes and rock formations, practice mindfulness and view meteor showers from one of the last remaining dark skies.
From desolation to neon, Nevada’s eclectic culture reserves a road trip for every traveler this summer. Here are Nevada’s top five summer experiences by region:
Eat, sleep and troupe like the Basques in Cowboy Country… or watch the Man burn.
The Ruby Mountains, or the “Alps of America,” offer more than 300 miles of trails throughout 90,000 acres of high-desert wilderness. Backpackers, climbers, hunters and horseback riders flock to the famed Lamoille Canyon—a glacier-carved, natural landmark and home of the 40-mile Ruby Crest Trail. After a day of hiking or off-roading Nevada’s largest sand dunes in Winnemucca (elev. 4,400 feet), The Martin Hotel & Restaurant (established in 1898) boasts some of the state’s best Basque dining.
Similarly, the Star Hotel in Elko has served family style portions of locally raised lamb and beef since 1910. Nevada’s settlement of Basque sheepherders at the turn of the century has worked its way into American culture, proven by the infamous Picon Punch—an Americanized boozy cocktail, named the official drink of Nevada. For a more eccentric experience, the annual Burning Man Festival welcomes over 70,000 citizens from the “default world” back to the “real world” in the Black Rock Desert. Suggested Road Trip: The Rubies Route: Lamoille Scenic Byway and Jarbidge Historic Townsite.
Stargaze in Great Basin National Park—and bring a friend! It’s gonna get lonely along Highway 50.
A region marked by iconic transportation routes, the Pony Express Trail pays tribute to hundreds of horseback riders who delivered the nation’s mail from 1860-61. Today, travelers can loosely follow the pilgrimage along Highway 50, dubbed the Loneliest Road in America. The eastward stretch from Carson City to Baker is a gateway to Nevada history (and prehistory).
In the City of Fallon, taste third-generation gin and whiskey at Frey Ranch Estate Distillery, or trace ancient petroglyphs at Grimes Point. Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge and Sand Mountain attract birders and off-roaders; while agritourists can take a bite of a homegrown Heart of Gold Cantaloupe at the annual Cantaloupe Festival. Pick up a piece of Nevada-mined turquoise and handcrafted jewelry at Little Blue Bird Turquoise in Austin, or take an evening dip in Spencer Hot Springs.
At the end of the easterly trek, recline your seats and open the sunroof to the largest national park in Nevada, Great Basin National Park. Home to limestone caves and Nevada’s second-tallest peak, Mt. Wheeler, Great Basin is also a coveted astronomical viewing site with almost zero light pollution. Recognized by the International Dark Sky Association, the park attracts thousands of nature enthusiasts during the Perseid Meteor Shower in August. Suggested road trip: Great Basin Highway: U.S. 93 from Vegas to Ely, covering 8 State Parks & Great Basin National Park.
Meet the Lady in Red (or a little green man) in Nevada Silver Trails.
Travelers through Nevada Silver Trails are equally likely to see ghosts, aliens or desert art. The eerie haul from Tonopah to Las Vegas marks dozens of abandoned towns, which greatly outnumber populated towns in Nevada. Enjoy a cocktail at the historic and newly renovated Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah, and say hello to its resident ghost, the Lady in Red.
Travel 30 minutes south to Goldfield (one of many ghost towns) for a walk through the International Car Forest—a collection of rusted, painted, up-turned vehicles. The Extraterrestrial Highway (State Route 375) bipasses Area 51 and leads travelers to Rachel, the “UFO Capital of the World.” With a population of less than 60 residents, The Little A’Le’Inn is the town’s only restaurant, bar and inn.
Practice mindfulness and swoon over art in Reno-Tahoe.
Lake Tahoe, North America’s largest alpine lake, is a focal point for summer travelers and outdoor enthusiasts. With water sports ranging from clear-bottom kayaks to scuba diving—and land sports spanning from mountain biking to golf—Lake Tahoe provides a mindful escape to a diverse natural backdrop. Rent bikes at Tunnel Creek Cafe for a loop to Spooner Lake, or paddle to various lakeside restaurants and bars using the Lake Tahoe Ale Trail Map. After basking on Tahoe’s iconic sun-roasted boulders and sandy beaches, a plunge in the lake reintroduces travelers to last winter’s snow melt.
The annual Shakespeare Festival at Sand Harbor invites acclaimed performances to an outdoor amphitheater, July – Aug. The 45-minute drive from Lake Tahoe to Reno welcomes a bustling art scene at the annual Artown festival—a month-long series of performances, installations and artist events throughout multiple venues in July. Enjoy a self-guided brewery tour through Reno’s Riverwalk District; or shop Burning Man-inspired clothing boutiques and farm-to-table restaurants in Midtown. The Great Reno Balloon Race, the largest free hot-air ballooning event in the world, takes flight in September. Suggested Road Trip: Lake Tahoe Loop: Reno to Lake Tahoe, through Carson Valley, Carson City and Virginia City
Float on a desert oasis in Las Vegas Territory.
Internationally recognized for gaming, entertainment and fine dining, Las Vegas Territory encompasses more than neon. Escape the summer heat with a helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon, or take a sunrise hike up Mount Charleston, Nevada’s fifth tallest peak.
Despite sizzling desert temperatures, water sources are not scarce. Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in America with 165,000 surface acres of water sprawling across 110 miles. In addition to leisure boating, swimming and wildlife viewing, travelers can enjoy a 12-mile float down the Black Canyon Water Trail, from Boulder City to Arizona’s Mojave Desert. The narrated experience brings wayfarers through Hoover Dam history, waterfalls, hot springs and land formations with the opportunity to spot desert bighorn sheep, osprey and great blue heron, among other wildlife.