Head west across Nevada towards Yosemite’s eastern entrance and the route doesn’t sound too promising: 315 miles across inhospitable desert country with just two old mining towns for refreshment breaks. However, it’s actually a wonderful journey through wide open spaces and a couple of towns packed full of history, plus, if you’ve got the time, a beautiful and little visited national park to start with.
This route was first published in 2010 on RoadTrip America. To see this piece in its original form (together with interactive map) and hundreds of other route suggestions covering North America, visit www.RoadtripAmerica.com.
Here are the highlights to look forward to:
Baker, Nevada (Starting Point)
Gateway to Great Basin National Park — A couple of fun bars — but pretty much a small western town.
Great Basin National Park (mile 15)
Its remoteness makes Great Basin National Park a secret treasure of streams, lakes and wildlife. If you’re feeling energetic, there’s an 18-mile round trip hike to the top of 13,063-ft Wheeler Peak. Much shorter, but still challenging due to the altitude, is the trail up to the 4,000 year old bristlecone pines. The Ranger-guided walk through the magical Lehman Caves is easy and within virtually anyone’s capabilities.
Ely (mile 60)
Once home to the world’s largest open cast copper mine, Ely’s economy still benefits from some out-of-town mining but is today more reliant of the tourist’s – or more accurately the gambler’s – dollar. It’s a fun place to stay for a day or two (check out the Hotel Nevada ) and its excellent railroad museum is one of Nevada’s top visitor attractions.
Lunar Crater National Natural Landmark (mile 150)
If you’re feeling adventurous (and your vehicle has decent ground clearance), the 6 mile unpaved road that leads past cinder cones and lava outcrops to the 430-ft deep volcanic Lunar Crater is worth the drive. Do make sure you’ve got plenty of water and a spare tire though!
Tonopah (mile 230)
Tonopah was once one of the richest silver-mining towns in the West. It still has a gritty authentic feel to it today and the historic mining park makes for an interesting visit. For a small place, there’s a good selection of hotels and motels, but don’t expect too much in the way of fine dining.