It may be best known today as the hometown of U.S. Senator Harry Reid – which accounts for the occasional yet still well-attended political rallies – but the unassuming and historic little town of Searchlight was once bigger than Las Vegas. Just a few years shy of 1900, gold ore was discovered and within five years the town had boomed. Roughly 1,500 people called the busy mining town home, and at the time, it was enough to outsize Las Vegas. But just two years later, Searchlight hit its peak as the cost of gold and silver production increased and the grade of the mined ore dropped. By 1927, just 50 people remained.

Today, the tiny southern Nevada town has fewer than 1,000 full-time residents. Roughly half are retirees, and the rest are miners, ranchers, artists and small business owners. Searchlight keeps them busy with amenities like the historic museum, community center, senior citizens center, post office, elementary school, two churches and a handful of shops. Locals swear that the sunrises and sunsets can’t be beat, and the surrounding terrain is filled with wild animals like bighorn sheep, coyotes, burros, deer, jackrabbits and deer, plus beautiful cacti and desert wildflowers, hot springs and more. Still, the big draw for most visitors is Searchlight’s location – it serves as the gateway to the ever-popular Lake Mojave in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which is known for amazing boating, water skiing, swimming, camping, picnicking and just about anything you can do on a lake or in its beautiful canyon surroundings. In fact, the lake’s Cottonwood Cove is considered one of the best largemouth bass fisheries in the West.