The locals bill Pioche, NV as “Nevada's liveliest ghost town,” and they ain't lyin'. This small, picturesque eastern Nevada town along the Great Basin Highway boasts some of the Silver State's wildest Western history at numerous fascinating sites—including at a few storied Sagebrush Saloons—all while putting visitors in close range of a few stunning state parks.
Pioche, NV—Eastern Nevada’s Wild West Wonder
Located about 175 miles northeast of Las Vegas along Nevada’s untamed eastern edge, the community in and around Pioche (pronounced “pee-OACH”) is home to a population of just under 1,500 residents. When you first set eyes on the main drag and its clusters of 19th-century buildings (several unoccupied), the word “ghost town” comes to mind. However, out here, that’s a compliment! Thanks to some solid Sagebrush Saloons, a notoriously haunted hotel, wild annual festivities, and incredible outdoor recreation in every direction, Pioche locals and visitors alike know how to crank up the volume in this seemingly quiet locale—a fact that earns it the nickname: “Nevada’s Liveliest Ghost Town.”
History of Pioche, NV
When you visit today, it’s hard to imagine that this quiet, friendly community was once known as one of the roughest, toughest mining towns in the Old West. An 1870s silver boom catapulted Pioche into existence, securing its place as Lincoln County seat as it attracted nearly 6,000 fortune-seekers—including plenty of nefarious types who preferred to let their guns do the talking. In fact, the town’s lack of laws, fierce competition, and abundance of saloons all helped Pioche gain a deservingly deadly reputation—especially when the world learned that none of the first 72 people to die there did so of natural causes. (Eat your hearts out, Tombstone and Dodge City!)
Don’t miss the Lincoln County Courthouse (and find out why it’s called “Million Dollar Courthouse”), Thompson’s Opera House, the soon-to-be restored Historic Gem Theater (scope out that fancy new neon)—and, of course, Boot Hill Cemetery, where deceased outlaws even had their own section, called Murderer’s Row. To really dig into Pioche’s wild history, swing by the Lincoln County Historical Museum.
Boom eventually turned to bust and Pioche downsized its population (naturally, at this point), leaving us with some of the oldest intact buildings in the region. Take a stroll through history on the self-guided historic walking tour and be sure to take in the sights of the ore-hauling aerial tramway (the last of its kind in all of Nevada!)
Things to Do in Pioche, NV
While Pioche’s past is still perfectly present—and a prime draw for visitors to this intriguing town—there’s also plenty of modern-day action to get after around the region. Just 10 minutes south lies one of Nevada’s most stunning sights: Cathedral Gorge State Park, a natural playground of constantly shifting slot canyons, spires, fins, and hoodoos that call to campers, hikers, and family road trippers.
Less than a half-hour east of town you’ll find eastern Nevada’s sister parks, Echo Canyon and Spring Valley, whose sizable reservoirs beckon swimmers, birders, boaters, and fishermen. The road into Spring Valley is lined with alluring rock formations, some of eastern Nevada’s earliest homesteads, and even “pioneer graffiti” etched or oil-greased onto sandstone outcroppings as far back as 1872.
Hunting is big out here—including of…ghosts. You read that right. Paranormal enthusiasts are particularly drawn to whatever’s going on at the Overland Hotel & Saloon, especially in the one room that isn’t individually themed with cute, kitschy decorations (we figure that’s probably why). Some of the “most successful interactions with spirits” on Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures have taken place at this old haunt, rebuilt in 1948 after a devastating fire. Guests frequently report doors mysteriously slamming and even being shaken awake from a dead sleep.
But that’s not the only spooky spot in town. The Million Dollar Courthouse served up its fair share of sentences, back in the day, and it’s entirely possible some of the recipients still have a bone to pick. More than a few Lincoln County Historical Museum staff (who operate this free attraction) have reported finding the mannequins that occupy the courtroom (a creepy thing unto itself) in completely different positions in the morning than they left them the evening before.
Pioche, NV Restaurants
If you’re hungry when you get here, a handful of options can help with that. Sit down to comfort-food classics at the Historic Silver Café (also home to all kinds of nifty souvenirs in the gift cabinet, too). Swing into Gunslingers for coffee, sweet treats, and outlaw-themed sub sammies. Later at night, soak up your beverages with mini-pizzas and other heatable eatables at the Overland Saloon. To stock up on picnic supplies, Meadow Valley Market has you covered.
However, if you’re more psyched to sip, treat yourself to a small-scale Sagebrush Saloon-hopping tour between Pioche’s three bars—the Overland Saloon, Nevada Club, and Alamo Club & Liquor Outlet—which all offer their own take on old-school bar ambiance. And forget what your folks told you—when you’re here, be sure to talk to strangers; you’re practically guaranteed to make some new friends.
Lodging in Pioche, NV
The star of the show here is the Overland Hotel & Saloon, where each room has its own unique theme, from the Fishing Hole and the Hunting Shack to the Bears Den and the Victorian Suite. Although it is rumoredly (very) haunted, the proprietors do promise, “If you are looking for a ghost-free stay, please mention this to the front desk clerk and they will provide you with a room free of activity.”
Meanwhile, RVers can hook up for the night at Pioche RV Park & Campground. Get quaint and cozy at rustic Wright’s Country Cabins, located right downtown. Or post up between Echo Canyon and Spring Valley State Parks at Pat & John’s Eagle Valley Resort, situated just 20 minutes east of town.
Annual Events in Pioche
Each May/June, motorheads descend on Pioche to tackle the area’s network of trails on two wheels during the Pioche Grand Prix, which features races for men, women, veterans, big bikes, and even mini races for boys and girls as young as five years old. But it’s Labor Day weekend when things really go off out here. Since 1905, Pioche Days have welcomed thousands of revelers to whoop it up for street dances, Old West shootouts, live music, fireworks, and—the main event—the annual lawnmower race. The Pioche Labor Day Celebration is also the only time visitors can explore the inside of the 1870-built Thompson’s Opera House—one of few of its kind still standing in Nevada.
Whether you’re ogling old buildings on the walking tour, hunting ghosts at the Overland, or simply cheers-ing beers with new pals at a Sagebrush Saloon, be sure to tag your pics #TravelNevada so we can follow and share your adventure.