great basin national park
great basin national park map

Great Basin Highway

Park-Hopping in Paradise along US-93

Route Distance

350 to 585 miles

Suggested Time

3 to 5 Days

Positively brimming with grandeur, Nevada boasts a hefty slice of the American West’s stunning scenery, intriguing geology, and natural wonders. This 355-mile route along the Great Basin Highway takes in the highlights, beginning with red rock spires and sandstone canyons, and ending with mountain peaks, ancient bristlecone pine forests, and some of the nation’s darkest, star-studded skies. In five days, you’ll steer from Las Vegas to Ely to Great Basin National Park, immersing yourself in the larger-than-life landscapes of Valley of Fire State Park, Cathedral Gorge State Park, and several other distinct Nevada state parks, as well as ghost towns and sites soaked in Nevada history.

Highlights

  • Marvel at red rock formations in Valley of Fire State Park 
  • Navigate the slot canyons of Cathedral Gorge State Park 
  • Discover why “half the park is after dark” at Great Basin National Park

Cruisin’ the Great Basin Highway

A Park Parade on Nevada’s Eastern Edge

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, geology buff or simply want to see what all the hype is about, this is the park-packed road trip for you. The Great Basin Highway, which closely follows U.S. 93, will take you through several Nevada state parks, including the dazzling Valley of Fire, before ending at Great Basin National Park, home to 13,064-foot Wheeler Peak and the Lehman Caves system. On the road, you’ll pass through numerous intriguing landscapes and a few eccentric communities. Hike, bike, swim, and stroll in Nevada’s greatest outdoors and discover historic sights along the way. Adventure awaits on the Great Basin Highway!

COMMUNITIES ON THIS TRIP

Alamo, Baker, Caliente, Ely, Moapa Valley, Pioche

Glovebox Essentials

Prepare for Your Adventure

Get ready to come chase some horizons with this handy dandy tool kit. Here, you’ll find all the Great Basin Highway road trip essentials, including downloadable directions, maps, and podcasts, and tunes to complement your upcoming adventure.

Great Basin Highway Playlist

Buzzfeed Bring Me! Along Nevada’s Great Basin Highway

Get Adventurous

5 Days on the Great Basin Highway

This five-day road trip on Nevada’s Great Basin Highway is the mother of all adventures. From slot canyons and alpine lakes to Wild West saloons and ghost towns, this is the rubber-burning, asphalt-churning journey you’ll never forget. So buckle-up, enjoy the ride, and take a gander at all the incredible places you’ll experience along the way.

Leg 1

A Desert that Breathes Fire, Art, and History

Launch from Las Vegas to Valley of Fire State Park for seriously stunning red rocks and petroglyphs. The desert starlight and morning glow will set your soul (and camera lens) afire.

Leg 2

Caliente: SO hot right now…

Gear up and grab the binoculars, too. Wildlife abound around this climbing capital and mountain biking mecca.

Leg 3

Park Hopping in Paradise

Enjoy a full day of all-to-yourself scenery and ghost town intrigue in a corner of Nevada that’s jam-packed with state parks.

Leg 4

Art, Outlaws, and Outdoor Awesomeness

Discover the funky town of Ely with a fresco-laden artwalk to historic sites and saloons. Don’t miss a swimming opportunity en route.

Leg 5

Oldest Trees Under the Darkest Skies

Cruise from Ely to Great Basin National Park for ancient pines, sculpted caverns, and starry nights.

las vegas to valley of fire

Leg 1

Las Vegas to Valley of Fire State Park to Caliente

52 miles on Interstate 15

Start your journey in Las Vegas, where you can wrap your senses around the dizzying sights and sounds of Nevada’s neon city before lighting out for the desert. Burn east on I-15 to Valley of Fire State Park, or take scenic Routes 169 and 167 for a meandering drive past Lake Mead and Gold Butte National Monument as you watch for wild horses. Spend a full day in Valley of Fire taking short hikes to Atlatl Rock, Elephant Rock, the Fire Wave and White Domes, and checking out prehistoric petroglyphs etched into sandstone.

Nevada is all about open-road adventures, but please brush up on travel restrictions and safety guidelines before heading for our horizons.

Absorb dramatic desert scenery at a luxurious inn, travel back in time in one of 15 old west cabins, or sleep under the stars and rise early to see red rock aglow in the morning light.

The North Shore Inn at Lake Mead

The North Shore Inn at Lake Mead

Overton

Take short hikes to Elephant Rock and Fire Wave and gaze at prehistoric rock carvings on Atlatl Rock in Valley of Fire State Park. Learn about the Ancestral Puebloan people at Lost City Museum. Or detour to Gold Butte.

Valley of Fire State Park

Valley of Fire State Park

Overton

Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Boulder City

Lost City Museum

Lost City Museum

Moapa Valley

Gold Butte National Monument

Gold Butte National Monument

Gold Butte

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Savor American favorites at Sugar’s Home Plate. Grab a bite of cowboy-ready grub at Timbers Lodge & Grill. Or fuel up your next leg with out-of-this-world snacks from E.T. Fresh Jerky.

The Inside Scoop

The Inside Scoop

Moapa Valley

E.T. Fresh Jerky

E.T. Fresh Jerky

Hiko

basin highway state parks

Leg 2

Valley of Fire State Park to Caliente

155 miles on Interstate 15

It’s time to hit the road on a beautiful stretch of Highway 93 to the town of Caliente, known as Nevada’s “City of Roses” for its wild rosebed-lined streets. Stop at Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge for spectacular birding in a watery, oasis-like sanctuary before rolling into Caliente, recently reborn into a mountain bike mecca, where downhill trails and a skills park thrill beginner and advanced riders alike. (For non-bike types, this is a prime time to hoof it around lush, trail-studded Kershaw-Ryan State Park, instead.) After a day of tackling trails, relax in a private hot tub at the Caliente Hot Springs Motel (reopening spring 2021), complete with cycling-themed rooms, and rest up for the next full day of adventure.

Soak in the town’s namesake mineral waters at Caliente Hot Springs Motel (reopening fall 2021). Color yourself all-the-way cozy at the Rainbow Canyon or Midway Motels. Or get a cute B&B experience at Pine Tree Inn and Bakery in Panaca.

Caliente Hot Springs Motel

Caliente Hot Springs Motel

Caliente

Pine Tree Inn & Bakery

Pine Tree Inn & Bakery

Panaca

Overland Hotel & Saloon

Overland Hotel & Saloon

Pioche

Leg 2 is all about scenic drives and dirt trails. Swing by Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge to spot migratory birds, then mountain bike Barnes Canyon or hike Kershaw-Ryan. For a sweet side trip, search for half-a-billion-year-old fossils at Oak Springs Trilobite Area.

Oak Springs Trilobite Area

Oak Springs Trilobite Area

Caliente

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge

Alamo

City, by Michael Heizer

City, by Michael Heizer

Nearest Alamo

Barnes Canyon Mountain Bike Trails

Barnes Canyon Mountain Bike Trails

Caliente

Double Negative

Double Negative

Overton

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Cool off with a cold one at the Side Track Restaurant and Side Car Speakeasy or cozy up in a booth and dig into hearty chicken-fried steaks and other classic American faves at Knotty Pine Restaurant.

Knotty Pine Restaurant & Lounge

Knotty Pine Restaurant & Lounge

Caliente

Side Track Restaurant & Side Car Speakeasy

Side Track Restaurant & Side Car Speakeasy

Caliente

Pine Lodge Dinner House

Pine Lodge Dinner House

Lamoille

cathedral gorge state park

Leg 3

6 Nevada State Parks en route to Pioche

The choice is yours!

From Caliente, take the short drive to Kershaw-Ryan State Park for “gorge-ous” short hikes and meander lush, spring-fed grounds before dipping just south to aptly-named Rainbow Canyon, or 20 miles farther for a frontier history lesson at Elgin Schoolhouse. Do not miss Cathedral Gorge State Park, where wandering the iconic slot canyons and sand castle spires are a Nevada rite of passage. For more park action, swing by Beaver Dam, Echo Canyon or Spring Valley State Parks (pack your rod for all three) on your way to Pioche, dubbed “Nevada’s liveliest ghost town” and famed for its murderous mining history.

Get into Pioche’s Wild West spirit (and possibly spirits) at the classic Overland Hotel & Saloon. Get quaint and cozy and anything but a fever at rustic Wright’s Country Cabins. Or post up between two state parks at Pat & John’s Eagle Valley Resort.

Overland Hotel & Saloon

Overland Hotel & Saloon

Pioche

Pat & John’s Eagle Valley Resort

Pat & John’s Eagle Valley Resort

Pioche

Wright’s Country Cabins

Wright’s Country Cabins

Pioche

Plunge into Nevada’s countryside with a choose-your-own combo of five Nevada state parks. Then cruise to Pioche, “Nevada’s Liveliest Ghost Town,” to check out the Million Dollar Courthouse, Boot Hill Cemetery, and the Lincoln Country Museum.

Lincoln County Historical Museum

Lincoln County Historical Museum

Pioche

Beaver Dam State Park

Beaver Dam State Park

Caliente

Cathedral Gorge State Park

Cathedral Gorge State Park

Panaca

Echo Canyon State Park

Echo Canyon State Park

Pioche

Rainbow Canyon

Rainbow Canyon

Caliente

Kershaw-Ryan State Park

Kershaw-Ryan State Park

Caliente

Million Dollar Courthouse

Million Dollar Courthouse

Pioche

Boot Hill Cemetery

Boot Hill Cemetery

Pioche

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Chow down on comfort-food classics at the Historic Silver Café, then wash it all down at an old-school sagebrush saloon, like the period-perfect Overland Hotel & Saloon or the 120-year-old Alamo Club.

Alamo Club & Liquor Outlet

Alamo Club & Liquor Outlet

Pioche

Overland Hotel & Saloon

Overland Hotel & Saloon

Pioche

Whether it’s via cooking competitions among hoodoos and spires or multi-day townwide celebrations, Lincoln County can help you let loose your inner pioneer.

Pioche Labor Day Celebration

Pioche Labor Day Celebration

las vegas to ely

Leg 4

Pioche to Ely

134 miles on US 93

Art, outlaws, and outdoor awesomeness await in the copper mining boomtown of Ely. In Ely, ogle murals on your way to walk through history at Renaissance Village and let off steam at the Nevada Northern Railway and East Ely Railroad Depot Museum. Then hike, bike, or swim at Cave Lake State Park and explore beehive-shaped kilns (and bandit hideouts) at Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park.

Bustling Ely offers up tried-and-true comfy overnighters, along with a chance to hole-up in a historic hotel where gamblers, gunslingers, and speculators once roamed the halls.

Bristlecone Motel

Bristlecone Motel

Ely

Jailhouse Motel & Casino

Jailhouse Motel & Casino

Ely

Historic Hotel Nevada & Gambling Hall

Historic Hotel Nevada & Gambling Hall

Ely

Prospector Hotel & Gambling Hall

Prospector Hotel & Gambling Hall

Ely

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En route to Ely, explore a historic site and splash in a turquoise-hued lake. Ely itself packs a ton of curiosities into city limits, including colorful murals and railroad museums. For a pretty rich side trip, try treasure hunting at Garnet Hill.

Ely Art Bank

Ely Art Bank

Ely

Garnet Mercantile

Garnet Mercantile

Ely

Renaissance Village and Ely Mural Walking Tour

Renaissance Village and Ely Mural Walking Tour

Ely

Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park

Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park

Ely

Garnet Hill

Garnet Hill

Ely

Nevada State Railroad Museum—Boulder City

Nevada State Railroad Museum—Boulder City

Boulder City

Cave Lake State Park

Cave Lake State Park

Ely

Wayne E. Kirch Wildlife Management Area

Wayne E. Kirch Wildlife Management Area

Lund

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There’s a lot to eat in Ely. From one of Nevada’s best Basque chorizo burgers at Racks to shakes, malts, and olden-days ambiance at Economy Drug, check out this menu of some of our favorite places to fill our bellies.

Economy Drug & Old Fashioned Soda Fountain

Economy Drug & Old Fashioned Soda Fountain

Ely

Racks Bar & Grill

Racks Bar & Grill

Ely

The Cup

The Cup

Ely

Whipple Family Country Store

Whipple Family Country Store

Lund

Cellblock Steakhouse

Cellblock Steakhouse

Ely

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From on-the-ice sculpting, fishing, and bowling contests to cranking the pedals in bike races up mountains or against steam locomotives, Ely’s no stranger to exciting events.

Fire & Ice Winter Festival

Fire & Ice Winter Festival

ely to great basin national park

Leg 5

Ely to Great Basin National Park

67 miles east on US 50 and Nevada Hwys 487 and 488

Hit the road early for the final, hour-long stretch to Great Basin National Park, home to magnificent 13,064-foot Wheeler Peak, groves of 5,000-year-old Bristlecone Pine trees (the oldest living things on Earth), the darkest night skies in the Lower 48, and more outdoor action and unbeatable vistas than you can shake a selfie stick at. Take a guided tour through Lehman Caves and gaze at colorful, millennia-old formations. Then ascend 4,000 feet up 12-mile Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive to a panorama of Wheeler Peak—or on top of it, if that’s the trail you choose to tackle.

Camp under a blanket of twinkling cosmos and far-away galaxies, or enjoy the night skies through your window at a comfortable local indoor option.

Hidden Canyon Retreat

Hidden Canyon Retreat

Baker

Whispering Elms Campground, Motel and RV Park

Whispering Elms Campground, Motel and RV Park

Baker

Stargazer Inn and Kerouac’s Restaurant & Bar

Stargazer Inn and Kerouac’s Restaurant & Bar

Baker

From investigating intricate, water-carved rock formations in Lehman Caves to hiking among ancient forests and towering peaks to fishing backcountry lakes, mostly crowdless Great Basin National Park offers your pick of passions to pursue.

Mt. Moriah Wilderness Area

Mt. Moriah Wilderness Area

Baker

Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park

Baker

Osceola Ghost Town

Osceola Ghost Town

Osceola

Lehman Caves

Lehman Caves

Baker

Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive & Campground

Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive & Campground

Baker

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Baker: small town, big flavors. Gorge on gourmet breakfast and dinner—plus mixologist-quality cocktails at Kerouac’s Restaurant & Bar—to-go burgers and burritos at 487 Grill, and heftier plates at Sugar, Salt & Malt.

Stargazer Inn and Kerouac’s Restaurant & Bar

Stargazer Inn and Kerouac’s Restaurant & Bar

Baker

#GreatBasinHighway

These dazzling vistas, endless trails, and only-in-Nevada experiences deserve an audience. Don’t forget to tag #GreatBasinHighway when you share your Silver State travels with the world.

Wishing you a relaxing, hot springs-filled weekend. .
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#wanderingroad #travelmore #roadtripusa #discoveramerica #rvtravel #roadtrippers
#gorving #exploremore  #fulltimerv #homeiswhereyouparkit #visittheusa #proudtobeftb #usatravel  #roadtrip #hotsprings #weirdnevada #roadsideamerica  #instanevada #roadtrippers #travelnevada #roadtripnevada #wildwest
The eye-catching Spanish style train station-turned city hall in Caliente dates to the 1930s. 
#nevada #travelnevada #train #unionpacific #travel
Sunday wanderings around Lincoln County some mines some charcoal ovens a courthouse and an amazing veiw... a little snow, and lots of wind
#explorenevada #ghosttownsofnevada #notallwhowanderarelost #warrunner
It's summer!! The girls and I road tripped back home and stopped at the Black Dragon Canyon in Utah and the Ward Charcoal Ovens in Nevada ⛰️ #desertwanderers #wardcharcoalovens #stateparks #homemeansnevada
When friends gather 🥂
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We are open 7 days a week this season. That means more nights to enjoy time with the ones you love.
CHEERS!
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7-10 a.m. Breakfast 
5-8:30 p.m. Dinner
Bar until 10 p.m.
...
#kerouacsnevada #bakernevada #bakernv #discovergreatbasin #greatbasin #greatbasinnationalpark #travelnevada #howtonevada #ontheroad #seasonalrestaurant #fromscratchwithlove #craftcocktails #backcountrycocktails
Memorial Day Weekend with my favorite fishing buddies 🐾🖤 #flyfishing #troutfordays #explorenevada
Outhouses like this one in Kershaw-Ryan State Park were built by the Citizen Conservation Corp. This structure was built 85 years ago, in 1934, a year before the area became an official state park. The CCC put men to work improving roads and public lands facilities after the Great Depression. .
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#nevada #nevadahistory #ccc #greatdepression #newdeal #publiclands #nvstateparks #dontfencemein #travelnevada
Les vrais cowboys, Coors en main, passent leur soirée au saloon après une journée au ranch. Ce sont les mythes vivants de l'Amérique, beaux et intouchables. #voyage #travel #usa #unitedstates #pioche #piochenevada #nevada #travelnevada #nightphoto #overlandhotel #hotel #saloon #bar #cowboy #instagood #instatravel #igtravel #people #photography #roadtrip #picoftheday #enroute #nikond3400
One of the great things about living in Southern Nevada is the accessibility to so many unique State Parks. One of the lesser known is Cathedral Gorge SP. It's only about a 3.5 hour drive from Las Vegas up the Great Basin Highway (US 93N). The parks main attraction is the cathedral-like spires of soft bentonite clay and narrow slot canyons. The texture and feel of the hardened clay is something that has to be experienced in person.
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#cathedralgorge #nevadastateparks #nevada #redroock #beautifulplaces #cathedralgorgestatepark #hiking #camping #lasvegas #slotcanyons #slotcanyon #bentoniteclay #geology #geologist #instagram #amazingplaces
May your spirit of adventure never be beyond reach🌠🌌 Camping and doing some astro photos with some awesome people this past weekend! 
#milkywaychasers #night_exposures #longexpoelite
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