Hawthorne, Nevada—nicknamed "America's Patriotic Home"—beckons military history enthusiasts with its thousands of artillery storage bunkers, a one-of-a-kind munitions museum, and its massive annual Armed Forces Day celebration. Meanwhile, outdoor recreationalists stream in to experience Walker Lake, hundreds of miles of off-road trails, bighorn sheep spotting, and world-class fly fishing along the East Walker River.
Welcome to America’s Patriotic Home
Whether you’re rounding Walker Lake from the north or rolling into the valley from the south, you can’t miss the town of Hawthorne Nevada. [Hint: Just keep your eyes peeled for the 2,427 artillery storage bunkers lining the surrounding hills and land and you’ll know you’ve made it.] That’s because this friendly little town is also the world’s largest artillery storage facility, and has been since World War II.
Since then, it’s also become a hub for outdoor adventures on the water—both at huge, crowd-free Walker Lake and along the stunning, trout-packed East Walker River—and on land, with endless dirt roads and trails leading to ghost towns, fishing holes, wildlife hotspots, and beyond.
Hawthorne Nevada’s nickname as “America’s Patriotic Home” is well earned. The Hawthorne Naval Ammunition Depot is the largest ammunition storage facility in the world and played a pivotal role in supplying ordnance to the Pacific Theater during World War II.
Visitors can get a sense of the massive munitions works from many vantage points—more than 2,500 magazine storehouses are still standing—or get a close-up glimpse of what’s been in them at the Hawthorne Ordnance Museum.
The Historic 1942 USO Building and Convention Center, meanwhile, was erected as a social center for service members during the war and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The seat of Mineral County Nevada also boasts the Mineral County Museum, which explores the rich mining and western history of the region, as well as the Carson and Colorado Railroad Depot, the first building constructed in Hawthorne in 1881.
Things To Do in Hawthorne
Hawthorne, like much of Nevada, offers a litany of outdoor recreation activities and attractions. Hawthorne is located right on 50-square-mile Walker Lake, which offers developed and undeveloped beachfront campsites for boaters, kayakers, RV-ers, and stargazing tent campers. The newly opened, nearby 12,856-acre Walker River State Recreation Area offers opportunities for some of the West’s best fly fishing, kayaking along the Pitchfork Ranch Water Trail, camping, horseback riding, and much more. Off-roaders gun it for Hawthorne’s more than 1,000 miles of open roads, tracks, and trails via on all sorts of ATVs and OHVs.
History hunters will want to explore Fletcher’s Station, an important freight stop for travelers heading over Lucky Boy Pass between the 1860s and the 1900s, as well as the famous Mineral County ghost town of Aurora, where a would-be miner named Samuel Clemens wrote letters that would later carry him to Virginia City’s Territorial Enterprise, where he adopted the famous nom de plume, Mark Twain.
The area also is one of the best places in Nevada to view Desert Bighorn Sheep (sometimes right along the highway or even in town), along with pronghorn antelope, mule deer, wild horses, chukar, and all kinds of other wildlife. Meanwhile, the 68,000-acre Marietta Wild Burro Range, is home to about a hundred of the friendly, fuzzy equines, who can be observed living their lives freely.
Hungry adventurers have plenty of options to fill their bellies in Hawthorne Nevada. Swing by the El Capitan Restaurant for a variety of comfort foods. Old Nevada Pizza serves a variety of pizzas, sandwiches, salads, calzones and cold beers. Shake off the morning fog with an espresso drink from Mr. Beane’s Coffee Shop, or hit up convenience store Bighorn Crossing for a tasty hamburger, pizza or breakfast goodies. Pepper’s Place, meanwhile, is a 1950’s-style drive-up eatery featuring made-to-order burgers and other American fare.
Where to Stay in Hawthorne
Travelers base-camping for Hawthorne’s outdoor action or looking get some rest for their next leg of the Free-Range Art Highway will find some reliable places to lay their heads. The Travelodge by Wyndham Hawthorne offers recently revamped, pet-friendly rooms, and anchors the action with its well-known El Capitan casino and popular restaurant. Hawthorne’s Best Inn, Hawthorne’s Best Inn, and Motel 6 Hawthorne all offer comfortable economic stays; meanwhile RV-ers will find everything they need, from 50 amp hookups and large pull-thru sites to propane refills and showers at Whiskey Flats RV Park.
Armed Forces Day Celebration
America’s Patriotic Home celebrates Armed Forces Day every third weekend in May—and has for seven decades. This event draws thousands from around the state for a classic car show, chili cookoff, carnival and parade. Additional events include a watermelon eating contest, arm wrestling competition, tug of war, fireworks, and military flyover by military jets based at Naval Air Station Fallon.