Must See - Pony Express
The Loneliest Road in America
In July 1986 U.S. 50 was named “The Loneliest Road in America” by Life magazine, which quoted an AAA spokesman as saying, “It’s totally empty.” Yes, traffic is light from Fernley to Ely, but you will meet friendly people in the towns along the way.
Sand Mountain (Highway 50, east of Fallon)
Off-roading enthusiasts and ATVers love to buzz up and down Sand Mountain, a 600-foot-high sand dune 22 miles east of Fallon. Sandboarders swoop down the dune just like their snowboarding counterparts. Also, you can camp in designated areas.
Shoe Tree (Highway 50, between Fallon and Austin)
Hundreds of shoes dangle from this 70-foot cottonwood two miles east of Middlegate. Locals say the tradition of tossing your shoes into the branches stems from a newlyweds’ squabble in the early 1990s. Since then, travelers have added their own footwear.
Turquoise Shopping (Austin)
If you like turquoise, you’ll find just about the best quality of the stone at shops in Austin. Local mines produce turquoise that is fashioned into jewelry and sold in a range of prices. You can buy unfinished stones along with custom-designed pieces.
Eureka Opera House
You might not think that cowboy poetry and Shakespeare plays go together, but at the restored Eureka Opera House these are just two of the many kinds of entertainment you’ll encounter in the restored 1880s cultural arts center, plus art exhibits.
On the streets of Ely you’ll come across murals depicting life in this Nevada town of times past. Scenes include Basque sheepherders, copper miners, and Pony Express riders. Also, there are sculptures, such as the statue of a Shoshone woman gathering pine nuts.
Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park (Ely)
One of Ely’s murals depicts Ward Charcoal Ovens, six beehive-shaped rock structures where charcoal was made to fuel nearby silver smelters. Now a state park six miles east of Ely on U.S. 50, you can camp and hike or ride off-road vehicles on established trails.
Nevada Northern Railway and Nevada State Railroad Museum (Ely)
Have you ever wanted to operate the throttle of a steam locomotive? You can at the Nevada Northern Railway in Ely for a fee. Nicknamed the Ghost Train of Old Ely, the NNRY offers rentals and excursion rides from mid-April to the end of December, daily in summer.
Great Basin National Park (Baker/Ely)
At Great Basin National Park you can see a small glacier and visit the longest living plants on earth, bristlecone pines, some 5,000 years old. At the only national park completely contained within Nevada, you can take easy, moderate, and strenuous hikes, climb, fish, camp, and picnic.
Lehman Caves (Baker/Ely)
Before Great Basin was designated as a national park, there was Lehman Caves National Monument, which is now part of Great Basin National Park. Absalom Lehman, who discovered the limestone cave with its intriguing formations, conducted private tours for hundreds of visitors in the 1880s. You can still tour the caves today.