Great Basin Highway
Park-Hopping in Paradise along US-93
350 to 585 miles
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.
- 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!
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.
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.
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.
Caliente: SO hot right now…
Gear up and grab the binoculars, too. Wildlife abound around this climbing capital and mountain biking mecca.
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.
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.
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 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
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.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Lost City Museum
Valley of Fire State Park
Gold Butte National Monument
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.
E.T. Fresh Jerky
The Inside Scoop
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.
Pine Tree Inn & Bakery
Caliente Hot Springs Motel
Overland Hotel & Saloon
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.
Barnes Canyon Mountain Bike Trails
Oak Springs Trilobite Area
City, by Michael Heizer
Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge
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.
Side Track Restaurant & Side Car Speakeasy
Pine Lodge Dinner House
Knotty Pine Restaurant & Lounge
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.
Wright’s Country Cabins
Pat & John’s Eagle Valley Resort
Overland Hotel & Saloon
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.
Beaver Dam State Park
Kershaw-Ryan State Park
Million Dollar Courthouse
Echo Canyon State Park
Cathedral Gorge State Park
Lincoln County Historical Museum
Boot Hill Cemetery
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.
Overland Hotel & Saloon
Alamo Club & Liquor Outlet
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.
Prospector Hotel & Gambling Hall
Historic Hotel Nevada & Gambling Hall
Jailhouse Motel & Casino
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
Cave Lake State Park
Renaissance Village and Ely Mural Walking Tour
Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park
Wayne E. Kirch Wildlife Management Area
Nevada State Railroad Museum—Boulder City
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.
Whipple Family Country Store
Racks Bar & Grill
Economy Drug & Old Fashioned Soda Fountain
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.
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
Whispering Elms Campground, Motel and RV Park
Stargazer Inn and Kerouac’s Restaurant & Bar
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
Great Basin National Park
Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive & Campground
Osceola Ghost Town
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
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.
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