Traveling through Nevada is almost like jumping into a movie. The real life inspiration for many of America’s favorite stories were based on these places out in the middle of the Nevada desert. What were once Wild West towns, complete with saloons, gun fights & prostitutes are now ghost towns. UFO sightings & Area 51 (the high security top secret government facility) have been the theme of many Sci-Fi movies and shows. This 2 day road trip through the Nevada desert will be legendary!
Legendary Nevada Road Trip Stops
Ghost Town of Nelson
🗺 16880 State Highway 165, Nelson, NV
Free to Visit. 💵 Mine tours available for $15/adult & $10/child. 👁🗨http://www.eldoradocanyonminetours.com/index.html
Nelson was originally named “El Dorado” by the Spanish Explorers who found gold in a nearby canyon, now bearing the same name (El Dorado). Around 100 years later, in the 1800’s the Techatticup Mine started production. Apparently, arguments between who had rights to the mine ended up in such frequent conflict that murder became a common place occurrence in the mine town. Although the mine was very profitable, flash flooding from the El Dorado Canyon eventually made the town uninhabitable.
The mine was understandably in high demand, and labor disputes and ownership disagreements were common; so often ending in bloodshed that murder became commonplace, and even expected. The sinister reputation of the town and its riches that were so often paid for in blood didn’t deter fortune seekers, but Nelson was unfortunately directly downstream of El Dorado Canyon, and flash flooding made the boomtown, once stripped of its precious minerals, practically uninhabitable.Atlas Obscura
🕗 Open: 5AM to 9PM Daily – Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas 💸 Cost: $10 for admission (Extra Cost for Tours)
🐕 Dogs: Not allowed on top of the dam or inside any buildings
🗺 Hoover Dam, Nevada 89005
Hoover Dam was completed in 1928. It was and still is an engineering marvel across the world. The dam is located at the corner of Nevada and Arizona and channels the Colorado River to use as hydro-electric power to nearby cities and towns such as Las Vegas. Hoover Dam’s arched bridge towers 880 feet over the dam and brave visitors are able to climb to the top for a bird’s eye view of the dam. (1)
As the world’s tallest concrete arch bridge, it is the first concrete-steel arch composite bridge in the United States and towers 880 feet over the Hoover Dam. The 1,905-foot-long man made bridge connects both Nevada and Arizona roadways, so it’s fitting that it’s named the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, as it honors a hero from each state. With 30,000 cubic yards of concrete and 16 million pounds of steel, the massive engineered wonder is the widest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. Visitors who aren’t afraid of heights can even walk across the bridge for some great photo opportunities ofTravel Nevada
Hoover Dam and Black Canyon below.
Las Vegas Drive By
Traveling with a child and three dogs will make it difficult to go gambling or to any attractions. But I would still like to at least drive thru and get a look at Sin City in person.
The Back Gate
**🚨 ⚠️ Always obey no trespassing signs, leave only footprints, do not explore alone, do not enter any potentially dangerous buildings, be cautious and alert. And most importantly, do not trespass on government property! ⚠️ 🚨 **
🗺 Groom Lake, Nevada
Area 51, has long been a tantalizing mystery to conspiracy theorists and alien enthusiasts. In the middle of the Nevada Desert, it is said to be the most secret government facility in the world. UFO sightings and the extreme secrecy of the facility have only added fuel to the rumors about Area 51 throughout the years.
Originally known as “Site II” or “The Ranch,” this mysterious base is where Lockheed tested the first U2 spy planes. They went on to test the SR-71 Blackbird, the A-12 (or OXCART, likely the inspiration for many UFO sightings) and the F-117 Nighthawk at this location, shrouded in secrecy and deep in the desert. The base is perhaps the most famous secret military base in the world, and for decades determined visitors have been attempting to get close, yearning for a chance to unlock its secrets with their telephoto lenses.Atlas Obscura
Consistently thwarted, the snooping citizens are unable to get close—the area around the base is patrolled by numerous pickup driving guards armed with M16s, allowed to use deadly force if someone does not halt on entering the base. As of yet, there has never been such an incident, but it’s surely a deterrent. Usually the guards call the local police, who dole out a $600 fine to those curious enough to try and get too close.
🗺 Alamo, Nevada, 89001
Tikaboo Peak is the closet that any civilian can legally get to Area 51. From the top of the mountain peak you can get a glimpse of the infamous secret government facility. Although it sounds like an awesome idea, the way to this look out is actually pretty hard to reach. First, you need to have 4-wheel drive so you don’t get stuck on the 25 mile dirt road to the trail head. The hike to the peak is only 1.2 miles. However, it is on a sliding kind of rock and the short hike takes you up 1,000 feet within that time.
Unfortunately, it seems my dreams of seeing the illusive Area 51 will stay on hold a bit longer. I’ve had my bad experiences with steep hikes. Lets just say, I’m smart enough to skip this one. I will have to settle for some touristy attractions on the Extraterrestrial Highway.
The base is heavily guarded, and located on a dry lake bed surrounded by mountains on all sides. The military guards these peaks to keep nosy citizens with cameras in check, but there is still one vantage point where the most tenacious looky-loos can take a (26 mile away) gander at the mysterious military digs—Tikaboo Peak.Atlas Obscura
In hopes of spotting a sign of life from beyond, snooping UFO chasers have one shot at seeing the infamous base, and that is Tikaboo Peak, one of the last places to see the site legally. A 25-mile dirt road is the first challenge, something that only those with a suitable 4WD vehicle should attempt. From there, there it is just a short but insidious 1.2 mile hike on sliding shale and an abrupt elevation spike of 1,000 feet. In the summer the hike is brutal, and there is no water available anywhere on the journey so it must be carried in.
🗺 State Route 375, Alamo Nevada
For anyone looking to head into the desert and court a close encounter of the third kind, the Little A’Le’Inn provides food, lodging, and endless information for UFO seekers along The Extraterrestrial Highway (Nevada State Route 375).Atlas Obscura
The Extraterrestrial Highway Sign in Rachel
Stop in the town of Rachel to see the Extraterrestrial Highway sign. The trailer park in the background was actually one of the scenes from Independence Day.
Angel’s Ladies Brothel
In Nevada, prostitution is legal within certain areas as long as it stays confined to the brothel. The Angel’s Ladies Brothel was once one of these legal spaces. It now sits abandoned along with a crashed place that has been sitting there since 1978. The plane crashed when the brothel tried to run a promotion stunt involving the ladies. They ran a contest where they placed a mattress on the ground. The brothel provided the plane and had contestants parachute out of the plane and try to land on the mattress. Whoever landed on the mattress won a free night with the lady of their choice. The pilot got distracted by the “ladies” and ended up crashing the plane. This is where it has been since. (2)
International Car Forest of the Last Church
🗺 U.S. 95 GOLDFIELD, NV
This road-side art installment features over 40 vehicles in different positions throughout the landscape. It doesn’t cost anything to see, and it looks like it would be a great place for photos.
Historic Middlegate Station
🗺 42500 Austin Hwy Fallon, Nevada
The Historic Middlegate Station is a restaurant, RV park & free camping area along what used to be the Pony Express Trail.
The station served as a Pony Express stop in 1860-61. After the demise of the Pony, the station continued in operation until the mines closed. Ranchers setting up operations in the valley carried off much of the material used in construction of the original station. The station also sits close to the original Lincoln Highway, a 3,143-mile “rock highway” that stretched from New York to San Francisco, bisecting the heart of America. A piece of that original highway is preserved at Middlegate.Road Trippers
Grimes Point Archaeology Site
🗺 Starting in Fallon, head east on US Highway 50 approximately 12 miles until you see the archaeological site sign on the left (north side).
Although now dry, arid desert land, Grimes Point used to be a marshland filled with life. Around 8,000 years ago prehistoric people made this area their home. These people carved petroglyphs into the rocks throughout the area that can still be seen today.
Hidden Cave at Grimes Point
Close by to the Grimes Point Petroglyphs lies a cave that is slightly hidden in the hills. This cave was used as a storage place for tools, weapons and other items the Native Americans wanted to keep safe. It was lost for a long time, until it was found in 1935 by a group of boys looking for lost treasure. The cave can only be viewed by taking a free tour that is given by the Bureau of Land Management.
Tours are only given on 2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month at 9am (except for holiday weekends). Private tours can be requested at the Churchill County Museum in Falcon.
Midas Ghost Town Saloon
🗺 Golconda, Nevada
The Midas Ghost Town was once a thriving Wild West Town, complete with a saloon, red-light district and shootouts. In 1942, the gold dried up and the town was mostly abandoned and left to decay. It sat largely empty until a group of retirees decided to make residence here. The old saloon was restored and is now a restaurant. There are two other ghost towns nearby Midas.
Following the discovery of gold, Midas immediately grew, expanding to a small town of 5,000 with four real estate offices, five hotels, town dances, a red-light district, and shootouts in Main Street. The mining town thrived for over three decades until 1942, when the boomtown lost its “Midas Touch.”Atlas Obscura
Important Tips for a Nevada Road Trip
1. You’re going to need gas
Driving through the often open loneliness of the Nevada desert, gas stations are far and few between. Be sure to fill up at every gas station. You can’t be sure when you will find the next one. Grab a Gas Can or two and make sure to keep them filled up in case of an emergency.
2. Don’t get overheated
Don’t let your car (or yourself for that matter), get overheated. Make sure to fill up a few gallons of water whenever you stop to fill up the gas tank. You should also have some food such as granola bars.
3. Have a spare tire or donut
You don’t want to get stuck in the middle of the Nevada desert with a flat tire. If you don’t know how to change a tire, now is the time to learn.
4. You can’t depend on your cell phone
We are so used to the security of just being able to call 911 when we are in danger. However, in the middle of the desert, there is often not any kind of signal. This means serious trouble if you get stranded or injured out in the middle of nowhere.
Have a Plan
- Let someone know where you are going and when you except to be back to a place with phone signal
- Carry a first-aid kit and educate yourself on how to properly treat common injuries.
5. Dangerous Wildlife
Use caution especially near boulders, rocks and shrubbery. Poisonous snakes, scorpions and spiders are often hiding under them. A large walking stick can help you to spot these critters before you step on them and make them angry.
(1) Travel Nevada. “Hoover Dam”. https://travelnevada.com/discover/32593/hoover-dam
(2) Atlas Obscura. “Angel’s Ladies Brothel”. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/angel-s-ladies-brothel
(3) Bureau of Land Management. “Know Before You Go”. https://www.blm.gov/programs/recreation/know-before-you-go