History buffs and Wild West enthusiasts will find a wealth of intriguing relics from the past in Dayton, the site of Nevada’s first gold discovery. Visitors to Old Dayton will be charmed by its nostalgic boardwalk sidewalks, fascinating shops, mom-and-pop dining establishments, and beautifully unique homes located in perfectly restored buildings that tell the story of Dayton’s storied past.

Broke the Mold, Thanks to Gold

Dayton NV: Where It All Began

Just east of Carson City, the historic town of Dayton NV stakes a bold, forever-strong claim: it was the site of Nevada’s first gold discovery. One lucky prospector sank his pick and found a nugget at the mouth of Gold Canyon, in what is now Old Dayton. Other Nevada firsts Dayton holds down the cred for include Nevada’s first (legal) marriage, first (legal) divorce, and first public entertainment. Today, the boardwalk-lined streets of Old Dayton call to road-trippers traveling Nevada’s (in)famous Loneliest Road in America road trip (Survival Guide stamps are available at 11 Dayton locations), fans of classic mom-and-pop eats, anglers chasing trout along the Carson River, and history hounds keen on discovering the Nevada story at Dayton State Park and nearby Fort Churchill State Historic Park—both points along the historic, if short-lived, Pony Express route.

dayton map



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History of Dayton NV

Thanks to infrastructure established after Nevada’s first gold discovery in 1849, Dayton’s Gold Canyon became the de facto processing and milling site in the early days of silver finds from the Comstock Lode, about a decade later. Check out artifacts from the time period at the Historical Society of Dayton Valley and the Dayton Museum, as well as to learn more about Dayton’s storied, rough-and-tumble gold and silver mining days. 

tombstones at nevadas oldest cemetery
Nevada’s Oldest Cemetery
historical society of dayton and dayton museum
Historical Society of Dayton & Dayton Museum

Nevada’s Western history remains on full display throughout boardwalk-lined Historic Downtown Dayton, including at Nevada’s second oldest schoolhouse, built in 1865, and at Dayton Historic Cemetery, the oldest maintained cemetery in the Silver State, where tombstones date all the way back to 1851—including that of early Comstock prospector “Ol’ Virginny,” the cleverly accidental namer of Virginia City (who, the story goes, drunkenly tripped, breaking a bottle of whiskey, and saved face by christening the mining camp).

Things to Do in Dayton

Chasers of history (and trout) have two riverfront state parks within reach of Dayton. Dayton State Park is home to mining ruins—including those of one of the largest early stamp mills in the state—camping, and fishing on the Carson River. Meanwhile, Fort Churchill State Historic Park, about a half hour east, offers interpretive walks through early Nevada military history and past trout-packed honey holes, with golden-hour ghost town vibes that have called to photographers and paranormal enthusiasts for years. In addition, staked down this far removed from light pollution, campers are rewarded with truly stellar skies.

Take a guided tour of the Historic Sutro Tunnel and walk in the footsteps of Comstock Lode miners who originally earned their livings here in the 1870s. Those of age can belly up to the Odeon Saloon and order a cocktail inspired by notable patrons – like Mark Twain and Marilyn Monroe – while shooting a game of pool in Dayton’s oldest watering hole.

cacti in dayton state park
Mary’s Cactus Garden, Dayton State Park
man with lots of medals poses in the republic of molossia
Republic of Molossia

While you’re out and about exploring the area, remember your passport. Your real one. A classic Weird Nevada experience, the Republic of Molossia has quietly been an official, independent, sovereign nation for forty years, and is located right in a Dayton neighborhood. Free, highly whimsical monthly tours are offered spring through fall (reservations required). Just be sure to leave your incandescent light bulbs, catfish, and onions at home, though—those items are contraband within these borders.

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

Wanna get weird? Pack your passports on a tour of the delightfully eccentric Republic of Molossia—an official, sovereign “micronation”—complete with its own post office, national bank, and even space force. Just be sure you ditch any contraband onions, incandescent bulbs, and walruses at the border. 

Dayton Restaurants

Most of Dayton, NV’s, restaurants are housed in some of Dayton’s oldest buildings, and J’s Old Town Bistro is no better place to get to know one of Nevada’s oldest towns than from historic digs that have been part of the Dayton story for more than 160 years. 

3 beers cheers together
Dayton Taphouse
exterior of js old town bistro
J’s Old Town Bistro

Larry’s Gourmet Coffee House and the Roadrunner Café are great breakfast spots for an early morning meal and the perfect cup of coffee. If bar bites are more your scene, check out the Dayton Taphouse for delicious brews and great food. 

Help yourself to “The Loneliest Food In America Pt. 4” podcast, which includes a stop at Dayton’s Roadrunner Café during a restaurant and Sagebrush Saloon-packed culinary cruise along Highway 50, the Loneliest Road in America.

Dayton Valley Days

Each September, this friendly community welcomes visitors to its annual Dayton Valley Days extravaganza, a weekend filled with a parade (a human one and a pet one), rodeo, car show, games, auctions, and so much more. The community’s signature event attracts visitors from all over the region to celebrate Nevada history and Dayton’s cherished small-town charm.

man riding a red tractor at dayton valley days
Dayton Valley Days


Whether you’re walking through history or making some of your own in the “birthplace of Nevada,” tag your snaps with #TravelNevada so we can follow your adventure.

A pretty amazing old @levis advertisement mural that’s still holding up over many decades.
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
Pablo Picasso 
These two went at it for a few minutes the other day. I was fortunate enough to have just gotten there and had my camera ready to go otherwise I would have missed it! ⁣
#wildlifephotography #nnvwildlife⁣
#wildlife_perfection #wildlife_seekers #wildlifeaddicts #wildlifephoto #animalsmood #wildhorsepc #wildandfree #animalsaddict #splendid_animals #majestic_wildlife_ #fantastic_animals_daily #viewbug #raw_horses #photografeature_ #wildhorsesofnevada #featured_wildlife #tamron150600mm #wildandfree #wildhorses #wildhorsephotographycollective #horselovers #wildlife_seekers #actioncamerareno #wildmustangs #country_features #nevada #nevadaphotographer #equinephotography
Double Decker hamburger with garlic Parmesan fries.
Canyon creeping in Dayton
🪦Since I was directed by the locals to visit the cemetery on my old town Dayton tour, you know I had to pay it a visit. I was told there were lots of Governors and famous people buried here. It’s true, I instantly recognized the names on many of the gravestones.  Families that have built and shaped the state of Nevada, that now have streets and buildings and even towns named after them are buried here.  And lots and lots of graves simply marked “unknown”. The entire cemetery was very well cared for, and every grave had a flower or a flag or a shell or pretty rock left on it. Even all of those unknowns. 🪦💐🇺🇸
Less than an hour drive from campus, Dayton Valley Golf Course offers spectacular views like this one through all 18 holes!

Friday skies were spectacular 
#cloudscape #sunsettime #timelapsevideo #timelapseart #nevadamountains #nevada
Good morning from the trail
Be Well 👍😀✌️❤️