Watering Holes: The 6 “Coolest” Trips from Reno

Wanna beat the heat? Make a splash and raise a glass at these trip-worthy watering holes within easy reach of Reno.

As the thermometer climbs in northern Nevada, the search for “cool” places to go becomes a literal one. Luckily, our state is no stranger to some seriously epic watering holes. Pristine lakes, rivers, and springs? Absolutely. But also the other kind: the types of joints we here at Travel Nevada like to call Sagebrush Saloons

So the next time you’re rarin’ to get out of town and cool off—whether it’s with a refreshing dip or a frosty mug in a history-drenched tavern—check out this roundup of trip-worthy watering holes within easy reach of Reno.

Kings Canyon Waterfall Hike

Carson City

Distance from Reno: 40 min / 35 mi

Find it on the Lake Tahoe Loop road trip

Just down the road in our bustling capital town of Carson City lies an easy, all-ages hike with some seriously splashy payoffs. Even though it’s just a five-minute drive from Carson’s historic heart, the moment you set your boots (or mountain bike wheels) on the trail, you’ll feel ages away as you weave among plentiful native plants and trees, wildlife, and wondrous wilderness vistas.

Just a quarter-mile jaunt puts you at the base of a famously photogenic, 25-foot waterfall. Feeling brave? Pack the suit and hop in for a brisk Sierra shower. Multiple loop trails carry you up the creek to more cascades, as well as a climb to another waterfall along a ridgeline packed with picture-perfect picnic spots and sweeping views of the valley below. 

Grab Grub: L.A. Bakery Café & Eatery for picnic-perfect sammies and salads to-go; The Union for elevated après-hike eats; Shoe Tree Brewing Co. for celebratory brews next door to fine fare at Sassafras Eclectic Food Joint and muscle-mellowing soaks at Carson Hot Springs.

Bed Down: Hardman House, City Center Hotel, Holiday Inn Express

Middlegate Station

Fallon

Distance from Reno: 1hr 45min / 110 mi

Find it on the Loneliest Road in America

If you’ve ever ventured along the Loneliest Road in America, about 45 minutes east of the outskirts of Fallon, you’ve probably spotted three glorious red neon letters glowing in the distance: B-A-R. Next time, let them beckon you off Highway 50 to Middlegate Station, the 1860-built Pony Express station turned stagecoach stop turned real-deal roadhouse that delights all who enter with its authentic, ramshackle wooden ambiance. 

Pull up a stool, order a no-frills beverage, tack a decorated dollar to the ceiling, and chat up fellow travelers (or one of 18 locals) as you chow down on juicy burgers, hot sandwiches, or even (if you dare) the multi-pound Middlegate Monster, an infamous burger beast—the slaying of which earns you bragging rights and a free t-shirt (as long as you can make it to the road before your stomach changes its mind). If you indulge too much, you can always crash at the on-site motel.

Grab Grub: Hard to beat the grilled-in-front-of-you goodness right here (and if you like it hot, add a slice of ghost pepperjack!), but if you’re hungry en route, farm-fresh Fallon delivers with tasty sammies and fresh-baked treats at the Courtyard Café & Bakery, and elevated, home-made everything at The Slanted Porch.

Bed Down: Paradise Ranch Castle, Union Street Lodging B&B, Cold Springs Station Resort, Pony Canyon Motel.

Tahoe East Shore Trail

Incline Village, North Lake Tahoe

Distance from Reno: 1 hr / 37 mi

Find it on the Lake Tahoe Loop road trip

Craving some Big Blue vibes, but dreading the potential of Tahoe traffic? Bust out your bikes, blades, and beach blankets—and pretty much anything non-motorized, including your own two feet—and head to this spankin’-new, three-mile stretch of lake-hugging pavement to get the best of both worlds. The result of literal decades of planning, “America’s Most Beautiful Bikeway” connects Incline Village to Sand Harbor by way of picture-perfect vista points and spur trails to smaller (but equally famous) Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park swimming beaches. 

Grab Grub: Tunnel Creek Café for breakfast burritos, sandwiches, picnic lunch dishes, and eight beers on tap; T’s Mesquite Rotisserie for fire-roasted Mexican classics and whole-chicken Family Pacs. 

Bed Down: Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa & Casino; Parkside Inn at Incline

Lucky Spur Saloon

Kingston

Distance from Reno:  3hr 20min / 190 mi

Find it along the Loneliest Road in America

Take a 30-minute detour south of Highway 50 to Kingston, where pretty much every road actually does lead to a joint Men’s Health magazine once dubbed the “Best Bar in the Middle of Nowhere.” We’d argue that it’s actually the middle of Big Smoky Valley, which you can enjoy an unbeatable view of from your stool at the Lucky Spur Saloon, a scrappy little oasis known for cold beers, stiff pours, old trappers’ gear lining the walls, and always-eclectic conversation with colorful locals, road trippers, fishermen, hikers taking a break from the Toiyabe Crest Trail, and more. 

Pair a visit here with exploring trails, OHV routes, and fishing holes in breathtaking Kingston Canyon, soaking in nearby Spencer Hot Springs, admiring the ancient pictographs of Toquima Cave. Park for the night in the campground or a number of boondocking sites up the canyon, or cozy into Kingston 376 for indoor comforts.

Grab Grub: If you’re here, you’re way out there (kudos!), so it’s best to burger yourself up in advance at Middlegate Station or Cold Springs Station Resort.

Bed Down: Kingston 376, Pony Canyon Motel, Cozy Mountain Motel.

Walker River State Recreation Area

Yerington

Distance from Reno: 1hr 30min / 85 mi

Find it off the Free-Range Art Highway

The latest and greatest addition to the Nevada State Parks system provides long-awaited direct access to the stunning and still-wild East Walker River. Fishermen have known about this fabled region for years, but the newly opened Pitchfork Ranch now offers seven literally gorge-ous miles of river to float in a tube or kayak along an established (and nicely mapped) seven-mile water trail. Add in walking and biking trails, wildlife watching, 16 tree-covered campsites (for tenters and RV-ers alike), nice facilities, and you’ve got yourself one seriously cool escape. 

Grab Grub: Yerington has you covered with country classics at Sherry’s Stage Stop, beers and bar bites at Cabin Fever, and more. Or take the southern Smith Valley route and stop for burgers and brews at another classic Sagebrush Saloon, Iggy & Squiggy’s Junction Bar.

Bed Down: Pitchfork Ranch camping; Yerington Inn, Main Street Inn, Walker River Resort

Paradise Valley Saloon & Bar G

North of Winnemucca in
Paradise Valley

Distance from Reno: 3 hrs / 205 mi

Find it on the Cowboy Corridor road trip

If you dislike authenticity, steer clear of this place. Situated in the verdant, aptly named Paradise Valley, just 40 minutes north of Winnemucca, this century-plus-old Sagebrush Saloon serves up delightfully old-school vibes—and kinda has to; without any other regular businesses in “town,” it’s a de facto community center, where area buckaroos (some repping their family’s 6th generation as locals) come to get their news and shoot the breeze, usually over tumblers of bourbon, ice-cold beers, and a Picon Punch or three. While the place looks like a bar in someone’s cabin living room, the husband-and-wife proprietors’ hospitality makes you actually feel like it is. 

It’s also a good place to be hungry, thanks to a small-but-delicious menu of Basque-style chorizo sandwiches, burgers, dogs, and—best yet, if you come on a Saturday—ribeye steak dinners with all the fixins. The Saturday steak feed has been drawing a crowd for generations, so it’s best to call ahead to reserve yourself a cut of tender, perfectly grilled-up beef. 

Grab Grub: Right here! However, Winnemucca eases pre-saloon hankerings with hearty Basque bites at The Martin Hotel and Bakarra Basque Bistro, breakfast and brunch classics at The Griddle, and Mexican favorites at Chihuahua’s Grill & Cantina.

Bed Down: Scott Shady Court, Quality Inn Winnemucca – Model T Casino, Best Western Gold Country Inn – Winnemucca.

Worth the Trip

These destinations require a little more commitment than your average daylong excursion. But we can promise you: make the trip and you’ll instantly understand why they’re some of the coolest spots in the Silver State.

Sagebrush Saloons, Historic Saloon, Historic Nevada Saloon, Old West Bar, Old West Saloon

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Lamoille Canyon and the Ruby Mountains

If you need a little altitude adjustment, you can’t beat the Rubies (AKA “America’s Alps”). Lamoille Canyon, the range’s glacier-sculpted heart, harbors some of the best hiking, camping, fishing, and off-grid alpine solace-seeking this side of the Rockies. Tackle trails along flowing streams and to several stunning alpine lakes, or have a picnic along rushing Lamoille Creek, where keen eyes spot beavers, bighorn sheep, huge birds, and other cool critters. (5h/320mi)

Lamoille Canyon

Jiggs Bar

If you’re headed to the Rubies, you might as well cross this Sagebrush Saloon off your Nevada Bar Bucket List. To set the scene, back in the day, Jiggs’ whole population once fit into a VW van for an ad. Today, you’ll find their descendants and fellow travelers enjoying cold libations, friendly convo, and eccentric taxidermy (an albino porcupine and a two-headed calf, anyone?) at 70-plus-year-old Jiggs Bar—the coziest (and only) gathering place around. (4h45m/325mi)

Jiggs Bar

Red Dog Saloon

OK, so this is one of the farthest-away NV saloons from Reno (and most places; it’s in Jarbidge, one of the Lower 48’s most remote towns), but we can’t not put it on your radar. With its original 1900s mining town decór, impressive whiskey selection, and friendly, Iron Maiden-loving proprietor—all set in an adventurer’s paradise of flowing streams, aspen forests, and 10,000-foot peaks—no Sagebrush Saloon is more on it with off-the-grid hospitality. (8+ hrs/400+ mi)

Red Dog Saloon

Beaver Dam State Park

This lesser-visited gem in the Nevada State Parks jewel box boasts trails that criss-cross a trickling, trout-packed stream; romp up a flowing tributary with multiple cascade pools (including a warm-ish one at the top); along with forested campsites among river-carved canyons and stunning rock formations where you can bed down for a starlit night—serenaded by flowing water, rustling leaves, wild turkeys, and maybe even a distant bobcat or two. (7h45m/455mi)

Beaver Dam State Park

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