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Imagine the iconic American road trip. Endless desert landscapes, open highways as far as the eye can see, and the freedom of the open roads. That’s the stunning routes in and around Nevada that you’re imagining. From thrill-seeking adventures to iconic film locations, here’s our ultimate guide to the best road trips in Nevada that will have you behind the wheel in no time at all.
Let’s be honest, with names like the Extraterrestrial Highway and Death Valley Rally, the diverse range of road trip itineraries already planned out for you are a pretty easy sell. These aren’t just catchy nicknames either, these are carefully curated routes that offer something for every type of traveller. Let’s dive into the best of these with some expert tips thrown in on how to make the most of the world’s greatest drives.
The Loneliest Road in America
Nevada’s Highway 50 has garnered a reputation as one of the most isolated roads to drive in America, but locals know better than that. The empty vistas imply how the ‘Loneliest Road’ tag came about, but you’ll actually find plenty to see and do on this 500 mile stretch of tarmac. Authentic watering holes, known here as Sagebrush Saloons, hark back to a time when the surrounding ghost towns were just towns, and many places to stay along the way will have nature lovers salivating at the prospect of a hot spring soak.
Driving tip: Modern technology has made route planning and navigation a lot easier in recent years but it’s always worth packing a physical map as a back up too. Phone coverage, as you might expect, can be patchy along parts of the loneliest road in America.
One of the shorter trips you can take here, Burner Byway does have a legacy to maintain. The boundless freedom of the Black Rock Desert is home to Burning Man, the famous festival where anything goes. What’s great about this itinerary is that you can get a flavour of the festival year-round whilst taking in art, nature and culture in places like Pyramid Lake. Heading from the bright lights of the big city starting point in Reno, to the colourful wilderness and geysers in remote surroundings only a few hundred miles away, is a thrill everyone should try to experience.
Driving tip: Plan your petrol stops carefully, even on short trips. Electric charge points are sparsely scattered here so make sure you have enough fuel in the tank to get around (and back) safely.
Of all the trips unique to Nevada, this is probably the one most shrouded in mystery, which obviously makes it the one most people want to drive! You’ll go past Area 51, but don’t think about trying to enter this secure military facility as the fines are hefty and financial penalties could be the least of your worries. Countless UFO sightings and encounters taking place here are obviously just a mere coincidence… On the ground there’s the creepy Clown Motel in Tonopah to experience, as well as more alien-themed restaurants than you can shake a laser beam at. Route 375 doesn’t take itself too seriously and just wants you to experience a side of Nevada that is truly ‘out there’.
Driving tip: It’s easy to get distracted when driving at night and thinking you are alone on the roads. The mesmerising night skies above are best observed from a safe spot, so make use of designated rest stops.
If we were to pick a trip based on clever alliteration alone then Cowboy Corridor would take the win! There’s a deep connection to Old West heritage here and this brings a chance to sample Basque cuisine, a unique confluence of flavours forged over a century of experimentation in the Silver State. Foodies will have ample opportunity to work up an appetite with wild hikes on the Ruby Mountains serving as a great way to stretch out after time on the road. Johnny Cash once sang about Winnemucca when he described how he had been ‘everywhere’, and you’ll find that town – billed as the friendliest in Nevada – right here too. That’s the road trip playlist sorted then!
Great Basin Highway
Starting in the red rock spires of the Valley of Fire State Park and heading towards the dark skies of Great Basin National Park, this classic itinerary glances at Las Vegas but quickly thrusts you into the really wild side of Nevada. The town of Caliente has the surprising rosebud-lined streets you definitely weren’t expecting to find here, whereas the canyons and downhill trails are internationally known as a biker’s paradise. Having traversed half a dozen state parks you’ll end up at Pioche, a lively ghost town only 10 minutes from the otherworldly rock formations of Cathedral Gorge. The final leg, from Ely to Great Basin National Park, is a prelude to some of the finest stargazing in America.
Driving tip: Make sure you pack for all elements when going on trips across Nevada. The conditions vary according to the seasons, so always check the probable weather on your planned route.
Death Valley Rally
Tackle the extremes of the hottest, driest and lowest place in North America from the comfort of your car. The Death Valley desert is a remarkable natural phenomenon but don’t think this route is just about the searing heat. Depending on the time of the year you can go from hiking to snowshoeing in the blink of an eye and meander through enchanting ghost towns like Rhyolite, which have remained untouched for decades. There are some great, modern resorts, motels and boutique properties on this route, too, so you could end up beneath the stars in a hot tub, in the middle of nowhere, if that’s your sort of thing.
Neon To Nature
Short on time but still want to get a chance to properly road trip through Nevada? Here’s a great way to escape the trappings of Vegas and embrace nature for a few hours. Red Rock Canyon is perfect for hiking or cycling, even e-bikes are welcome here, whereas the Colorado River Corridor alternative loop will send you to Hoover Dam. These are essentially truncated itineraries that pack in a wide variety of activities and destinations for those otherwise enjoying the neon lights of Sin City.
Driving tip: The roads in Nevada are safe and well maintained. Slow down when approaching residential areas and animal crossings. This gives you more time to enjoys the views too.
Free-Range Art Highway
Real world art and wackiness on the road from Reno to Las Vegas await on this short drive that captures the spirit of America’s wild west. Forests of junk cars in startling arrangements and flamboyant murals line the route and quirky small towns on the way have additional art galleries you have to include on your itinerary. The open-air trip is the perfect way to embrace the psychedelic spirit of Nevada.
Driving tip: Make sure you load up these curated Spotify playlists before you hit the road. No road trip is complete without an accompanying soundtrack of classic tunes.
Take the road-less travelled on these exhilarating road trips and discover more about Destination Nevada.