Situated nearly smack dab between Reno and Las Vegas, the former home of one of the biggest mining booms in the entire state has another feather in its cap. Tonopah sits under the darkest skies in the United States, making this remote old mining town the best stargazing spot in the country. That’s according to USA Today, although the locals will tell you the same, because on a clear night they can look up and see the Milky Way and literally thousands of sparkling stars.
Like many Silver State towns, Tonopah is rooted in mining. Known as the Queen of the Silver Camps, Tonopah sprang into existence following the 1900 discovery of a huge silver deposit. The boom lasted until the 1920s and Tonopah became a large city during those two decades. Remnants of the town’s proud mining past can be explored at the Tonopah Historic Mining Park, which is located on the site of the original claim made by rancher Jim Butler, and the Central Nevada Museum, which highlights Tonopah’s rugged history. There are also various murals and outdoor sculptures depicting the town’s early days, plus the downtown highlight, the circa-1907 Mizpah Hotel which some still insist is still haunted by “The Lady in Red.”
Besides stargazing and exploring the town’s mining history, there’s quite a bit of wilderness to explore near Tonopah. Geology buffs flock to the natural formations at Monte Cristo’s Castle and the Crescent Sand Dunes are a great spot for off-roaders. There’s also plenty of hiking, camping, hunting, biking and wildlife viewing to be had, and Tonopah hosts quite a few annual events too. Jim Butler Days, every Memorial Day Weekend, is a grand celebration of the first silver strike, and there are also off-road races at the Tonopah Speedway, fishing derbies, farmers’ markets and traditional holiday celebrations like Independence Day and the Christmas Stroll.