Route 50 Nevada Road Trip

Don’t let the title “Loneliest Road in America” fool you. Nevada’s Highway 50 has been a major thoroughfare since the Pony Express connected the West. And when mail by horse faded with the dawn of the telegraph and automobile, the route blazed a new trail as the first transcontinental highway, from New York to San Francisco. We’ll admit that we thought Route 66 held that claim to fame, but the Lincoln Highway came first, and Nevada’s section was a lynchpin to guiding travelers through the desert and over the Sierra Nevada mountains. 

Why is Nevada’s Highway 50 called “The Loneliest Road in America”? In 1986, Life Magazine did a feature, damning this 287-mile stretch, saying, “There are no points of interest,” and warned that motorists would need “survival skills” to make it through this high desert. Well, as seasoned road trippers who’ve driven the Alaska Highway, the entirety of The Mother Road, and nine cross-country road trips, we knew better than to let some persnickety editor keep us or Nevada down! We’d taken a bite out of The Loneliest Road in America on previous Nevada trips and were excited to finally drive its full length and explore all its wonders with an eight-day road trip!

Follow our Route 50 Road Survival Guide from Great Basin National Park, through eight historic towns to numerous hot springs, sacred Native American sites, sand dunes, sagebrush saloons, and so many stops to make The Loneliest Road in America a bucket-list road trip.

Loneliest Road in America Map

Our travel guide follows Route 50, heading west from the Utah border through the towns of Baker, Ely, Eureka, Austin, Fallon, Virginia City, and Carson City, and ends along Nevada’s shores of Lake Tahoe. While these towns hold lots of intrigue, it’s all about ambling between them, enjoying the Basin and Range Topography, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recreation areas, unexpected cultural sites, and watering holes whenever you can find them. As you’d imagine on something called the Loneliest Road in America, there will be some long stretches between services, so keep your gas, water, and snack supply topped up so you can travel with confidence and gusto!

Below, we have broken down Nevada Route 50 by town, the best things to do in each, and the must-see attractions in between!

Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Home to one of the US’s southernmost glaciers, the world’s oldest trees (5,000+ years!), dazzling caves, and an International Dark Sky Park, Great Basin is one of the most spectacular national parks in the country—yet it’s the third least visited in the lower 48! Called a Desert Mountain Island, this unique ecosystem rises from what was an ancient inland sea and the present-day hydrographic Great Basin area that covers most of Nevada and many parts of the West. The Basin refers to the fact that this area has no river outlets and that any water that falls, evaporates, sinks underground, or is captured in lakes. This makes for a dry, harsh climate, and is the reason why this 77,000 acres of biodiverse park stand in such stark and stunning contrast.

Here are the best things to do in Great Basin National Park:

Lehman Caves

Sixty-four years before Great Basin became a national park, their spectacular Lehman Caves earned National Monument status. To explore this underground wonderland, we signed up for the park’s most extensive ranger-guided expedition, the 90-minute Grand Palace Tour. It begins in the Gothic Palace room, where fun formations like “cave bacon,” “soda straws”, and their famous “cave shields” glisten in the dim lighting. To bring us back to the days of the early explorers, the ranger shut off the lights for a minute and said, “In here, our eyes will NEVER adjust.” Only uniquely adapted species like the Great Basin Cave pseudoscorpion and springtails can navigate this darkness…and those with light, like Mr. Lehman who first explored the caves by candle in the 1880s. 

The wheel-chair accessible path turned to narrow passageways between the stalactites and stalagmites, as we moved through the Rose Trellis Room, organ-esque Music Room, and the Inscription Room covered in signatures from 19th-century visitors, and the Cypress Swamp with its surreal reflections. At two linear miles, Lehman Caves may not be as big as Carlsbad Caverns National Park, but they boast 500 more cave shields and these stunning circular formations, dripping with petrified droplets, making it one of the most unique and elaborate in the country.

Travel Tip: Sign up for your cave tour as early as possible, since you can’t enter the caves without a guide, and tours can fill up months in advance. If you forget to make reservations, get to the park office before it opens and check for last-minute cancellations.

Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive

Hugging the Snake Range and serpentine curves of this 12-mile road, the Great Basin landscape changed from sagebrush to pinyon pines to rugged cliffs to snowcapped peaks as we ascended to 10,000 feet above sea level. Be sure to pull over at Mather Point for the big vista of the jagged Wheeler Peak and keep going to the end for the Bristlecone-Alpine Lakes Trail!

Travel Tip: Wheeler Road and its mountain trailheads typically close in November for snow, so try to visit from April to October for the full Great Basin experience.

Bristlecone-Alpine Lakes Trail

This 1.6-mile trail leads to one of the oldest forests in the world…the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine Grove! Only found in small sections of California, Utah, and Nevada, and at elevations between 9,800 to 11,000 feet, these hearty trees can live more than 5,000 years! At such heights, snow often dusts the trail, making the steep pitch a little more technical and exhilarating. We reached the grove of gnarled trees and thought about the millennia of events they’d endured and ancient wonders they outdated (move over Pyramids of Giza!). As if this grove wasn’t impressive enough, the trail continues to one of the southernmost glaciers in the North America. We scrambled up the moraine for a straight-on view of Wheeler Peak Glacier and would have sooner guessed we were in Switzerland than Nevada!

For more incredible alpine vibes, extend your hike on the 2.7-mile loop to Teresa & Stella Lake. Short on time? Teresa Lake is just a 10-minute detour off the Bristlecone-Alpine trail and soooo pretty!

Stargazing with the Astronomy Rangers

Great Basin’s remote and arid location makes it one of the premier international Dark Sky Parks in the USA. On a clear, moonless summer night, thousands of stars, the Milky Way, and even distant objects like the Andromeda Galaxy can be seen with the naked eye. To level up our stargazing we joined the park’s regular Astronomy Ranger talk and guided telescope viewing, plus a special NASA scientist talk about the annular eclipse that was happening that week! Our mind was blown as we peered into their $10k telescopes and saw four of Jupiter’s moons and the giant interstellar cloud of the Lagoon Nebula 4,100 light years away (aka 24,600,000,000,000,000 miles from Earth)!

Astronomy programs are held on Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday from May to September, with the grand finale being the Great Basin Astronomy Festival during the September new moon. 
For more photos from Great Basin National Park, see our Instagram gallery.

Ely

Ely is one of the towns on the Loneliest Road in America

Continuing 62 miles along the jagged Snake Range and sea of sagebrush, the town of Ely emerges. Founded as a stagecoach stop and trading post in the 1870s, it became a mining boomtown with cooper riches and a railroad that put it on the map in the early 1900s. Upwards of 100 nationalities flocked to Ely and the town still prides itself on its multicultural heritage with the motto, “Ely, where the world met and became one.”

It was the 2023 Great American Eclipse that brought us to Ely, Nevada, for their multi-day festival and perfect viewing of The Ring of Fire! Watching the moon slowly creep across the sun as the air chilled, the sky grew darker, dogs howled, and new friends gasped in unison was sheer magic! After the hour-long viewing, the merriment continued with a Punkin’ Chunkin’ medieval festival, town-wide cocktail crawl, and events all weekend long.
For fun, any day of the year, try these top things to do in Ely:

Ely Renaissance Village

Honoring their diverse community, the Ely Rennaissance Society has renovated 11 homes of a former mining camp and designed each one to reflect a different ethnicity of Ely’s early residents. Wandering between the villages of Basque, Slavic, Chinese, German, Italian, and many more styles of home, with their respective antiques and everyday items, gave an intimate window into each family’s cultural identity and version of the American dream. We highly recommend this museum and a tour from Glen, one of the people who has committed decades of his life to preserving this village!

Northern Nevada Railway

Ely, Nevada train ride on the Loneliest road in America

We hopped aboard ole No. 98, a 114-year-old steam locomotive on the Nevada Northern Railway…America’s best-preserved standard-gauge short line and a complete rail facility! The railway workers were in period costumes and using tools from the days as a mining boomtown. Today it’s not prospectors, but train-fans from around the globe that come for this bucket-list ride. To hear the whistle, feel the chug, smell the soot, and step back in time as you move from this 70-building train complex to the mining ghost town a few miles down the tracks, is unforgettable. Watch the video above for more on our short-line rail ride and check out their website for more of their themed experiences, from the Roaring 20s to their Haunted Ghost Train.

Ely Mural Walk

Ely nevada mural walk

Learn about the history of Ely as you stroll through downtown, admiring their 20+ vibrant murals, touching on everything from the evolution of Ely’s transportation to the plight of its indigenous people. (“The Miss is Missing,” painted by a mother-daughter team from the Ely-Shoshone tribe is so moving!) Check out this free audio-guided tour or dial up the hotline below each mural and punch in the respective number to hear more about each piece. 

Hit the Strip

With Hotel Nevada’s origins as a gambling getaway to Hollywood Stars, the strip has a retro-fabulous vibe. Follow the sidewalk stars to the hotel that started it all (if you’re staying there, the first drink is on them), and try your luck! Pop across the street to Jailhouse Lounge for mid-century cool vibes and cocktails, then end your night out at The Space at Taproot, Ely’s hottest new music venue.

OHV Ward Mountain

Ward Mountain ATVing with Eastern Nevada Adventures

The Ely area has 11.4 million acres of BLM land, which means infinite recreation opportunities and OHV heaven. We rented a side-by-side from Eastern Nevada Adventures (right downtown) and within a mile of The Strip we were scaling mountain trails. We took a bite out of the Ward Mountain Adventure Loop, through sagebrush and mixed Pinyon juniper forest, and fantastic vistas of the Egan Range. Watch this awesome adventure!

Eureka

Eureka the friendliest town on the loneliest road

We pulled into the “Friendliest Town on the Loneliest Road,” and felt the good vibes immediately! Discovered in 1864 by silver prospectors, Eureka became Nevada’s second-fastest-growing mining town, with a very international population (notably Cornish, Chinese, Italian, and Basque). Their 50 mines and 17 smelters processed 700 tons of ore per day and enough wealth to create the fine architecture that still stands today.

Pick up a self-guided tour map to read about each of the marked buildings, like the European American Resources Building and the Eureka Opera House…among the Silver State’s best-preserved 19th-century theatre! We also loved that some buildings haven’t been renovated and just left to nature, with apple trees growing up through the middle!

Austin: Halfway on The Loneliest Road in America

Austin Nevada main street

It’s a 70-mile stretch between Eureka and Austin, and while there might not be other towns in between, there are a ton of points of interest in the roughly 20 miles leading up to Austin, so don’t miss these pitstops!

Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area

The Western Shoshone people have been in this area for over 10,000 years with impressive rock art to show for it. Right along Nevada Route 50 you’ll see the big wooden BLM sign for Hickison Petroglyphs, leading you to the start of the 1.6-mile interpretive trail (and a lovely free camping area). These ancient paintings quickly reveal themselves, but keep going so you can discover more scenes and 360-degree views of the Big Smoky Valley and Toiyabe Mountain Range. 

Travel Tip: Want more of Nevada’s vibrant Native American History? Head 26 miles south to Toquima Cave for some of the most vibrant pictographs left in North America.

Lucky Spur Saloon

Named “Best Bar in the Middle of Nowhere” by Men’s Health, Lucky Spur Saloon is straight out of a Western movie. About 18 miles off Nevada Route 50 and down a long dusty road, you’ll think you’re lost until you see a tall, tin windmill, emblazoned with ‘’Lucky Spur.”  Order a bloody mary, pull up a saddle barstool, take in the views to Kingston Canyon, and try to hustle some cowboys at a game of pool.

Spencer Hot Springs

Spencer Hot Springs, best hot springs nevada

Did you know Nevada has more hot springs than any other state in the USA? For the most consistent and scenic on The Loneliest Road in America, you’ve gotta soak up Spencer Hot Springs. We took the six-mile detour down a dirt road and saw the steam rising over the four pools. The sun was setting so we did a quick change and hopped into the “cowboy tub” to soak up the 110-degree waters and sunset. For a more natural tub and even hotter water (up to 130 degrees), most people head to the lower pools, but we loved the privacy and the wildlife viewing at the top. After sitting still in the moonlight for a while, six wild burros tiptoed to the water’s edge for a drink with us!

Little Blue Bird Turquoise and Jason’s Art Gallery

what to do in Austin Nevada Route 50

Civilization emerges again in the town of Austin, with a pretty church, general store, a couple of inns, and the gem of town…Little Blue Bird Turquoise & Jason’s Art Gallery. We walked into this false-front building from 1870 and the owner Duane looked up from polishing a stone to greet us. He and his wife are the silversmiths behind this rock-to-gem jewelry studio of 38 years. We got chatting and the next thing you know, Duane invited us to the back to see how they tumble, polish, and cut the stones into art. So cool!

Stokes Castle

On the cliff at the western edge of town, Stokes Castle stands testament to Austin’s lucrative silver mining past. Built as a vacation home and display of wealth by railroad mining magnate Anson Stokes, it was inspired by a Roman tower from his travels and made with hand-hewn local granite. The family lived here for less than a month, but 130 years later the public can still enjoy the striking exterior and scenic lookout point over Reese River Valley.

Middlegate Station

Middlegate Station, Pony Express Historic Trail

Sixty miles later, the road cuts through a series of mountain passes that the early land surveyors and Pony Express teams called Uppergate, Middlegate, and Lowergate. You’ll know when you hit Middlegate Station, because it looks like a time capsule, with its wagon wheels, antique cars, telephone booths, old-time gas pumps (still working!), and big BAR sign. We walked in and it just got better, with hundreds of dollar bills pinned to the ceiling and decades of Western knickknacks on the walls. A place this unique doesn’t even need to have good food or service to warrant a visit, but to our surprise, they had both! We got chatting with the co-owner of 38 years, and she said five generations of her family still work here and live on the premises. Her short-order cook made us one of the best veggie burgers with onion rings! and we left with the biggest smiles on our faces. 

The Shoe Tree

Two and a half miles east of Middlegate Station are the remnants of the famed Shoe Tree and its resilient younger sister. Legend has it that a newlywed couple was camping under the cottonwood tree and got in a tiff. She threatened to leave him, but he replied with something to the effect of “If you do, you’ll have to go barefoot,” and threw her shoes in the tree! He sped off to Middlegate Station and the bartender convinced him to go makeup. A year later, when they had their first child, they returned to the tree and threw the kid’s shoes up there too. So began a tradition of thousands of travelers chucking their kicks into the boughs. Sadly, vandals cut down the original Cottonwood, but the tradition continues in a neighboring tree. Go ahead, hurl yours up there, and join the legacy!

Travel Tip: Middlegate Station allows you to camp for free, for as many days as you’d like! With great food, the occasional band, and stories for miles, it will make for a memorable overnight.

Fallon

Best things to do Fallon Nevada

By Loneliest Road in America standards, Fallon is a metropolis! There are 9,000 people spread across this verdant valley (largely due to the naval airbase). Set in what was an ancient lake, the Fallon area still has important wetlands and nutrient-rich soil for farming, uncommon in the surrounding desert. These resources made it an important area to early Native Americans, who left behind more noteworthy art and relics. So whether it’s historic art, good restaurants, wildlife watching, ATV adventures, or craft whiskey, the Fallon area has a lot to keep you busy.

The Grid Market & Brewery

The popular Grid restaurant opened up a new brewery and expanded the space with a whiskey and wine tasting room, poke eatery, bar games, and boutique shops. It’s an unsuspecting mashup of businesses that draws locals and out-of-towners for a unique night of eating, shopping, and playing. We got a fantastic vegan poke bowl, drank a flight of craft beers, and played shuffleboard for a great night.

Travel Tip: For more great restaurants in Fallon, try The Slanted Porch, Maine Street Cafe, and Telegraph Coffee.

Sand Mountain

Twenty-five miles southeast of Fallon, a little Sahara Desert appears. When ancient Lake Lahontan dried up 9,000 years ago it left behind thousands of acres of sand dunes. Renowned in the ATV community, this BLM recreation area is an off-roading paradise. Buddy the Camper is far from a 4×4, so we walked the dunes at sunset and thoroughly enjoyed the sand between our toes and watching the parade of headlights zigzag down the soft mountain.

Frey Ranch & Distillery

Frey ranch, nevada's oldest distillery

Distilleries are popping up around the country, but it’s rare to find one that is a true estate distillery that can boast ground-to-glass whiskey, with all the ingredients grown on-site. The Frey family are fifth-generation Nevada farmers who have put their skills together to create the state’s first official distillery. Driving under the tunnel of trees, surrounded by waves of grain, we could already tell this place was special, then the mansion of a former Nevada Senator and a beautiful distillery appeared! The Freys’ right handyman Sam gave us an excellent tasting of their top-notch spirits (ever tried oat whiskey or Irish-peet smoked single malts before? So good!) Then he walked us around the distillery to see their Vendome copper still on full roar, their vats of mashes bubbling away, and 1000s of white oak barrels aging their whiskeys to perfection. We left with a bottle of their straight rye, flipped it over, and saw their slogan ”Be good to the land and the land will be good to you.”

Grimes Point & Archaeological Area

Grimes Point petroglyphs and caves

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Nevada’s first National Recreation Trail, Grimes Point and Hidden Cave offer incredible insights into the area’s earliest inhabitants, the Paiute-Shoshone. We walked the path between desert-varnished boulders and marveled at the remarkably intact petroglyphs on the shiny sunbaked rocks. Continuing a little down the road, we hiked up the mountainside and into the series of caves carved by ancient Lake Lahontan and used as primitive shelter and storage. To see the famed Hidden Cave, which was used as a cache 3,500 years ago, and discovered with unbroken and perfectly arranged artifacts, join the BLM’s free public tours on the second and fourth Saturday of each month.

Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge

A few miles east of Fallon, the Stillwater wetlands draw so many migratory birds (hundreds of thousands across 290 different species!) that it’s listed as an area of International Importance by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. We arrived just after sunrise and drove the roads between the canals and ponds. We hopped out to explore their boardwalk and series of short trails and saw egrets, tundra swans, and countless ducks. Come at sunrise or sunset to see the most bird activity and don’t forget to read the interpretive signs for more about the bird migrations and the ways the Paiute people used these natural resources to thrive.

Virginia City (Loneliest Road in America…Essential Detour!)

Virginia City, best western towns usa

On its very own scenic highway, 20 miles off of Nevada Route 50, lies our favorite and one of the best-preserved Western towns in the USA…Virginia City! When prospectors struck the Comstock silver lode of 1859, this place went from a remote mountain outpost to a cosmopolitan city with opera houses, state-of-art schools, hospitals, 100+ saloons, and leading newspapers (with Mark Twain on staff!) Like many old western towns, Virginia had a massive fire, but when their blaze hit in 1875, they were rolling in 7 million tons of silver, so they just built back better. Today the town still shines with grand Victorian architecture, wooden boardwalks, and buckets of Western charm. 

Historic Fourth Ward Museum

To get a grand overview of the history of Virginia City in a beautiful and authentic setting, head to the Historic Fourth Ward Museum. When this Victorian Second Empire-style building opened in 1876, it was amongst the most advanced schools in the West, with state-of-the-art heating, ventilation, and sanitation systems. When mining faded away, their population of 1,000 students whittled to a few dozen, and by the 1930s the school closed and the building remained shut for 50 years. With a grant from the Nevada Humanities community, it has been restored as an excellent museum. Learn about the town’s mining history, advanced city planning, educational system, and its famous residents with an hour wandering these hallowed halls.

Looking for more museums and a taste of the 1860s opulence? Try the Mackay Mansion down the street.

Virginia City Hat Maker & Bootmaker

@honeytrek Fourth-generation hatmaker, Pascal Baboulin, shows us the sophisticated side of cowboy style at his atelier in Virginia City…Nevada's most iconic western boomtown. #hatmaker @Virginia City #nvroadtrip @Travel Nevada #partner #travelnevada ♬ original sound – HoneyTrek
Jake Houston Bootmaker

Wandering the shops along South C Street is a step back in time, but no place upholds the craftsmanship of the Old West like Pioneer Emporium & Virginia City Hat Maker. Pascal Baboulin is a fourth-generation hatmaker from Switzerland who fell in love with a Virginia City girl and she encouraged him to bring this art back to town. On the fly, we watched Pascal sculpt beaver felt with steam, massaging, and finesse into a gorgeous headpiece. To further nurture the art of Western fashion, he shares the space with Jake Houston, a custom cowboy bootmaker. The list of country stars waiting in line for his bedazzled kicks is as impressive as the shoes themselves!

Saloon Crawl

Best saloons Virginia City, Nevada

While there may not be 100 saloons left in Virginia City, a dozen of the finest remain. Don’t miss the Bucket of Blood for mid-day live music and glorious sunsets over the mountains. The Silver Queen’s name proves true with a towering lady made of 3,261 silver dollars and the tallest back bar in the world! (If you’re into the paranormal, this hotel and bar has been on Ghost Adventures three times for the murdered mistress who still haunts the building.) The Old Washoe Club doesn’t look the grandest on the ground floor, but it was home to the Millionaires Club and members like Ulysses S Grant frequented their lavish and exclusive lounge upstairs. For an atmospheric bar with good grub, The Red Dog serves pizza with their suds.  

Priscilla Pennyworth’s Old-time Photos

Sure getting dressed up in Western garb and taking black-and-white photos is a totally touristy thing to do, but we’re so glad we did! The gals at Priscilla Pennyworth’s were fantastic in helping pick out costumes and poses to strut our stuff like John Wayne and Vera Miles. We hopped into the Virginia City Bath House tub with just the essentials (hat, whiskey, and shotgun) and had some good clean fun, plus three beautifully printed photos to take home. Click through the gallery above for more photos from Virginia City.

Carson City

Carson City Nevada capital

The road was lonely no more, we made it to the capital of Nevada! Just 15 miles from Virginia City, this accessible valley became the hub for transporting and minting this wealth in the 1800s. During the Civil War, Lincoln saw the area as a valuable partner in the Union’s fight and granted Nevada statehood with Carson City as its capital. Today it’s one of the quaintest little capitals with some impressive sites.

Nevada State Museum

Set in the Historic Carson City Mint, the Nevada State Museum has all your essential topics covered (Native American history, geology, geography, mining, and art of all kinds). Here, you won’t just be wandering stark galleries but exploring a ghost town, mine shaft, coin-making operation, and more. Highly recommend! 

Kit Carson Trail

To bring this tiny town to state-capital status, grand homes were built for the new government officials and Comstock millionaires of the 19th century. Follow this curated 2.5-mile route through the historic West Side district to learn about the Victorian homes, museums, churches, and the people behind them. Use the interactive audio guide, download the map, join a Nevada State Museum docent walk to bring Carson City’s earliest and finest buildings to life. 

Carson City Triathlon: Drink, Dine, Dip

Carson City Triathalon

From the Washoe Native Americans to the California Gold Rush miners, Carson City Hot Springs has been a staple for the area’s recreation and relaxation. In recent years they’ve leveled it up with the help of some new neighbors and a little humor at the tourism board. If you’re feeling up to the challenge, the Carson City Triathlon involves the low-impact sports of drinking, dining, and soaking. We started at the mining-themed springs, with some of the purest hot spring water in the world (no chemicals, heat, or tap water added), and took in the waters flowing from the pick axe waterfall and the tipping miner’s trolley. Just across the parking lot was Shoetree Brewing (of Middlegate Station fame), where we had fantastic IPAs and Sour beers brewed by this brother team. The final stretch was at Sassafras restaurant to enjoy their global-inspired, vegan-friendly menu and art-filled space. Best triathlon you can do without breaking a sweat!

Brewery Arts Center

Housed in the oldest commercial building in Nevada (est 1865), the Carson Brewery has gone from making suds to printing news to nurturing artists. For the past 40+ years, this community art center has hosted classes, performances, exhibitions, and parties that bring creativity and connection to the capital. We popped in just as they were closing, but volunteer Patricia Best couldn’t help but tell us about the first annual Mural Festival that was storming the town. Clearly, their creative expression extends beyond the brewery walls. Check out their events calendar to see what’s on while you are in town and what creative-types you might meet.

Lake Tahoe: The End of Route 50 Nevada

Nevada’s Route 50 ends along the shores of the stunning Lake Tahoe. It’s such a popular place that it doesn’t exactly qualify as a part The Loneliest Road in America, but being among the largest alpine lake in the country, with thousands of acres of wilderness areas, you can still find that serenity and solitude to round out your road trip! Hug the shore to Cave Rock trail where you can get sweeping views of the Sierra Nevadas and a turquoise lake that extends beyond the state line. While we didn’t make it to Lake Tahoe this trip (we headed south to Genoa, Nevada’s Oldest Town), the Tahoe area is where I spent every fall and spring as a kid, so we can wholeheartedly recommend a couple of days relaxing on this stunning lake for your Route 50 finale!

Where to Stay on the Loneliest Road in America (east to west)

Best places to stay on the loneliest road in america

While you could happily stay in any of the towns above, Ely, Fallon, Virginia City, and Lake Tahoe offer the most things to do and are nicely spaced apart. That said if you have an RV or camping setup, Nevada is a dream for fantastic free campsites. The state is more than 80% public land (for reference, Texas is 4% public land) and the Bureau of Land Management and National Forest do a great job maintaining campgrounds, often with bathrooms, picnic tables, and firepits, without charging fees. As RV owners, we did a mix of both city hotels and remote camping and thought it was the perfect blend. Here are the best places to stay on the Loneliest Road in America: 

Stargazer Inn, Baker/Great Basin National Park 

Great Basin National Park has great campgrounds, but for more amenities and lots of small-town charm, stay in nearby Baker at The Stargazer Inn. They have nicely updated rooms and are expanding their offerings in 2024. The Bristlecone General Store is the heart of the property with gourmet foods, charming gifts, and handy information to plan your adventures around Great Basin National Park. 

Hotel Nevada, Ely

Ely’s most iconic hotel and gambling hall, Hotel Nevada has been a fixture on the strip since 1928. For Hollywood stars en route to Sun Valley Ski Vacations, Hotel Nevada was the most fashionable midway point. Rooms give a nod to their star-studded ties, with suites themed to different old-time actors. Before we checked into “Hoot Gibson’s” room, we were welcomed with a complimentary margarita and craft beer of our choice that set the tone for a night of fun. If you like retro vibes and a piece of history, Hotel Nevada is your Ace of Spades.

Spencer Hot Springs Camping, Greater Austin

With four hot spring pools to choose from and big mountain vistas, this wild camping area is a delight. It’s a true boondocking experience so know that there are no facilities (ie bathrooms, picnic tables, etc) and to come prepared. To help preserve this precious place, follow hot springs etiquette and park at least 100 yards from the water. Cost for camping and springs access? Free.

Holiday Inn Express, Fallon

Fallon doesn’t really have boutique hotel options, so The Holiday Inn Express is the best of the mainstream lodging. The clean room and complimentary breakfast made it a solid launchpad for our greater Fallon adventures. 

Sand Mountain Camping, Greater Fallon

If you’re looking for natural beauty, have the gear to camp, and dig ATVing, this dune area is an incredible option outside of Fallon. FYI there is a bit of a party scene here with happy-go-lucky ATVers, but it’s a huge camping area so you can easily tuck away or join the merriment. You need to buy a recreation pass in advance to use the area, but $40 for up to seven days is a pretty darn good deal. 

Tahoe House Hotel, Virginia City

Set right on the main drag of Virginia City and in a building built in 1859, the Tahoe House Hotel has recently been restored with contemporary amenities, while maintaining its historic charm. Love their new bar and that their rooms have balconies to take in the ambiance of town.

Edgewood Tahoe Resort

This 150-year-old lakefront ranch,  Edgewood Tahoe has been reimagined to meet LEED-certified and five-star standards. Stay in the lodge or their luxe cabin suites, dine at their top-notch restaurants, and enjoy the best of lake life!

Loneliest Road in America/NV Hwy 50 Survival Guide & Passport

NV Hwy 50 Survival Guide

To help you navigate to the best stops and commemorate your bold journey, Travel Nevada has created the Loneliest Road in America Survival Guide and Passport. Pick up a guide at the visitor center in any of the towns or have one sent to you before your trip. And keep your eye out for the signs that say “Official Stamp Location” in store windows. Get inked in at least 5 of the 8 towns and send in the back page to receive an official Highway 50 Survivor souvenir and certificate to commemorate your fantastic journey across the Loneliest Road in America!

Many thanks to Travel Nevada for believing we could survive the Loneliest Road in America and do its story justice. To show our appreciation and help preserve the cultural and natural value of the region, we’ve donated to the Nevada chapter of the Trust for Public Land and the Lincoln Highway Association. For more information on the route and inspiration for all your Nevada adventures, be sure to check out TravelNevada.com and our big IG Nevada Highlights reel.

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19 Comments

    1. There are so many stories and legends to uncover on this road. We loved the Native American offerings and tales of the Pony Express.

  1. The road might be lonely, but this looks like an amazing road trip! I’ve been to Lake Tahoe before but not to any of the rest of the stops on your trip. We’ve been wanting to get to Great Basin National Park, and now you’ve given me even more reason!

    1. So glad this offered some more reasons to make it past Lake Tahoe! Great Basin is such a gem…gets barely any visitors. Be sure to get there outside of winter so you can have full access to the incredible trails up near Wheeler Peak.

  2. Wow, this looks like a fun drive. I drove Route 66 years ago, so I know what it’s like to go on a roadtrip like this. Great photors.

    1. Awesome you did Route 66. Isn’t it amazing the linclon highway is even more historic?! Not too much Americana on this road but plenty of interesting sights.

  3. That’s a beautiful area! I have to say, with a nickname like the loneliest road in America, I’d definitely be sure I had ALL my safety gear triple checked. LOL

    1. It is beautiful, right! Couldn’t believe how amazing Great BAsin National Park was. As for lonely roads, Always a good idea to be prepared but all the towns have what you need and plenty of friendly road trippers are on the route too so you don’t need to be too worried 🙂

  4. Look like you had a lot of fun and I love all the images. My husband use to drive Nascar’s around the world and we use to always drive through Nevada Route 50. Next time we need to make a stop and venture out.

    1. haha, it’s a great road to beat the traffic! Also so many cool detours. Don’t miss the Spenser Hot Springs and Hickison Petroglphys…gret for camping too!

  5. This would be a really neat road trip! So many unique and interesting things along the way. I went to school in Arizona for about a year, and I have wanted to go back to that area for a while now.

    1. Definitely add Nevada to your next AZ road trip. It’s true desert wilderness with all the Western lore.

  6. Nikki Wayne says:

    I didn’t know that there has a loneliest place in America. But these photos and stories make dream of going there!

    1. Lonely doesn’t sound great but NV Route 50 is full of life and things to do!

  7. your comprehensive guide to Nevada Route 50 is truly enlightening. The vivid descriptions and practical tips make it an invaluable resource for travelers. I appreciate the effort put into highlighting the loneliest road’s unique charm and the adventure it promises.

    1. nevada Route 50 is such an underrated road trip. So glad we could share it with you in a helpful way!

  8. Northern Nevada Railway is so cool, we can feel the history in the train. Thanks for sharing your experience with us via this blog guys I appreciating guys….

  9. Is it recommended to take this trip in mid March? I ask wondering about road conditions
    Thank you

    1. You can totally do it in mid-March Nat. The only thing you would have to put in some extra effort is if you want to get to the Bristle Cone Pines in Great Basin National Park…as that road is pretty high elevation and they close it for part of the winter. But other than that, you are 100% good to go. What an awesome road trip it is brother! Have fun!

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