Are you looking to really explore Nevada, get off the beaten path and enjoy the freedom of the open road? If yes, you’ll be taking a road trip across this eclectic state and we’ve got you covered. Below is a solid itinerary to give you a great taste of what Nevada has to offer. This particular road trip takes us from Las Vegas to Reno, Nevada with lots of stops along the way. I can’t stress enough that the destination is only part of it, the scenery is almost surreal so the journey itself is what I enjoyed most about this trip.
Table of Contents
Day 1: Arrive in Las Vegas
Las Vegas is what most people immediately think of when one mentions the state of Nevada, yes? It’s also the easiest airport to get to in the state and a logical starting point for the trip or ending point if you wish to do this itinerary backwards. Once you’ve landed, grab a rental car at the airport, don’t forget to request a GPS and drive to your hotel in Las Vegas for the night.
There are lots of things to do in Las Vegas and that’s an understatement but on this trip I visited the Fremont Street Experience which believe it or not even has a zipline and the Downtown Container Park in particular. The Container Park is a mix of unique shops, cool restaurants and lively bars. Also remember, this is a road trip across Nevada and not a weekend in Las Vegas so take it easy, enjoy the scenes and retire at a reasonable hour because the trip really starts the next day.
Day 2: Red Rock Canyon and Rhyolite Ghost Town
Wake up feeling refreshed, jump in your car and take the short ~25 minute trip to Red Rock Canyon. There you’ll feel as though you’re on another planet and a world away from the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas while still being incredibly close, 13 miles to be exact. Red Rock Canyon is the main draw but Calico Canyon which is literally the exit before offers a very similar experience without the crowds. It’s also free where as Red Rock Canyon will cost you $8.
I opted for Calico Canyon because I could see a steady stream of cars heading towards Red Rock Canyon and wanted to take lots of photos without crowds in them as well as enjoy some peace and quiet. I went on a hike that took slightly less than two hours and enjoyed it thoroughly. There was this hill which a lady pointed out and called a summit, so I climbed it. It was incredibly calming and peaceful because for most of the hike, I didn’t see a soul and the only things I could hear were my footsteps and breathing.
Next it was time to head to Rhyolite and that’s where the rubber really hit the road as far as this road trip is concerned. It was about a 120 mile drive or so and before long I was at the Rhyolite Ghost Town which is also home to the Goldwell Open Air Museum. The ride was relaxing and the landscape in every direction awe inspiring. Rhyolite was good times and the shells of the buildings still there were in fair condition considering they have been exposed to the elements, unmaintained for over a century. I’m a big fan of building so I really enjoyed this and arriving in the late afternoon, the light was just right.
At the entrance to Rhyolite there is the Goldwell Open Air Museum which houses some work from various artists. Something I really enjoyed about the museum was that inside there were old photos of what Rhyolite was like in its prime as a busy mining town. Rhyolite was heavily invested in by a gent named Mr. Charles Schwab, the town population had a massive spike before becoming abandoned and in its peak was home to ~3500-5000 people. Apart from that, the art work itself is quite different and if you’re around in the afternoon, try and be there for sunset. My favourite piece of art was of “The Last Supper” below.
Once you’re done at the museum take the short drive to Beatty and spend the night. There you can enjoy some classic chilli at Happy Burro; this place has character, lots of character. If you’re slightly adventurous and looking for a truly unique experience, you can head to Bailey’s Hot Springs a few miles out of town where it’s these small shacks built overtop of the hot springs. I spent a good twenty minutes soaking, it was a very different experience and Heidi who works there was more than pleasant; do bring your own towel though as the $8 entrance fee most certainly doesn’t include one.
Day 3: Tonopah & Trip to Lake Tahoe
This is the heaviest driving day of the trip as you start off in Beatty and head to Tonopah which is around ~100 miles or so away. Again, another great scenic drive so time passes quite quick. If you’re up early, you can enjoy a sunrise from the road and if not, stop by Mel’s Diner for some solid breakfast before hitting the road. I will note that whenever you’re in a town, always fill your tank as it’s not uncommon for the next station to be over 100 miles away or so and you don’t want to run out of gas in between.
Tonopah is a cool little town which once had an active mining scene as well. These days it’s quite quiet and there are several things to see there including the museum, the old historic mining site, and a clown hotel to name a few. If you did get up early and hit the road at the crack of dawn, the Tonopah Station is a solid choice which also has a cool antique display in the basement. Another popular spot for a meal anytime is the Pittman Cafe in the Mizpah Hotel which has been open since 1907. Tonopah Brewing Company is recommended for a unique experience but if you’re driving you may wish to stick with Pittman Cafe!
From Tonopah to Lake Tahoe is the longest stretch of road you’ll see on this trip. If you wish, you can stop in at Socorro’s Burger hut in Mina which supposedly has one of the best burgers in all of Nevada. I do recommend you try and arrive in Lake Tahoe before dark though as it’s a winding mountain road once you get close and if you’re using a GPS it might send you down all sorts of shortcuts which are good times and beautiful by day but perhaps not as much appreciated by night. Once in Lake Tahoe, try and get to the lake for sunset or grab a drink at Harrah’s, they have a restaurant and bar on the top floor and the views are second to none. I was there the day before a snowstorm so not much of a sunset sadly but most welcome weather by the skiers.
Day 4: Enjoy Lake Tahoe and Trip to Reno
It’s time to enjoy Lake Tahoe! In case your’e wondering, the are plenty of things to do in Lake Tahoe. perhaps do some snowmobiling in the morning or skiing / snowboarding if that’s more your thing. I was on a short trip so the plan was to stay a night in Lake Tahoe. If you’ve got more time, perhaps schedule two or three nights depending on which activities you fancy. Either way, Reno is a very short trip away so whether you decide to leave Lake Tahoe at noon or in the late afternoon, making it to Reno is quite easy and rather straight forward.
Once in Reno, do check out the Playa Art Park to get a glimpse of what to expect at Burning Man and later get involved with the growing craft beer scene in center town not far from the art park. If you’re going to get into the craft beer, leave your car at the hotel as cabs aren’t expensive and you’ll have the freedom to explore the city on foot and sample as many flavours of beer as you see fit. My favourite place was Piñon Bottle which is rather new. I saw a sign for Piñon while walking to Brasserie Saint James but ended up spending most of my night there. The craft beer selections were endless, the vibe cool and the staff super welcoming.
If you’re looking into a dining experience after pints, the list that follows are some recommended restaurants / brew pubs in Reno for you to consider. The Depot Craft Brewery Distillery was top of my list but staying at Peppermill, I wasn’t ready to go back into center town and by the time I left Piñon and caught a cab, I was done with the craft beers for the evenings. Other spots worth mentioning include Louis’ Basque Corner and Under the Rose Brewing Company. I suggest you get a good idea where all the spot are situated before you go so you can better plan your attack. After unsuccessfully searching for a particular brew pub, I missioned away from downtown to Brasserie Saint James when there were other spots in close proximity downtown all along.
This is probably the last night of your trip and Reno has lots of casinos so after you’ve had your fill of craft beer, perhaps try your luck at the card table or just stroll around the casino floor and enjoy the action. If you haven’t eaten yet and looking for a big meal, particularly after a heavy craft beer tasting session, you can’t go wrong in a casino. Casino’s want people feeling full so they aren’t thinking about food and can focus on playing so the portions are solid. I was staying at the Peppermill Resort Hotel and had the largest club sandwich of my life there which complimented the pints of craft beer I enjoyed earlier.
Day 5: Off to the Airport
The next day, drop your rental car off at Reno Airport and start the trek home or to your next stop. This is the itinerary that I did on my recent road trip through Nevada and was quite pleased with the experiences I had. What I did realize was that there is so much more to Nevada to discover. If Nevada was a glorious bowl of chili similar to the one I had at Happy Burro in Beatty, I literally only had half a spoonful. I’d have to come back at least a few times to really get an idea of what Nevada has to offer as it’s a sizeable state and filled with character. It also has endless routes to choose from and all sorts of stops to make depending on your interests. At some point though, just stop in a random diner and order a burger or something similar, you’ll be glad you did.
I hope this itinerary gives you some ideas and inspires you to check out Nevada for yourself, click here for more information and ability to book. I really liked Nevada and hope to return again soon. There was so much to explore and discover. I went on this trip alone and recommend you go with a partner because someone can scope out the landscape while the other drives. It’s so scenic you’ll want to be looking at the landscape all the time. I needed to exercise strong self control to keep my eyes on the road while the clouds played with the mountains and the occasional tumble weed blew by. Also, let’s be serious most great adventures are like great meals and best when shared.
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