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Explore the Entertainment Capital of the World, then set out to Mt. Charleston, Lee Canyon Ski Area, Red Rock Canyon, and Great Basin National Park.
Day 1: Las Vegas
Las Vegas entertainment is abundant, including things you can do for free, museums to visit, antique and classic auto collections, interactive attractions to enjoy, golf, Vegas shows, thrill rides or even what to do in Vegas with the kids. Stop at the Fremont Street Experience, a successful venture of turning five downtown city blocks into a pedestrian-friendly entertainment experience, complete with shopping, gaming, and a spectacular light and sound show. The area is part of historic Las Vegas.
Day 2: Las Vegas
Take US 95 north to NV 157 and turn left to Mt. Charleston in the Springs Mountains and the Toiyabe National Forest. At the end of the highway are several scenic trailheads to hike in season. Take NV 158 right to Lee Canyon Ski Area; a real surprise this close to Las Vegas. In other seasons, it is perfect for hiking, picnicking, or horseback riding. Return to Las Vegas via NV 156 to US 95.
Day 3: Las Vegas
Leave on West Charleston Blvd (NV159) west for 15 miles to Red Rock Canyon, an awe-inspiring canyon set in a panorama of color. Stop at the Visitors Center and get a map showing trails and scenic overlooks. Back on NV 159 turn right past Springs Mountain Ranch State Park to Bonnie Springs’ Old Nevada, (702) 875-4191. The site is a replica of an old western town, built where early wagon trains traveling the Spanish Trail on their way to California would stop for provisions. Bonnie Springs Ranch was built in 1843.
Stay on NV 159 to junction with NV 160, turn right for Pahrump. The name means “deep water”. Visit Nevada’s only commercial winery, Pahrump Valley Vineyards (a restaurant is also there), on Winery Road and junction of NV 160. Look for a blue roof at the base of Mt. Charleston. Tours are available, (800) 368-WINE or (775) 751-7800. Continue on NV 160 for 16 miles to US 95, turn north to Beatty, a true hot desert town whose slogan is, “Gateway To Death Valley.” Visit the ghost mining town of Rhyolite, four miles west on NV 374. A well preserved train depot, the “bottle house” and other structures make good photographs for your trip’s album. Check out the “Ghosts of the Last Supper” sculpture at the Goldwell Open Air Museum on your left as you approach town, in addition to the many other odd sculptures located throughout the area.
Back on US 95 head north to Scotty’s Junction, where NV 267 takes off west and leads to Scotty’s Castle, an elaborate Mediterranean spread complete with a 56 foot tall clock tower. Rangers dressed in 1939 clothing conduct daily tours (limited number of people per tour), (760) 786-2392. Proceed to Goldfield, once the largest town in Nevada. The Goldfield Hotel, built in 1908 for $500,000 had the first electric elevator west of the Mississippi. Continue north on US 95 to Tonopah.
Day 4: Tonopah
Visit the historical Mizpah Hotel, where young Jack Dempsey once bartended, the Tonopah Historic Mining Park, and the Central Nevada Museum – with its outdoor exhibits from the mining industry and indoor displays telling the towns diverse history. Take US 6 east toward Ely.
Belmont, Nevada’s largest “living” ghost town is 40 miles north on NV 376. On US 6, continue to Warm Springs Junction and toward Ely. Past Sandy Summit, a BLM dirt road leads south to Lunar Crater. NASA trained the Apollo astronauts here. At Currant Summit, a panoramic view of the White River Valley opens to the east. Ely is about 35 miles ahead.
Day 5: Ely
Ely’s roots are in copper mining rather than silver or lead. In Ely take a ride on the “Ghost Train of Old Ely.” From May through October the White Pine Historical Railroad offers two exciting trips on trains pulled by 1909-1910 steam engines and a 1952 Diesel. One train route goes downtown, through one of the few “curved” tunnels in the world, to the ghost town of Lane City, Robinson Canyon, and the Keystone mining district. The trip takes an hour and a half.
Another route is into the foothills and ghost towns overlooking the Steptoe Valley. Trip takes an hour and forty-five minutes. They both are fun and a step back in time. Walk through the historic and wonderfully restored East Ely Depot housing the Nevada Northern Railway Museum. The railway exhibits are as they were when the Depot opened in 1907. Visit the White Pine County Museum where much of the area’s history is presented. The museum features the incredible Hesselgesser Doll Collection of more than 1000 dolls.
Day 6: Ely / Crystal Springs / Overton
Take US 50 east to the Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Site, 11 miles west of US 93/50 junction (on a graded dirt road). These 30 foot tall native stone kilns were used to generate charcoal for the copper smelter that closed in 1983. Continue on US 50 east to the Great Basin National Park, one of the most beautiful in the park system, with great scenic diversity and…small crowds. Take the guided tour through the Lehman Caves. Drive the 12-mile Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive that ends at a trailhead at 10,000 feet. Several trails (one through the largest and oldest grove of ancient bristlecone pines in the world) will take you to Wheeler Peak’s summit at 13,063 feet. With its ice field and rock glacier, Wheeler Peak is a unique phenomenon in the Great Basin. The Park is open year round and offers excellent back-country skiing.
Seven miles south of Ely and about eight miles northeast of US 50, is Cave Lake State Recreation Area, an excellent fishing spot. Head back west on US 50 to connect with US 93 south to Pioche, a rough and tumble mining town founded in 1869 that soon became known as one of the most dangerous in the west. Drive Main Street to see the “Million Dollar” Courthouse, Thompson Opera House, and miners cabin. Continue south on US 93 to Cathedral Gorge State Park, one mile north of Panaca. About one mile before the Park’s entrance is Miller Point Overlook, with a panoramic view of the gorge, a scenic highlight of your trip. Panaca, founded by Mormon farmers in 1864, is a mile east of the highway. See the old 1868 Mercantile Store on Main Street. Caliente is still a railroad town, where Amtrak stops twice a day on the Los Angeles to Salt Lake route. See the beautiful mission-style Union Pacific depot and nearby Rainbow Canyon, a scenic site with ancient petroglyphs.
The 42 mile stretch of US 93 to Crystal Springs offers an interesting sight not often seen – Joshua trees next to Junipers. At Crystal Springs, stay on US 93 south to I-15. At NV 168 junction, go south through Moapa to I-15 (the optional trip to Grand Canyon North Rim through St. George, Utah begins here. Take Exit 16, U 9, 4 miles north of St. George, off I-15 to Hurricane. Take U 59 south through Colorado City, Arizona, where the highway becomes AZ 389, into Fredonia. Pick-up US 89 to Jacob Lake and follow AZ 87 to the North Rim. One way is 183 miles).
Take I-15 north for 3 miles, exit to NV 169 to Overton. South of town is the Lost City Museum, admission fee, with an extensive collection of Pueblo Indian civilization artifacts. Continue on NV 169 to the Valley of Fire State Park cutoff. The red sandstone formations are awesome. Maps of the park are available at the Visitors Center. Return to I-15 south and back to Las Vegas.
Day 7: Boulder City
Start your day with a trip down I-15 to Boulder City. Once there stop at the Chamber building, 465 Nevada Highway (US 93) or in the old Boulder Dam Hotel, 1305 Arizona Street for the Boulder Historic Sites walking-tour brochure and updated map. Visit the historic area at the hotel.
Built in 1933 to serve those involved with building the dam, the property is on the National Register of Historic Places. While there, get information on the River Mountain Hiking Trail built in 1935 by the old Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
The five-mile roundtrip trail has been restored and offers magnificent views of Lake Mead and Las Vegas valley. Across the street is the Boulder Dam Museum with incredible photographs showing the challenges faced during construction. Boulder City was one of the country’s first “planned communities.” The town was designed by Saco DeBoer, a Denver landscape architect, and built specifically for construction crews.
Head back to Las Vegas and set aside the evening for at least one more Las Vegas spectacular show.