Elko Nevada


As the largest town in northeastern Nevada, Elko is a confluence of Western cultures and a gateway to both the Ruby Mountains and some of Nevada’s most surprising and untamed wilderness. With so much to explore around here, there’s no shortage of things to do or outdoor activities to enjoy. In town, head for cultural institutions that anchor Nevada’s artistic heritage, check out some of Nevada’s most iconic restaurants, explore dozens of murals and free public art, or hit up one of our classic sagebrush saloons, which offer a different kind of perspective on Nevada life, one you can’t experience from I-80.

One of the Last True Western Towns in the U.S.

Altitude Adjustment

Northern Nevada Map Graphic


All Seasons



So, where is Elko, Nevada? Sitting just above 5,000 feet, this thriving Nevada city is nestled in the northeastern corner of the state. As the largest town in the region, Elko is a confluence of Western cultures and a gateway to both the Ruby Mountains and some of Nevada’s most surprising and untamed wilderness. With so much to explore around here (we recommend taking the Cowboy Corridor to get to the real-deal Elko experience), there’s no shortage of things to do or outdoor activities to enjoy. In town, head for cultural institutions that anchor Nevada’s artistic heritage, check out some of Nevada’s most iconic restaurants, explore dozens of murals and free public art, or hit up one of our classic sagebrush saloons, which offer a different kind of perspective on Nevada life, one you can’t experience from I-80. 

Ruby Mountains Heli Experience
Lamoille Canyon

A quick half-hour south of town awaits one of Nevada’s most prized scenic treasures and recreational paradises. Adorned with alpine peaks, lakes and flowing streams, tree-lined canyons, and horizon-chasing, high-desert valleys, Elko County is vast and varied, with the Ruby Mountains as its stunning centerpiece. Often likened to the Swiss Alps, their steep, craggy terrain spikes up past 11,000 ft., only to be united by the aspen-studded, creek-harboring, glacier-carved slice of paradise that is Lamoille Canyon.

Naturally, the range of recreational opportunities is as wide as the landscapes, enticing adventurers with hiking, backpacking, cycling (both on and way, way off the pavement), big-game hunting (the elk are gargantuan), and fishing so good it’s almost unfair. Come winter, the Rubies boast 300 inches of the driest, fluffiest snow in the USA—seducing snowshoers, snowmobilers, and powder-hungry backcountry and heli-skiers alike.

Ruby Mountains

Elko History & Culture

A True Western Town with Real Buckaroo Charm

Elko sprang to life in 1869 with the development of the Transcontinental Railroad. As a brand new stop along this cross country route, Elko soon became a base for gold and silver mining, as well as raising livestock.

Basque Arborglyphs

Buckaroos punched cattle on big ranches and surrounding lands, while sheepherders drove flocks up to higher elevations—a tough job that ultimately drew hundreds of Basques from Spain and France. Those jobs and cultures—as well as that of the Western Shoshone Indians, whose ancestors have long called the region home—are still around, and their influences are still visible throughout Elko. In Elko’s museums, in its restaurants, menus and cocktail glasses, at its annual events like the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the National Basque Festival, and the Elko Band Powwow, Elko takes pride in its colorful heritage. 

Things To Do in Elko

The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering AND the National Basque Festival anchor the region’s special events scene, but Elko is also home to the Silver State’s oldest rodeo—the Silver State Stampede. On top of all of this? Elko was the recipient of a vibrant facelift in 2019, all thanks to the Elko Mural Expo—a live painting event that recruited more than 40 muralists to create 51 murals in just a few short days. You might say the change of face was overdue, but in a city vibrant with unique culture and artistic expression abound, the general consensus is that it was right on time, like everything else around here. The murals were, and still are, strongly embraced by the Elko community by artists, locals and visitors alike. 

Cowboy Arts & Gear Museum

Locals know this place is gorgeous and many have captured it on film, canvas and more. Take-home crafts from gift shops at the Northeastern Nevada Museum, or even off the walls at Cowboy Joe or Duncan LittleCreek Gallery & Bar.

Elko Mural Tour

Yet another artistic expression, the humongous taxidermy installation, and gallery of original work by legendary Western artist Will E. James, means a visit to the Northeastern Nevada Museum is a must if the murals were your thing. And so is seeing world-famous custom saddles and leatherwork at the storied J.M. Capriola Co. in downtown Elko. As you plan the next leg of your own adventure, get some inspiration from the pioneers who endured the 2,000-mile trek west at the California Trail Interpretive Center on the edge of town.

National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Elko is where Nevada’s real cowboys—or in Nevada, buckaroos—work and play, and the Western spirit lives on. Elko’s authenticity has earned the town its spot as one of the Top True Western Towns in the United States. In fact, cowboys from across the nation flock to Elko every January for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, a celebration of the cowboy lifestyle and the rural West. 

How many places can you encounter a ranch matriarch, an American Indian poet laureate, a pre-teen yodeling champ, bronc-riding and free-verse slam poets, all in a single show? To clarify, the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering isn’t just about poetry. And like the real American West, it certainly isn’t just for cowboys. For nearly 40 years, this signature Nevada event has drawn working ranch hands and urban cowboys alike to its lyrical blend of the Wild West with poetry, song, video, visual art, new media and more.  Evolved from the earliest storytelling of the buckaroos who ranched and rode the western U.S., the art form has earned an international audience.

The Star Hotel

Basque Dinner Houses & Other Restaurants in Elko

While some visitors come to Elko for the arts and culture and others for the outdoor recreation, one thing every visitor does here is beeline for Basque cuisine. From traditional family style Basque main courses like lamb chops, garlic-loaded steaks, and sweetbreads with multi-course sides like oxtail soup and french fries to homemade chorizo and steak sandwiches, nobody around here leaves hungry. Head for The Star Hotel, a legendary Nevada institution and rite of passage for visitors and locals alike, for the full family-style experience. For lighter, elevated bites, Ogi Deli Bar & Pintxos and to Toki Ona should be your first stop to try one of the tastiest steak sandwiches in the state. But what do all three beg for you to try? Their take on the traditional tastes of a Picon punch, Nevada’s infamous unofficial state drink. 

If you’ve already tried your hand at the Basque-style menu, head to the adorable McAdoo’s for a fresh, gourmet brunch or to Stray Dog for their house-made pizza and extensive beer list. If you really want to get crazy, it’s time to feast your eyes on the eclectic menu at Machi’s Saloon and Grill, a local favorite that serves up everything from made-from-scratch pastas, prime rib, and beyond. 

Commercial Casino

Where to Stay in Elko

Dozens of Elko, Nevada hotels range from amenity-packed hotel-casinos, like the Red Lion, to more laid-back motels and delightfully retro motor lodges, like the cozy Thunderbird Motel— vintage neon signs and all. 

Stockmen’s is crowd favorite in downtown Elko’s gaming and entertainment action, along with its former rival the Commercial Casino. Although you can no longer stay overnight at the latter, you can tip your glass to casino history in Nevada’s oldest casino, the birthplace of live nightly entertainment (yep, it wasn’t Las Vegas), and the final resting (or rather, standing) place of White King, the world’s largest stuffed polar bear. And if you like him, it can get even weirder


Whether you’re exploring Lamoille Canyon, spinnin’ yarns with cowboy poets, or wolfing down a family-style Basque feast, tag your Elko adventure snaps with #TravelNevada so we can share them with the world.

I’m not going to lie, this climb kinda scared the crap out of me. So much about climbing is trusting your guide and your gear, but it had been a few years since I’ve been on a wall and I was also pretty hungry, so it was safe to say my mind wasn’t in the best place. Either way, it is pretty cool to be able to shoot photos from the middle of a multi-pitch route. Maybe I’d do it again…for the gram of course.
#lasvegas #redrockcanyon #nevada #desert #mountains #rockclimbing #tradclimbing #universityphotographer #upaa #alwaysexploring #optoutside #stakelinphoto
Still about a month away from being able to see the galactic core but now is a good time to start shooting because temps are still cool and now I am seeing more of the gas clouds. Stars will be tact sharp because of almost zero atmospheric distortion from heat. About 9pm last night, 51 deg, and a rain shower just passed through the area so it smelled nice. The mercury vapor street light added a nice green glow to the buildings. It was nice to hangout at an abandoned ghost town, by myself, in the dark……
#nikon D810
#nikkor 14-24mm ƒ/2.8
25 sec ƒ/2.8
ISO 2500
Whose ready for some of this? Have we got a video for you and your crew for this summers #nvroadtrip. Click on the link in our profile. The ultimate #nevada HWY 50 #mtb road trip with mark_weir_mtb yhauswald angry_singlespeeder tealstetsonlee sarah_sturmy johnprolly theradavist and _james_adamson_  #mountainbike #singletrack #awesome #howtonevada #mountaintown #bikes #trails #ridecarsoncity #rideelynv #ridecaliente travelnevada milesendlodgebnb ponyexpressnevada tambatahoe musclepowered carsonvalleytrailsassociation sierratrails imba_us
Planning trips in late Feb/early March are tricky. We had to adjust plans a few times due to weather and permits. Landed on a 12 mile paddle through the Black Canyon, down the Colorado River...making stops along the way to explore and soak in 4 different hot springs, then camped on the beach with an impressive fire, post an under the stars soak adventure. Not sure how I’m going to go back to a life that doesn’t include a daily nature soak 🤷🏻‍♀️ becky.schreiber wins the trip saver award for coming up with plan F that was an A+ adventure and thankful for kkurc for doing all the hard work of steering the canoe 🛶
Lake Mead just north of the Hoover Dam.
5 months and 15 days until deep playa sunsets. Stoked to get to return to a flooded playa at the end of April for a little #boatingman #barbthebarbarian guada.lupe.diver #blackrockdesert #DFMI #burningman Van
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Nothing to see here...just a little munchin' and brunchin' in Valley of Fire 🔥🔥🔥
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Cathedral Gorge State Park
The oldest living organisms on Earth lying patiently in the shadow of Wheeler Peak and the glacier. These freakin trees are older than Jesus guys. Also the trail through this forest was full of so many loose rocks I swear I nearly twisted my ankles a dozen times. Be safe out in the middle of nowhere guys. I also love this first photo because you can see the Great Basin desert stretch off into the distance at roughly ~6,000ft less elevation in a dozen miles. 
#GreatBasinNationalPark #GreatBasinGroovin #TravelNevada #BristleconePine #MtWheeler
#67: Valley of Fire State Park, NV
We took a “rest day” exploring the colorful, petroglyph-covered rock formations of Valley of Fire. Starting to get seriously obsessed with the red and green hues out here!
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