A road trip through some of Nevada's most interesting towns

Ghost towns, hot springs, a clown-themed motel, and UFO sightings in the Silver State

  • 17
  • 16:52
  • 761 mi
  • $117
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Created by sierra - June 8th 2021

Written by Rachel Pasche

Nevada is often associated mainly with its famous cities Las Vegas and Reno—but there is so much more to the Silver State than a jaunt to “Sin City.” Scattered throughout Nevada are breathtaking parks with otherworldly rock formations, cities with castles perched atop hillsides, alien- and clown-themed motels, and some of the darkest night skies in the U.S. Expanses of untouched desert are bordered by alluring purple mountains, natural hot springs, canyons, and dazzling spires.

Whether you want to explore vast wilderness, uncover interesting history, or have an extraterrestrial encounter, this trip takes you through some of Nevada’s most interesting towns.

Las Vegas—full of neon lights and home to nearly 170 casinos—is a must-see. The Strip is lined with luxury hotels, high-end performance venues, massive entertainment structures (many of which are themed), and fine dining. This is what most people come to enjoy when they visit Nevada, and for good reason.

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20mi 00h 29m

Just west of Las Vegas is a landscape that more closely resembles Mars than Earth. Spectacular red rocks loom overhead, striped with hues varying from deep burgundy to pale pinks. You can opt to take a 13-mile scenic drive or check out one of the many hiking trails into the canyons. The scenery here varies dramatically, ranging from springs to knotty pine trees to bright-red cliffs.

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77mi 01h 15m
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"The historic Caliente Railroad Depot" Photo Credit: Wikipedia

92mi 01h 56m

Caliente, Nevada, United States

Once thought to be the next up-and-coming resort town in the West, Caliente is home to the grandiose Union Pacific Train Depot, now a museum. This adorable and well-kept southern Nevada town is a quaint place to stop and take a stroll back through time. Caliente is also known as the “City of Roses” thanks to a row of historic railroad cottages with stunning rose gardens.

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15mi 00h 20m
Cathedral Gorge State Park
4.5

111 Cathedral Gorge Rd, Panaca, NV, US

Cathedral Gorge State Park

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At Cathedral Gorge State Park, massive sandy spires vault up through the earth to create the appearance of a huge sandcastle. Once a freshwater lake bed, these geologic formations were formed when the lake was drained, exposing ash and pumice from past volcanic activity. Full of slot canyons, breathtaking formations, and miles of trails that wind through this stunning landscape, Cathedral Gorge makes for a truly unique stop.

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54mi 01h 08m
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"Ely, Nevada" Photo Credit: Rachel Pasche

64mi 01h 19m

Ely, Nevada, United States

Sitting along U.S. Route 50, also known as “The Loneliest Road in America,” this quaint mountain town is home to an 11-block art walk, featuring 20 sculptures and murals depicting the cultural diversity and history of Ely. Some of the highlights include the Renaissance Village and an old fashioned 1950s-style soda fountain located within Ely’s Economy Drug. Try one of their locally-famous sandwiches, or treat yourself to an ice-cold soda.

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70mi 01h 25m
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"Austin, Nevada" Photo Credit: Rachel Pasche

77mi 01h 17m

Austin, Nevada, United States

Considered to be a “living ghost town,” Austin is a well-preserved instance of an early mining town in Nevada. This itty bitty town has four churches despite having less than 200 residents. Austin is also the closest town to the Spencer Hot Springs, a cluster of springs surrounded by stunning mountain views.

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0mi 00h 01m
Stokes Castle
3.5

Castle Road, Austin, NV, US

Stokes Castle

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Built in 1897, Stokes Castle sits atop a hillside overlooking Austin. Designed by a prominent mine developer—and modeled after a similar structure in the Roman Campagna in Italy—this strange, three-story tower is built of stone and was occupied for only a month. Today, visitors can head up a short road just past Austin to see this historical site up close.

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57mi 01h 25m
Spencer Hot Springs
3.5

Highway 50, Austin, NV, US

Spencer Hot Springs

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On your way from Austin to Tonopah, you’ll drive through wide swaths of untouched land that feels more like an old movie set than a real landscape. While it sometimes seems unfathomable that there are still so many remote, wide-open spaces across the U.S., the complete isolation has its perks—including Spencer Hot Springs. These natural springs bubble up from the ground in an area tucked near magnificent mountains.

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62mi 02h 07m
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"The Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada" Photo Credit: Rachel Pasche

59mi 01h 43m

Tonopah, Nevada, United States

Historic downtown Tonopah was rated the number one stargazing destination in the U.S. by USA Today. Located in the middle of the desert with so few buildings gives this town some of the darkest night skies in the nation—you won’t even need a telescope to spot the Milky Way and its surrounding stars. The local Mizpah Hotel, built in 1907 and since restored to its former grandeur, is allegedly haunted.

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0mi 00h 01m
Clown Motel
3.6

521 North Main, Tonopah, NV, US

Clown Motel

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One thing Tonopah has that you certainly won’t find anywhere else is the world-famous Clown Motel. Once named “America’s Scariest Motel,” this terrifying (and allegedly haunted, of course) clown-themed motel is built alongside the Old Tonopah Cemetery. If you don’t want to stay the night, you can still walk around and explore the office. Thanks to donations, the collection of clowns on display now numbers around 2,000; the owner is incredibly friendly and loves to share his passion with others.

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109mi 02h 23m
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"The Extraterrestrial Highway" Photo Credit: Shutterstock

0mi 00h 01m

Rachel, Nevada, United States

After driving miles of lonely highway, you’ll come to Rachel, a small, one-horse town in the middle of the desert, also known as the “UFO Capital of the World.” Located along the world’s only “Extraterrestrial Highway,” Rachel is known for its UFO sightings and proximity to the famed Area 51, located 27 miles south of this small town. If you ever want to encounter an alien, this may be the best place to start looking.

0mi 00h 00m
Little A'Le'Inn
4.0

1 Old Mill Road, Rachel, NV, US

Little A'Le'Inn

The Little A’Le’Inn, an Area 51-themed motel and restaurant, is the only business in Rachel open to tourists. Try the famous Alien Burger and ask the bartenders about recent sightings. Or stay overnight and try your chances at spotting a UFO (or just enjoy the spectacularly clear night sky in the middle of the desert).

sierra

photographer, artist and explorer