Elko Nevada

Elko

Northeastern Nevada's largest town packs a visit of any length with a combination of epic outdoor action, artsy vibes, and hands-on history in ways few places can. Colorful murals blanket old brick buildings that house buckaroo bars, Basque food joints, art galleries, leather shops, museums, and more. Meanwhile, just a half-hour south lie the fabled Ruby Mountains, a recreational paradise for hikers, bikers, fishermen, skiers, or simply Sunday drivers seeking solace among alpine lakes, flowing streams, and peaks that scratch up to around 13,000' of elevation. If you blast down I-80 and blow past Elko, you're missing out.

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

Elko, Nevada: Altitude Adjustment

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—and therefore a must-stop along the Cowboy Corridor road trip, Elko is both a confluence of Western cultures and a gateway to some of Nevada’s most surprising and untamed wilderness. 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.

Northern Nevada Map Graphic

Region

Northern

Average Temperatures

Summer

87°F

31°C

48°F

C

Fall

64°F

18°C

30°F

-1°C

Winter

39°F

C

16°F

-9°C

Spring

60°F

16°C

31°F

-1°C

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History of Elko, Nevada

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. 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.

elko history
Ruby Mountains
elko buckaroos
Basque Arborglyphs

Those jobs and today’s version of that culture—as well as that of the Western Shoshone people, whose ancestors have long called the region home—are still around, and the region’s colorful heritage remains highly visible 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; and beyond.

Outdoor Things to Do in Elko

The range of recreational opportunities here is as wide as the landscapes, especially in the region’s crown jewels, the Ruby Mountains, located a quick and scenic half-hour south of town. 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.

elko county nv
Ruby Mountains Heli Experience
elko nevada
Lamoille Canyon

In summer, the area is an absolute paradise for hikers, backpackers, cyclists (on and off the pavement), and anglers who are rarely prepared for how amazing the fishing is out here. (Check out our Guide to Summer Fun in the Ruby Mountains for our top recs.)

Come winter, the Rubies boast 300 inches of the driest, fluffiest snow in the USA—seducing snowshoers, snowmobilers, and powder-hungry backcountry skiers and heli-skiers alike.

Arts & Culture in Elko

The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering (see below) 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. But it ain’t all old-school action: in 2019, Elko was the recipient of a vibrant facelift, all thanks to the Elko Mural Expo—a live painting event that recruited more than 40 muralists to create more than 50 murals in just a few short days, with subjects ranging from pastoral scenes from Elko’s past to wildly psychedelic and abstract designs.

places to visit in elko
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.

things to do in elko
Elko Mural Tour

Swing by the Northeastern Nevada Museum to view a gallery of original works by Ansel Adams, legendary Western painter Will E. James, and numerous local artists—as well as an entire room full of taxidermied critters interacting in various “habitats” (its own form of artistic expression). View some truly artisan contemporary leatherwork and gear making at world-famous J.M. Capriola Co., then head a few doors down to the Cowboy Arts & Gear Museum to see the craft’s place in history. 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.

The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Elko is where some of 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.

National Cowboy Poetry Gathering
National Cowboy Poetry Gathering
elko restaurants
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. 

Where to Stay in Elko

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

Stockmen’s is a crowd favorite as the center of 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

elko hotels

Commercial Casino

elko thunderbird

Lodging Options for Elko

Looking for places to stay in Elko? We know just the place!

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Places to Stay in Elko

Ruby Yurts

Ruby Yurts

Elko

Rodeway Inn Elko Downtown Area

Rodeway Inn Elko Downtown Area

Elko

TownePlace Suites by Marriott

TownePlace Suites by Marriott

Elko

Quality Inn & Suites Elko

Quality Inn & Suites Elko

Elko

Maverick Hotel & Casino by Red Lion Hotels

Maverick Hotel & Casino by Red Lion Hotels

Elko

Red's Ranch

Red’s Ranch

Elko

Stockmen's Casino and Ramada Hotel

Stockmen’s Casino and Ramada Hotel

Elko

Thunderbird Motel

Thunderbird Motel

Elko

Comfort Inn Elko

Comfort Inn Elko

Elko

Ruby 360 Lodge

Ruby 360 Lodge

Elko

Holiday Motel

Holiday Motel

Elko

#TravelNevada

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.

Who says Nevada is all desert? These sweeping mountain views were a special surprise. This is outside of Elko, NV in the Ruby Mts. If you are ever driving through Nevada don't miss it! 

#travelNevada travelnevada #hiking #adventure #explore #hiddentreasure #nature #hikingadventures #hikingculture #mountains #travel #outdoors #optoutside #trekking #wanderlust
apparently the best kept secret in Nevada ✨
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#silverstate #travelnevada #nevada #cowboycountry #rubies #elko #mountains
Elko Nevada 2020
Views for days
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The Ruby Mountains stole my heart years ago when we happened to drive through them on our way to Great Basin National Park from Elko. When I researched the fall trip and read about them as one of the best places in Nevada to see foliage, I immediately added them to our itinerary. 
Lamoille Canyon was more than I expected and a great place to start our trip through the colorful fall places in the West.
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 #travelnevada #thatnevadalife #explorenevada #naturalnevada #exploreelko #allaboutadventures #beautifuldestinations #artofvisuals #passionpassport #discoverearth #lonelyplanet #roamtheplanet #theglobalwonderer #cntraveler #dametraveler #agameoftones #peoplescreatives #stayandwander #letsgetlost #leagueoflenses #canonphotographer #neverstopexploring #alltrails #ipreview naturalnevada alltrails
Ready for some quirky Nevada history? Read on...
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For a few months in the late 1920's, cows were rustled on the huge UC Ranch in northeastern Elko County and no human tracks were found at the scenes of the crimes. It had ranchers scratching their heads in bewilderment.
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Then, a couple of UC cowpokes were following the trail of a couple of cows to bring them back to the herd. They topped a hill and saw a steer being driven by a man. They raced down the hill and caught J.R.
We like it when Western lingo takes front and center stage - literally! This is Alex MacLeod and RattleSnail, whose performance also included the words Etiquettish, Prance, High Toned Dance, Togged Out, and Turkey Gobbler's Head. We'll just leave it at that. 📸: @chasmogrub 
#westernfolklifecenter #cowboypoetrygathering #singalong #sheepsheep  #prop #baa #singwithme #countrywestern #westernlife #americanwest #elkonevada #realfolklife #folklife #folkandstory #elkonv #stageperformance #cowboyup #cowgirlup #singyourheartout #stage #writingsongs #words #signsonsigns #linguistics
Ranching has been a cornerstone of our business since we opened our doors in 1929. We pride ourselves in building quality and functional gear, that often become heirloom pieces as well. We are the Guardians of Tradition. .
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#jmcapriola #rancherandcowboyheadquarters #guardiansoftradition #elkonevada #buckaroocountry #greatbasin #cowboycorridor
𝟗𝟏 𝐲𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐬𝐚𝐝𝐝𝐥𝐞 𝐦𝐚𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐝𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧. 🏆

#jmcapriola #guardiansoftradition #customsaddlery #elkonevada #travelnevada #cowboycorridor #rancherandcowboyheadquarters #workshopwednesday #westernwednesday
Next time you’re in downtown Elko, look anywhere – you’ll spot one (or more) of the 51 new murals brought to town by the @elko_mural_expo. Get a peek at these kaleidoscopic pieces of public art, like this one from @emceedowell, in our bio. 🎨👀✨ #TravelNevada #NVArt
There is something to be said about real, decent, good friends. Whether you hang out together on stage or in the audience, at home or in Elko - here's a shout out to friendships and taking care of those who have your backs, who'll cheer you on, and who'll crack a joke at just the right time. ❤️ .

This photo is from That 70's Show at the 36th Gathering. Visit our Facebook page for more entertainment, or become a member to see full shows online. See link in bio for details on how to join. 📸: @marlaaufmuth
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#westernfolklifecenter #cowboypoetrygathering #amazingfriends #goodtimeswithgoodpeople #oldfriendships #wegowayback #longtimefriends #newfriendship #laughallnight #newfriendshipsmade #friendswithyou #countrywestern #friendsarethefamilyyouchoose #americanwest #elkonevada #cowgirlup #realfolklife #cowboyup #folklife #friendship #westernlife #ranchy #westernlifestyle #ivegotfriendsinlowplaces #thankfulforfriendship #elkonv #farwest #timeforfriends #outwest #thankfulforfriends
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