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.

I never get tired of these shots! #astrophotography #milkyway #travelnevada #nevada
𝗘𝗱𝗴𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗖𝗼𝘀𝗺𝗼𝘀 ✨👽✨⁣
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I recently found myself out in the middle of nowhere Nevada.  Couldn’t resist lighting up some buses and checking out some stars.  It’s damn dark out there! 🌚 ⁣
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•⁣ #internationalcarforest #internationalcarforestofthelastchurch #travelnevada #goldfield #goldfieldghosttown #goldfieldnv #nevadanights #nevada #nv #milkywayshooters #sonyalpha #sony1224gm #tonopah #tonopahnevada #litbylume #nightshooterz #thecosmos #darkskyshots #onlyinnevada #explorenevada #jrodphoto
The sun is setting but the day is not done. The crew of NNRY 93 prepares to bring the engine to the Cherry Creek Depot for a night time photo shoot. Taken during the Nevada Northern Winter Spectacular. February 16, 2024

#trains #locomotive #railroad #railroadphotography #railphotos_usa #railfans #railfans_of_instagram #trainphotography #steamlocomotive #steamtrain #steam #steamengine #photography #nikon #travel #everything_transport #railphotography #nevada #nevadaphotography #travelnevada #nnry #nevadanorthern #ely #elynevada #winter #desert #greatbasin
Views 🚂 
#lakemead #hikenevada #beautifuldestinations #hikemoreworryless #sheisnotlost #nevada #vegas #bouldercity #vegaslocal #photooftheday #wanderlust #photography #thegreatoutdoors #theglobewanderer #letsgosomewhere
Just moseying around the desert and seeing what we find. Life is good. 😌 

#ridenevada #nevada #mojavedesert
Walking through the narrows 🥾

I’ve been wanting to visit this place for a while now, but the last time I tried going was after a wash came through and made it difficult to get out there. This time I was finally able to go, and it did not disappoint. What’s even crazier is that this place is about 1 hour outside of vegas!! 

📍Anniversary Narrows, NV 
🚗 4x4 recommended (I have AWD and no issues)

#nevada #travelnevada #roam #explore #adventure #anniversarynarrows #lasvegas #vegas #desert #hiddengems
Stargazing and looking for meteors at the Seven Magic Mountains ☄️🌌 You don’t have to wonder too far from Vegas to catch the meteors. Grab a chair and a few jackets cause it gets 🥶 Shouts to jennayyyyye for helpin me achieve these effects 🔥📸

#astrophotography #travelnevada #sevenmagicmountains #meteorshower
Come train or shine ⁣
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All aboard the hot mess express, let’s hike this railroad trail near Las Vegas 🚂🛤️🥾⁣
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[SAVE this post for later!]⁣
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Trail name: Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail⁣
Location: Boulder City, Nevada⁣
Distance: 8.2 miles out-and-back (or as far as you want to go)⁣
Difficulty: Easy⁣
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Includes: ⁣
- 5 railroad tunnels, roughly 300 ft by 25 ft in diameter ⁣
- Panoramic views of Lake Mead, Boulder Basin, and Hoover Dam, with the South Virgin Mountains rising up in the distance ⁣
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Fun fact: After the Hoover Dam was completed in 1935, the railroad ceased operation. In 1962 the tracks were removed, and the trail opened in 1995. ⁣
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The best place to begin your trek is the Lake Mead National Recreation Area Alan Bible Visitor Center trailhead. This is also a shared trailhead for the River Mountains Loop Trail.⁣
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👉🏼 Tag a friend you’d do this railroad trail with!⁣
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⚠️ Help preserve nature’s beauty by packing out all trash (even food scraps), never carve or graffitii on rocks, and stay on designated trails. Visit lnt.org for more info.⁣
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only_in_nevada #onlyinnevada #travelnevada #bouldercitynv #bouldercity #nevadadesert #thatnevadalife #nevadastateparks #naturalnevada #hikertrash #hikergirl #hikerlife #happyhiker #thruhiker #modernhiker #hikergirls #lnt #leavenotrace
Anyone else have a kid that would literally run into the water if you let them? 🥴💙
Exploring the remnants of an old 1800s ghost mining town in Nevada with Granny. #nevada #travelnevada #ghosttown #mining
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