Strap on your hat and pull on your boots for a visit to northern Nevada’s Cowboy Country, where jeans are the fashion norm and nobody stands on ceremony. In this region, Old West hospitality is the rule.
When you’re in Elko, stop by the Western Folklife Center, the host of the annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2014. Basque culture also plays an important role here. The hearty Basque cuisine – steak, beans, salad, fries and rich red wine – is served family-style at several Elko restaurants.
The Northeastern Nevada Museum tells a story of pioneers and natural history in the region. For information about the Elko area, check out the Elko Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center, which is housed in Sherman Station, a turn-of-the-century, log-style ranch house.
The Ruby Mountains, also known as America’s Alps, rise majestically southeast of Elko. Follow State Route 227 from Elko through Spring Creek to the Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway, a 12-mile drive that curves upward through glacier-carved turns. You can hike and ride horses on the Ruby Crest Trail, and fishing and bird watching are superb at the Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
Off-highway vehicle trails afford miles of ATV action around Ruby Valley and areas near Wells and Deeth. If you want to explore stunning mountains and crystalline lakes the cowboy way, try riding horseback in the Jarbidge Wilderness north of Elko. Several ranches offer Western-style vacations.
Anglers pull trout and bass from Wilson Reservoir, South Fork and Wild Horse state recreation areas. In winter, ice fishing is popular at these three reservoirs. For a unique winter experience, try Ruby Mountain Heli-Experience, based in Lamoille.
In addition to off-road opportunities and wildlife-viewing areas, West Wendover on the Nevada-Utah border has five major casinos with fine dining and lodging, and the Peppermill Concert Hall books top-name entertainment. The Nevada-Idaho border town of Jackpot also boasts casino action and entertainment.
Many communities along Interstate 80 serve as base camps for hunters and explorers. Supplies are available – and so are hotels and motels in case you want to sleep in a bed instead of a sleeping bag. After touring a gold mine near Battle Mountain and Carlin, you can sit down for a family-style meal featuring steak, lamb or jumbo prawns in one of Winnemucca’s four great Basque restaurants.
If you want to stretch your legs on your drive, you can stop at Rye Patch State Recreation Area for a picnic beneath tall cottonwoods. If you’re feeling romantic, lock your love in Lovelock by fastening a lock on the never-ending chain at Lovers Lock Plaza, or simply admire the more than 1,000 locks that adorn the plaza. Activities here are just as rich and varied as the heritage and backcountry. Revel in the unique mix of outdoor and cultural activities and take a long trip to experience all Cowboy Country has to offer.
The Cowboy Country is comprised of Battle Mountain, Carlin, Denio, Elko, Gerlach, Jackpot, Jarbidge, Lamoille, Lovelock, McDermitt, Wells, West Wendover, and Winnemucca.