Uncommon Overnighters: Nevada’s Most Unique Retreats

When it comes to memorable stays, Nevada’s unique retreats can’t be beat.

We’re sure you’ve stayed in some interesting places. But not like the kind that we like to call Uncommon Overnighters. Have you ever tucked yourself in for the night under the watchful eyes of an ominous clown painting? Or luxed it up in a glamped-out mountaintop yurt? Or slipped from a hot spring into an off-grid, backcountry cabin? Out here, you can do all those things and more.

Nevada’s accommodations are anything but ordinary. If you’ve packed a sense of adventure in your overnight bag, our unique retreats simply can’t be beat. From haunted hotels and ghost town B&Bs to off-the-grid guest ranches and train caboose quarters, say goodnight to normal at some of the Silver State’s most standout places to stay.

The Clown Motel

Tonopah

If you guessed from the name that this is an entirely clown-themed motel, you’ve hit the answer right on the big, red nose—one which you’ll receive free of charge  the moment you check in. 

It’s clowns all the way down at this Weird Nevada wonder, starting with the flashing clown sign welcoming you off the road. Followed by the giant wooden clown escorting you in to behold the world’s largest private collection of clown figurines covering every inch of the lobby (there are thousands of ‘em). And finishing with clown-themed art, including paintings of famous rock and roll icons like Janis Joplin and Prince (done up in full clownface, of course), adorn the walls of all 31 rooms.

As if that’s not spooky enough, it’s located right next door to the Old Tonopah Cemetery, which is mostly occupied by victims of a mining disaster—some of whom are rumored to have preferred the amenities in the adjacent motel to their own graves. If you’re into an oddball overnight experience or (for some reason) simply love clowns, don’t be a bozo; just book yourself a stay. 

Paradise Ranch Castle Bed & Breakfast

Austin

“Full use of the castle” isn’t an amenity that comes with most lodging options—or really anywhere else we know of. But it certainly is at this stucco “castle” B&B which rises conspicuously from the wide-open Reese River Valley. Each room looks out upon seemingly endless vistas, including of the towering Toiyabe Range, while the stargazing prospects from the rooftop are hard to beat. 

But the other things that make this overnighter so uncommon (besides being a castle-shaped structure in the desert, of course) include common areas overflowing with sports memorabilia, dolls, and mannequins—including some donning authentic shining armor—and the Dungeon, which is essentially a private sports bar in the basement.

And then there’s the sweet backstory: The owner chose this spot to escape the bustle of the East Coast, but his newlywed wife refused to go “unless you build me a castle.” So he did. Although he’s sadly no longer with us, “Queen” Donna has continued building up the property and welcomes all visitors with warm hospitality, great stories, and fresh breakfasts to fuel excursions to nearby Austin, Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park, Kingston Canyon, and beyond.

Historic (and Haunted) Wild West Hotels

Tonopah, Virginia City, Pioche

Thanks to our boom-and-bust, mining-driven past, Nevada is home to more ghost towns than “living” towns—a fact that conjures up exciting trip ideas on its own. However, many hotels of the era have survived and been restored for present-day visitors to get a glimpse of the era’s grandeur—and many of them are rumored to come with some “permanent guests.”

Tonopah’s Mizpah Hotel was once dubbed “the finest stone hotel in the desert”—and it still is, due to beautiful preservation and exquisite restoration efforts that take guests right back to 1907, both in gorgeous period rooms or the ornate lobby bar. Order a Lady in Red Bloody Mary nightcap, then check under your pillow in the morning to see if its spectral namesake left you a pearl as a parting gift.

Virginia City is so special that the whole town is a registered National Historic Landmark, and its hotels and B&Bs certainly help show why. VC’s oldest lodging, the 1876-built Silver Queen Hotel, owns the vintage vibe in rooms with brass beds and 100-mile-views, a saloon with its original bar beneath a 15-foot-tall portrait of a lady with a dress made of 3,261 silver dollars… and, of course, it resident “lady of the night,” Rosie, who appears on the staircase.

A couple minutes down the road is Nevada’s oldest accommodation, the 1861-opened Gold Hill Hotel, which rents out original rooms (alongside a handful of lavish modern-day options), a magnificent sitting area, and the fabulous Crown Point Restaurant. After dinner, grab a beverage in the attached saloon (we recommend one made with Virginia City’s own Cemetery Gin); it was once the after-shift hangout for the crew of one of the worst mining accidents in state history, back in 1869—and allegedly still is.

Meanwhile, in Pioche—once an outlaw enclave that was more dangerous than Dodge City and Tombstone combined—the Overland Hotel offers rooms that are all uniquely themed, except for one… which happens to be quite popular with TV’s biggest ghost-hunting shows. The on-site saloon is a great spot to unwind after exploring Lincoln County’s several incredible state parks.

Rare B&Bs & Ghost Town Getaways

Unionville, Jarbidge, Eureka

In his Nevada-centric tome Roughing It, Mark Twain reminisces about his short-lived gold mining stint in Unionville, where he became “allergic to shovels,” lived in a cow-plagued cabin, and learned the hard way that “all that glitters is not gold.” The cabin’s still there, as are several other of this ghost town’s original buildings, which now make up the Old Pioneer Garden Country Inn. Family-owned since the 1970s, the charm-packed hideaway gets you out of cell phone range and into a masterfully restored 1860s-era home with a clawfoot tub, creekside patio, and a farm-fresh breakfast the next morning.

Set against a rushing river and surrounded by forested, high-mountain wilderness in Nevada’s northeastern corner, Jarbidge is not only one of the country’s last true frontier communities, it’s also the most secluded town in the Lower 48. That makes it easy to unwind at Tsawhawbitts Ranch Bed & Breakfast (pronounced “TUH-suh-HAW-bits,” the shoshone word from which today’s much easier “Jarbidge” is derived), both in delightfully kitschy Western-themed rooms and on the riverfront, mountain peak-ensconced deck. Pop up the dirt road into this seasonal 11-to-100-person “town” for hot grub at the Outdoor Inn after a day of fishing, watching for elk, hiking, or simply detoxing from civilization.

If the best things come in small packages, in the case of the 1200-square-foot Eureka Doll House, those “things” are memories. Located in Eureka—the “Friendliest Town on the Loneliest Road,” population: 462—this cozy little cottage boasts both 1880s charm and modern amenities, along with a deck that overlooks this “living ghost town’s” registered historic district. Step outside and onto a 62-stop self-guided walking tour to explore this once-bustling silver strike town’s period buildings, including the Eureka Opera House and the Eureka Sentinel Museum.

Backcountry Abodes

Lamoille, Austin, Black Rock Desert (Gerlach)

If you’re looking for a get-away-from-it-all reset, Nevada’s your jam. Just southeast of Elko, the stunning, aspen-studded Ruby Mountains scrape the sky at more than 11,000 feet high. While camping abounds throughout the wilderness area, there’s a swankier option: the glamp-tastic Ruby High Yurt

Perched on a nearly 10,000’-high, forested ridge, this 24’-wide yurt is packed with creature comforts, including comfy beds, a fireplace, stove, and even solar powered Wi-Fi. But getting to and from it is half the fun; opt to hike solo or guided, or catch a lift in a helicopter. (In winter, most guests fly in and ski down.) Prefer a drive-up option? The Conrad Creek Low Yurt sits at 7,000’ beside an aspen-shrouded babbling brook, all overlooking the lush green valley unfolding below.

Meanwhile, about 45 minutes south of Austin and the Loneliest Road in America, Reese River Cabins sit in a cute little cluster, with the Toiyabe Mountains and 11,477’ Bunker Hill as their backdrop. Guests have full access to a cookhouse, bathhouse, fire pit, and horse corrals, making this getaway an ideal basecamp for fishing miles of streams, horseback riding, or tackling trails in the Arc Dome Wilderness.

For a totally off-grid experience, show up to one of four first-come, first-served BLM-managed backcountry cabins scattered around the Black Rock Desert and Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. Each is outfitted with a wood-burning stove and pit toilet, but you’ll need to bring everything else. Our favorite? Easily the one located in Soldier Meadows, sitting just a short drive from a soakable hot spring creek. This is serious backcountry; be sure to brush up on Nevada’s Dirt Road Code before venturing this far from civilization.

Ranch Retreats

Wells, Vya

If you’re after a slower-paced weekend under big skies sparkling with stars, Nevada’s guest ranches are a stellar choice. We don’t do the whole “dude ranch” horsie ride thing out here (our buckaroos are the real deal and don’t have time for that stuff), but Nevada is home to some gorgeous ranches that promise a taste of the modern West.

It’s all about Western hospitality at Cottonwood Ranch, a working horse and cattle ranch about 70 miles north of Wells, which has been operated by the same family since the mid-1800s. Although they don’t need guests’ help with the ranching part, activities include fishing, birdwatching, mountain biking, or simply relaxing around the palatial lodge and taking in the awe-inspiring views of the Jarbidge Wilderness’ eastern toes.

Also in northeastern Nevada, less than 30 minutes south of Wells, Madeleine Pickens’ uber-opulent Mustang Monument Eco-Resort & Preserve welcomes visitors to a forever-home-on-the-range for hundreds of rescued wild horses and their descendents. In addition to watching mustangs do their thing, guests can stay in “safari cottages” and “luxury tipis” in between “in-tipi spa treatments,” guided hikes, and dining on over-the-top cuisine.

The far-flung northwestern corner of our state, on the western edge of Massacre Rim Dark Sky Sanctuary—one of only seven on Earth—pulls serious stargazers into its orbit. If roughing it in some of Nevada’s most rugged, remote country isn’t your thing, take the four-hour paved route from Reno to Vya, where a 1,400-square-foot guesthouse and a smaller bunkhouse await at the Rockin’ TD Ranch, as well as a fully-stocked, 2-story log cabin at the Old Yella Dog Ranch

Night at the (Railroad) Museum

Ely

Whether you’re a die-hard railfan, a history buff, or simply looking for something totally different, we’ve got just the ticket: an overnight stay at the Nevada Northern Railway, HQ of the locomotives that launched Ely to the top of the world’s copper mining scene in the early 1900s. Today, the NNR is a must-stop attraction when you’re out here exploring the area’s art scene, outdoor recreation opportunities, and many parks—including Great Basin National Park.

By day, investigate the artifacts in the frozen-in-time East Ely Depot Railroad Museum; tour the sprawling Nevada Northern Railway’s working railyard—comprising 70 original buildings and structures, 14 diesel and steam locomotives, and dozens more pieces of rolling stock—then check out the vast shop, which houses thousands of tools, as well as Dirt the Cat and his little kitty buds. 

By night, embrace the authenticity and kick back in in Caboose #22—delivered here nearly 50 years ago—which contains single beds, linens, and blankets (and not much else). Or bed down in the bunkhouse, originally the engineer’s quarters, which has been retrofitted with multiple private rooms, restrooms, a kitchen, and cozy sitting area.

To view our unabridged list of Uncommon Overnighters, click here.