Wells, Nevada is a small northeastern Nevada town with intriguing history, which sits at the threshold of boundless recreational bliss—especially at gorgeous Angel Lake. A handful of hotels and dining options welcome visitors and fuel them up for days spent hiking, cycling, and off-highway adventuring. Nearby, a pair of guest ranches, which embody the vibe of the Cowboy Corridor — one of the classic Nevada road trips on which Wells makes a perfect stop.
Wells: Gateway to the East Humboldts
Where is Wells, Nevada, you ask? The small community of Wells is located in Elko County, in the northeast corner of Nevada, where it holds down the junction of Interstate 80 and US 93—two of the West’s most traveled highways. But it ain’t just truckers getting their motors running here. Wells attracts off-roaders to its miles of trails and classic car enthusiasts to an annual car show, while hikers, cyclists, anglers, and Sunday drivers beeline it up the beautiful Angel Lake Scenic Byway.
History of Wells, Nevada
The Western Shoshone people have lived in and around what is now Wells for thousands of years, ever since first arriving to harvest fish and game near a collection of springs—Humboldt Wells—that are the source of both the Humboldt River and the modern town’s name.
Later, trappers and explorers paved the way for pioneers to venture this way along the California Trail, and eventually, in 1869, for the Central Pacific Railroad to establish Wells as both a stop along the Transcontinental Railroad and a railhead for the Nevada Northern Railroad, in order to take ore mined in Ely and move it to market.
Although an earthquake devastated the historic downtown corridor in 2008, you can still walk around and enjoy the 1880s architecture before popping into the Trail Of The 49ers Interpretive Center to view artifacts and hear the stories of the hardy folks who’ve made their way through Wells over the millennia.
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Things to Do in Wells, Nevada
The quiet little community of Wells, Nevada is a perfect place to set up shop for day trips and recreational pursuits in the surrounding region. At the very top of the list is Angel Lake, an aspen-cliffed haven for bighorn sheep, mountain goats, pronghorn antelope, and other wildlife in a glacial cirque hidden seemingly in plain sight just 12 miles (and a few thousand feet of elevation) up Angel Lake Scenic Byway. Two campgrounds and several day-use areas make Angel Lake a prime destination for anglers chasing abundant trout, hikers tackling multiple trails, picnickers enjoying the scenery, and more.
A 20-minute jaunt northwest of town takes you past the headwaters of the Humboldt River and several bucolic ranches en route to Metropolis, a photogenic ghost town known for its iconic brick archway and the shaft of one of Nevada’s first elevators.
About an hour southwest, wildlife enthusiasts flock to Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge, home to hundreds of species of birds and maze-like marshlands, which beckon kayakers and fishermen.
Restaurants in Wells, Nevada
Situated right at the crossroads of I-80 and US-93, Wells offers plenty of chain restaurants in and around the truck stops, if that’s what you’re into. However, the queen of the local options is easily Bella’s Restaurant & Espresso, a cute little breakfast and lunch joint offering delicious morning fare, the best coffee and espresso drinks around, as well as juicy burgers, yummy salads, and hearty hot sandwiches (spring for the ribeye)—plus a full bar to take the edge off after a long drive.
But if you’re hungry in Wells, Mexican food should definitely be on your menu. Two rival taco trucks post up along 6th Street—and in our experience, there’s no loser in this fight. The tacos and burritos from Taqueria el Compa are perfect, while Taqueria El Jaguar’s carnitas and spicy salsas never miss the mark. For a sit-down option, head to Betaso’s Restaurant & Bar for Mexican platters, American classics, and stiff margaritas—located inside the ChinaTown Motel (obviously).
Wells, Nevada Hotels
Wells, Nevada hotels are perfect for resting your head after a day exploring the area. Find all the modern comforts at the Hampton Inn & Suites or the newly renovated Rest Inn Suites. Save some cash at the plenty-cozy Super 8 by Wyndham or Motel 6, go retro at the Sharon Motel, or treat yourself to a full kitchen and full-size fridge at the ChinaTown Motel. RV-ers will find all they need at Mountain Shadows RV Park and Angel Lake RV Park (not to be confused with the two unserviced campgrounds up Angel Lake Scenic Byway).
If you’re looking for something completely different—a vacation on its own—Wells is close to two luxury guest ranches. 30 minutes south of Wells lies uber-opulent Mustang Monument Eco-Resort & Preserve, an uber-opulent resort and forever-home-on-the-range for hundreds of rescued wild horses—and human tourists who adore them. Meanwhile, Cottonwood Ranch, is a working horse and cattle ranch about 70 miles north of Wells where guests can fish, birdwatch, mountain bike, or simply enjoy the panoramic mountain views.
Wells Fun Run Car Show & Cruise
Every last weekend in July, hundreds of motorheads from all over the state (and beyond) wheel on out to Wells for one of Nevada’s largest classic car shows—the biggest of all the events in Wells Nevada. Gear up for row after row of chromed-out, custom painted hot rods, jalopies, and cars of all (pin)stripes.
The free, three-day Wells Fun Run Car Show & Cruise is organized by the High Desert Cruisers car club, who wrangle group rolls through historic Wells, show ‘n’ shines, burnouts, slow drags, dozens of vendor booths brimming with nostalgia, and a poker run—all capped off with a barbecue, street dance, and live entertainment.