Billed as the “Friendliest Town in Nevada,” Winnemucca will welcome you with big Basque dinners, rich buckaroo history, and all kinds of ways to enjoy the great outdoors. From the mighty Humboldt River to sprawling sand dunes and a mountain biking trail that’ll make your shins quake, pack an appetite (and your favorite cowboy hat) for endless adventure.
Fresh Air & Cowboy Flair
Your first trip to Winnemucca certainly won’t be your last. After all, there’s a reason this Humboldt County, Nevada gem boasts of being the “Friendliest Town” in the Silver State. The warm hospitality will get you in the proverbial door, but it’s the scenic outdoor opportunities, hearty Basque cuisine, and vibrant cowboy culture that’ll keep you coming back for more.
Located halfway between San Francisco and Salt Lake City, there’s no better basecamp than Winnemucca, NV. Book a few overnights in town as the perfect respite from days spent chasing ghost towns, rockhounding opals, and bagging unbelievable views.
Winnemucca History & Culture
Does “Winnemucca, NV” ring any bells? It might if you’re familiar with Chief Winnemucca of the local Northern Paiute people, the first to call this region of Nevada home, and his daughter, Sarah Winnemucca. The 1860s construction of the Transcontinental Railroad (which built out existing East Coast railways all the way to San Francisco) also helped put Winnemucca on the map. This historic endeavor brought a community of Chinese workers to the area who, along with Basque sheepherders from southern Europe’s Basque Country, contributed to the town’s cultural background.
Dig even deeper into the region’s origin stories at the Humboldt Museum, where you can get up close and personal with a wooly mammoth skeleton and fossils from an ichthyosaur species discovered in the nearby Black Rock Desert. Robust exhibits on Winnemucca’s American Indian and Chinese heritage and Humboldt Soda Works, which later sold to 7UP, will equally wow you.
Winnemucca also brims with Wild West history. Learn all about the cowboy roots here by boot scootin’ to the Buckaroo Hall of Fame & Heritage Museum, which also doubles as the Winnemucca Visitors Center. You’ll be introduced to 70+ bona fide bronc riding, cattle handling, and roping inductees while being surrounded by western memorabilia and displays of saddles, chaps, brands, art, photos, and more.
Travel Nevada Pro Tip
Things to Do in Winnemucca, NV
Grab all your adventure gear before hitting the road to Winnemucca – you’re gonna want it. The Winnemucca Sand Dunes are a must if you’re itchin’ to rip up almost 100-foot-tall mounds that span 40 miles. And if you don’t have your own dirtbikes or ATVs, you can snag some rentals from Reno-based UTV Addiction. Anglers will reel-y enjoy fishing for white crappie, walleye, channel catfish, yellow perch, and both smallmouth and largemouth bass in the Humboldt River, along with primitive camping and serene views. The Water Canyon Recreation Area is great for hiking, biking, wildlife sightseeing, picnics, and overnight camping, too.
If you wanna explore outside of Winnemucca, there are some A++ day trip opportunities awaiting you. You’ll practically have spring wildflowers, craggy granite formations, and pockets of aspens (plus jaw-dropping vistas) all to yourself in the Santa Rosa-Paradise Peak Wilderness. And mountain bikers of all skill levels can let loose on the Bloody Shins Trail, which offers beginner, intermediate, and advanced grades over seven-to-seventeen trying miles and a trailhead right of the edge of Winnemucca.
Head 40 miles north of Winnemucca for the living ghost town (population: about 50) of Paradise Valley, which will fully feel like the movie set of an 1885 western. On select Saturdays, the Paradise Valley Saloon & Bar G hosts a mighty appetizing ribeye cookout for dinner, too. Rockhounders and sparkle seekers can try their hand (or hammer) in Denio, right on the Nevada/Idaho border, and hopefully head home with opals for souvenirs.
Treat your tastebuds to the most delicious history lesson they’ll ever enjoy. Winnemucca is big on Basque cuisine, and there’s no better way to get introduced to the Nevada slice of this culture than a five-star, course-after-course meal. The Martin Hotel has served up braised lamb shanks, chorizo, ribeyes, and one stellar steak sandwich since 1898. And over at Bakarra Basque Bistro, exquisite seafood and pasta dishes neighbor meaty entrees, and sampling some pintxos – tapas-styled bites featuring classic Basque flavors – is absolutely part of the experience. Wash it all down with a Picon Punch, Nevada’s unofficial state cocktail that you’ll be hard pressed to find outside the Silver State.
For those who’ll pass on the Basque, The Pig BBQ & Pub is another local favorite, whipping up St. Louis-style ribs, Louisiana hot links, and hickory-smoked chicken. Sink your teeth into homemade, stone-baked pizza and calzones at Winnemucca Pizzeria, or go for fresh and authentic Mexican favorites made from family recipes at Chihuahua’s Cantina & Grill. And for breakfast, step into what feels like a 1960s time capsule at The Griddle, a nostalgic diner making damn good crepes, hotcakes, and benedicts with a side of fresh-squeezed orange juice.
Where to Stay in Winnemucca
Cap off your best day ever with a sleepover, as you’ll have a fair share of Winnemucca hotels to choose from. Glowing neon will beckon you to the Scott Shady Court, a retro roadside inn that pairs vintage charm with comfy beds, a grassy playground, and a heated pool and sauna. Pets are welcome at the Best Western Plus Gold Country Inn, but only humans can take advantage of the complimentary full breakfast. If it’s a hotel casino experience you seek, The Winnemucca Inn pairs spacious suites with slots and a sportsbook.
Winnemucca hasn’t forgotten about RV travelers, boasting more than 350 spaces for you. Silver State RV Park features a shuffleboard court and koi pond in addition to being big rig friendly, plus two cabins, a park model, and a safari tent for rent. Huge pull-throughs, a dog park, and spectacular sunrise/sunset views are waiting for you at New Frontier RV Park.
Mark your calendars for some extra special Winnemucca events. Traditionally held over Memorial Day weekend, the Run-A-Mucca Motorcycle and Music Festival packs free concerts, a $1,000 poker run, bike shows and games, a tattoo contest, and the literal burning of a bike into three memory-making days. For a glimpse into the real lives of Great Basin cowboys, mosey into town for the Winnemucca Ranch Hand Rodeo Weekend, where 30+ teams show off skills in saddle bronc riding, ranch doctoring, team roping, cow dog trials, and so much more.
At the Shooting the West Photography Symposium, both budding and professional photographers can take part in hands-on workshops with industry leaders, participant shows, juried contests, and portfolio reviews. And last but nowhere near least, the Winnemucca Basque Festival is one more way to latch onto the region’s heritage. Come for the food, stay for the time-honored games, like weight carrying and Jota dancing.