Interstate 80 and Highway 50 Loop
Interstate 80 And Highway 50 Loop
Lovelock, Winnemucca, Elko, Ely, Eureka, Austin, Fallon
- Distance: 919 Miles or 1,478 Kilometers
- Number Of Nights: 4
From Reno, take I-80 East to Lovelock, a community dating to the 1860s. Here, check out Lovers Lock Plaza, where you and that special someone can “lock your love” — attach a small padlock symbolizing your devotion onto a chain with hundreds of other such mementos. Continue east to Winnemucca, and stop at the Winnemucca Convention Center for a map of the area’s historic sites. Travel east to either Battle Mountain or Carlin, railroad towns from the 1860s and 1870s that experienced mining booms in the last half of the 20th century. About eight miles before reaching Elko, off Hunter Exit 292, is the California Trail Interpretive Center (opening summer 2012), a must-see depiction of the pioneers and wagon trains that explored and settled the West. Take a tour of a working gold mine around the Carlin area* before heading east on I-80 toward Elko. The United States is the world’s third largest producer of gold, and most of it comes from Nevada mines. Overnight in Elko.
Spend the day in Elko digging into Nevada’s mining, ranching, and native culture. Explore the area’s natural history, geology, and more, and see one of the most extensive collections of work by Western artist/writer Will James at the Northeastern Nevada Museum. Stop at the Western Folklife Center, home of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and at Sherman Station, a collection of historic ranch buildings that also serves as the Elko Visitors Center. Take a scenic drive to the glacier-carved Lamoille Canyon in the Ruby Mountains. Return to Elko for the evening and dine at one of the area’s Basque restaurants for a hearty and unforgettable authentic meal. Overnight in Elko.
From Elko, take I-80 East to Wells, where you drive along the celebrated Victory Highway. From Wells, continue south on the Great Basin Highway to McGill to view the McGill Drugstore Museum, a time capsule from the 1970s. Continue south to Ely and tour the Renaissance Village, a group of restored early 1900s homes that depict the town’s early cultures and settlers. Visit the White Pine Museum and travel the city’s Art Trail, which features more than 20 murals and sculptures depicting Ely’s history. Overnight in Ely.
Ely is your home base for the day. First, drive east to Great Basin National Park to see 5,000-year-old bristlecone pine trees, the oldest living things on Earth, and enjoy a trip to the Lehman Caves to see the stalactite and stalagmite formations. With some advance planning, you may want to brave a hike up Wheeler Peak, the second-highest mountain in Nevada. Travel back to Ely, where you can tour the Nevada Northern Railway Museum or even ride a restored steam locomotive. Overnight in Ely.
Depart Ely via Hwy. 50 — which loosely follows the path of the Pony Express, the horseback mail delivery service that ran from 1860 to 1861 — for Eureka, where you can tour the Eureka Opera House. Continue west along Hwy. 50, dubbed “The Loneliest Road in America” by Life magazine, to the town of Austin. Whet your whistle at the International Café and Bar, a saloon with as much history as the town itself, then drive to Fallon, home of the Stillwater Wildlife Refuge and the Top Gun School at Naval Air Station Fallon. Enjoy a hike or head out to Lahontan Reservoir for some water sports before returning to Reno.
* Mine tours are seasonal and arrangements must be made in advance.