When you’re driving through northern Nevada, you’re guaranteed to come across any number of small towns, regardless of your direction or route. They may seem like blips on the radar, but you’d be surprised what you’d find if you stopped to check them out.
From rich cultural histories and artistry to entertainment, dining, and outdoor recreation, there’s plenty to do and see in the Silver State’s small northern towns. Here are 7 small towns in northern Nevada worth traveling to—whether you’re embarking on a road trip or just passing through.
Located 107 miles northeast of Reno on NV 477, well past Pyramid Lake, Gerlach has risen in popularity since the 1990s as the gateway to Black Rock Desert and the countercultural festival Burning Man. Prior to this, it was a sleepy town, settled in 1906 when the Western Pacific Railroad was built. The original Gerlach Water Tower still remains and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Along with a small handful of local saloons and restaurants, a pottery studio, and lodging, Gerlach is close to a plethora of rockhounding sites and natural hot springs as well as places to go off-roading, horse riding, mountain biking, hiking, and stargazing. Art lovers can cruise down Guru Road, just north of Gerlach, to see clever phrases etched on rocks along with hand-carved art pieces and other whimsy by local DeWayne “Doobie” Williams. Or check out the trippy Fly Geyser and various pieces of Burning Man art on a guided tour with Friends of Black Rock-High Rock.
From a sacred cave storing thousands of ancient Indigenous artifacts to a modern swath of heart-shaped padlocks accessorizing the town plaza, this historic farming community was also originally home to the Northern Paiutes. The artifacts, found in Lovelock Cave in 1911, included 11 of the world’s oldest tule duck decoys—the state artifact for Nevada since 1995.
Located on I-80 about 93 miles northeast of Reno, Lovelock has a charming small-town feel and plenty of history. Many of the town’s original buildings are still standing, including the round-shaped Pershing County Courthouse, built in 1919 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places (as was Lovelock’s original two-story train depot). In addition to shopping and dining, you can peruse town relics at the Marzen House Museum or seal your love with a padlock at Lovers Lock Plaza. Spend the night on a working cattle ranch, C Punch Inn & Casino, or choose from more traditional lodging.
Keep going northeast on I-80 for about 72 miles from Lovelock and you’ll find Winnemucca, situated along the Humboldt River. The town was named for a prominent Northern Paiute family—Chief Winnemucca and his activist/author daughter Sarah. In the 1860s, the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad brought sheepherders from Europe’s Basque Country, Chinese workers, and cowboys to the area.
Today, Winnemucca is a modern respite with hotels (about 1,000 rooms), casinos, dining, and plenty of things to do. You can explore the town’s history at the Humboldt Museum and the Buckaroo Hall of Fame, hike in the wilderness, fish in the Humboldt River, or hop on an ATV and hit the state’s largest sand dunes. Don’t leave without trying authentic Basque cuisine and a Picon Punch at one of the many delicious local restaurants.
Like many of its neighboring northern Nevada cities, Battle Mountain’s beginnings date back to the Northern Paiute and Shoshone peoples, followed in the 1820s by fur trappers and, in the 1840s, those following the Emigrant Trail to California. But it wasn’t until copper was discovered in the mountain in 1866—and a rumored battle between the indigenous peoples and prospectors—that this town was named. Today Battle Mountain, located 53 miles east of Winnemucca along the I-80, remains one of the world’s leading gold producers.
Brimming with old Western heritage, the area is a hot spot for hunting, fishing, birdwatching, hiking, and camping. Speed through a trio of trails with different levels of difficulty at the Copper Basin Mountain Bike Trail or hit the dirt on an ATV along the 60-mile Shoshone OHV Trail. Visitors can brush up on Battle Mountain history, view area artifacts, and see traveling exhibits at the Battle Mountain Cookhouse Museum—located in a restored 1920s cookhouse. Or check out any of the 23 stops on a walking tour through the town’s history. There are lots of great places to eat and stay in town, as well as special events like the Basque Festival that’s held every January.
If this small Nevada town on US-93 were any further north it would be located in Idaho. Fortunately, as a gaming mecca, it’s home is safely in the Silver State. Jackpot was born in Nevada, 1 mile from the border, where gambling was outlawed by Idaho in 1954.
Jackpot is a fantastic gaming getaway, as Idaho residents may tell you, with plenty of hotels, casinos, restaurants, shopping, parks, and a year-round golf course. It is also a launching point for outdoor adventures on both sides of the border, including hiking, biking, off-roading, camping, hunting, and fishing. In Nevada, be sure to explore the forests, peaks, basins, and river-cut gorges of the Jarbridge Wilderness area. And don’t forget to take a dip in the Nat-Soo-Pah Hot Springs, a 30-minute drive from the border in Idaho.
With a slew of buzzing casinos on Nevada’s northeast border, West Wendover is to Utah what Jackpot is to Idaho. In this case, it’s located on I-80, forming a joint community with Wendover, Utah. Unlike Jackpot, West Wendover already existed when gambling was legalized in Nevada in the 1930s. Its mascot, a 63-story neon cowboy named Wendover Will, has been beckoning visitors since 1952.
West Wendover’s main draw is gaming and entertainment, with plenty of casinos, restaurants, bars, and a top-notch concert venue. Beyond the gaming, visitors can learn more about the town at the Historic Wendover Airfield Museum. Outdoor recreation is plentiful nearby at the Blue Lake wetland complex, Pilot Peak, and the Bonneville Salt Flats.
This rural town sits at the base of the Ruby Mountains Wilderness Area on NV-277, less than 20 miles from Elko. It’s a charming starting line for outdoor adventure, ranging from hiking and fishing in the summer amid the colorful wildflowers and streams of the Lamoille Canyon to snowmobiling and skiing in the winter. The 200,000 square feet of skiable terrain is accessible via a helicopter ride.
Within the town of Lamoille, there’s the popular Lamoille Grove picnic area, as well as a general store and gas station, a few restaurants and bars, an art gallery, and lodging that ranges from modest to luxurious (including two glamped-out yurts). The town’s first permanent church, erected in 1905, is one of the most photographed structures in Nevada, according to Travel Nevada.
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