Nevada’s vast plains, stunning lakes, and vibrant city lights are best discovered behind the wheel – embrace the Silver State from the freedom of the open road with our guide to Nevada's best road trips.
From Las Vegas to Lake Tahoe, Nevada’s expansive plains, deep lakes and bright lights are best explored on four wheels. Take to the wide-open road or head down buzzing boulevards as you discover a raft of only-in-Nevada experiences – from ghost towns and Sagebrush Saloons to ancient formations and turquoise lakes, here's our pick of Nevada's best road trips.
After more road trip inspo? Check out Australia’s Ultimate Road Trips here
Take the Reno – Lake Tahoe Loop
As Nevada’s biggest little city, Reno is much more than a spot to pick up your hire car. Amble down the Downtown Reno Riverwalk, stopping for coffee or craft beer along the way, before heading to the Midtown District for street art murals, vintage shopping and a local-centric foodie landscape.
When it’s time to hit the road, make a beeline straight to Lake Tahoe, also known as the Jewel of the Sierra Nevada. Stop for a dip in crystal-clear waters in the summer, or take to the slopes in the winter, before coming back around to the idyllic Carson Valley. Here you can learn more about the state’s history in museums, drink a little history at Genoa Bar & Saloon, the state’s oldest ‘thirst parlour’, and live through history in the antique shops of Gardnerville.
Complete ‘The Triathlon’ – a sip, savour and soak at Carson Hot Springs – before hopping back in the car to embrace your inner cowboy in the wild and western town of Virginia City. Wander down the boardwalks of this historic city, diving into joints to two-step to cowboy bands amongst flannel- and denim-clad locals. Once you’ve had your fill, it’s just a short drive back to the bright lights of Reno.
Travel the Loneliest Road
Dubbed the Loneliest Road in America by Life Magazine in 1986, Nevada’s Highway 50 is the definition of ‘wide-open road’. But there’s plenty of history along this iconic stretch, all documented in the Highway 50 Survival Guide. Collect your first stamp in Carson City, then follow the horse hooves of the Pony Express to Austin NV, stopping at the farms of Fallon and the pre-historic petroglyph trail of Grimes Point Archaeological Site and Sand Mountain, an enormous sand dune in the middle of the desert that makes an eerie ‘singing’ sound when the wind blows just right. Recharge and refresh at the Middlegate Station, an old-school Sagebrush Saloon, before hitting the road again.
While it may be tempting to put your foot on the gas between Austin and Eureka, those who take a slower approach will be rewarded with braying burros at Spencer Hot Springs, 3000-year-old cave paintings at Toquima Cave and a strong drink or two at the Sagebrush Saloon known as Lucky Spur. Stay the night in Eureka before striking lucky at Garnet Hill, rock hounding for ruby-like stones and cruising the aspen-lined Success Loop Scenic Drive, just 10 minutes from downtown Ely. The last leg brings a little sparkle – drive straight into the Great Basin National Park to walk under 5000-year-old pine trees, hike to the top of Nevada’s second-highest peak or stargaze into some of the darkest skies in the country.
Fly down the Great Basin Highway
Nature lovers need look no further: The Great Basin Highway road trip starts with stunning sandstone canyons and red rock spires and ends with mountain peaks, ancient forest and star-studded skies. Drive down the neon boulevards of Las Vegas towards the Valley of Fire State Park, where dramatic rock formations and prehistoric petroglyphs visually transform into fiery statues as the sun sets. Throw on your hiking boots to get up close to the formations, taking on the White Domes Trail or Atlatl Rock and Mouse’s Tank hikes.
Start your second day with a visit to Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, where migratory birds fly and nest in an oasis-like sanctuary, before driving into Nevada’s City of Roses, Caliente. Mountain biking is the thrill of choice here, but if your legs are feeling a little heavy, rest and recharge in a private hot tub at the historic Caliente Hot Spring Motel or cool off with a cold drink at Side Car Speakeasy.
On Day Three, more hikes are on the horizon at Kershaw-Ryan State Park, Rainbow Canyon and Cathedral Gorge State Park, all on the way to Pioche, known as Nevada’s liveliest ghost town. Learn more about the rough and tough mining town (and its unique Boot Hill Cemetery) before you rest your head – on Day Four, it’s straight on the road to Ely. Marvel at murals in this mining boomtown or stop at Cave Lake State Park for a dip in a turquoise lake. Finish your remarkable road trip by driving into Great Basin National Park, home to the 13,064-foot (or 3981-metre) Wheeler Peak, the oldest living trees on earth and dark night skies, perfect for a spot of stargazing.
Follow the Extraterrestrial Highway
Embrace an otherworldly adventure with a road trip along Extraterrestrial Highway, an isolated stretch of road that just happens to pass by alien hotspot, Area 51 – and one of Nevada's best road trips. Prepare for potential paranormal encounters as you chart a course out of Las Vegas, heading for Crystal Springs. Fill up the tank in Alamo or Ash Springs (it’s a while between petrol stations) before fuelling up with snacks from E.T. Fresh Jerky, where you can also pose with life-sized ‘out of towners’.
Hit the road on State Route 375 – once you reach Rachel, dinner awaits in the form of a Saucer Burger at Little A’Le’Inn. Before you come in for landing at your final destination of Tonopah, make a 35-mile (or 56km) detour to Lunar Crater, a patch of Earth that is so moon-like, it was used to train Apollo astronauts. If your preferred paranormal activity is a little more ghost-like, venture beyond Tonopah to Belmont Ghost Town where you can knock back a tipple at Sagebrush Saloon, Dirty Dick’s. Just make sure you’re back in Tonopah when the sun sets – the Tonopah Stargazing Park is considered one of the country’s best.
Ready to start planning your great Nevada adventure? Explore our collection of handpicked Nevada deals here.