Sitting at an elevation of more than 5,000 feet, Elko is known as “Nevada with Altitude,” a moniker to which it truly lives up. The thriving northeastern Nevada city is bordered by the towering, snow-capped Ruby Mountains, often called the Alps of Nevada, and the lush, glacier-carved Lamoille Canyon. And that means there’s no shortage of outdoor activities to enjoy, everything from down-and-dirty ATVing to out-of-this-world heli-skiing. Within minutes of downtown Elko, visitors can enjoy rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, hunting, fishing or backpacking– and that’s just the start. Elko’s humble beginning came in 1869, when it was established as a railroad site town. It quickly became home to rail workers and their families. Nevada’s first high school opened in Elko in 1885, and the University of Nevada welcomed its first students there in 1874 before moving to Reno 11 years later.
Elko is where Nevada’s real cowboys work and play, and the Wild West spirit is catching. Cowboys from across the nation flock to Elko every January for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, a celebration of the cowboy lifestyle and the rural West. But the events in Elko go beyond its Western roots. Every July is the annual National Basque Festival, a nod to the rich Basque history and culture both in Nevada and across the country. The festival is a raucous family event with traditional food and wine, dancing and even a ceremonial running of the bulls. And for Basque food anytime, Elko’s authentic Basque restaurants always hit the spot. Other much-anticipated events in Elko include the Silver State Stampede, Motorcycle Jamboree and the county fair.
Today, visitors to Elko can explore Nevada’s roots in mining, ranching and native culture with a stop at the Northeastern Nevada Museum, the Western Folklife Center or the Sherman Station Visitor’s Center. And for a real treat, check out Capriola’s. It’s one the most famous saddle-making companies in the world, and visitors can browse the array of rich leather goods and even watch saddle-makers at work.