Photo By: Sydney Martez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

Photo By: Sydney Martinez

GREAT BASIN HIGHWAY: U.S. 93, Vegas to Ely, covering 8 state parks and Great Basin National Park

May 2016
Updated: April 2017

Adventure

Points of Interest

GREAT BASIN HIGHWAY: U.S. 93, Vegas to Ely, covering 8 state parks and Great Basin National Park

Red sandstone cliffs, alpine lakes and underground caves — explore them all and more on Nevada’s Great Basin Highway, also known as U.S. 93. This trek takes you through eight Nevada state parks and finishes at Great Basin National Park, home of 13,065-foot Wheeler Peak and the Lehman Cave system. You may want to bring your gear — this road trip is perfect for hiking, mountain biking, swimming and fishing.

SNAPSHOT

355 miles/571 kilometers, mostly on U.S. Highway 93, also known as the Great Basin Highway
Check out the map HERE

  • Day 1: Las Vegas to Valley of Fire State Park. Overnight in Alamo.
  • Day 2: Kershaw-Ryan State Park, Beaver Dam State Park, and the Oak Springs Summit Trilobite area. Overnight in Pioche, Panaca or Caliente.
  • Day 3: Cathedral Gorge State Park, Echo Canyon State Park, Spring Valley State Park, and the Million Dollar Courthouse. Overnight in Pioche, Panaca or Caliente.
  • Day 4: Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park, Cave Lake State Park, and Nevada Northern Railway. Overnight in Ely.
  • Day 5: Great Basin National Park and Baker.

Don’t forget your Nevada State Park Passport, which can be picked up at any Nevada state park. Get your passport stamped in 15 of Nevada’s 23 state parks, and you will earn one free annual pass to all Nevada state parks.

DAY 1: LAS VEGAS TO VALLEY OF FIRE STATE PARK

Slather on the sunblock and hit the road. From Las Vegas, it’s about 52 miles/84 kilometers on Interstate 15 east to Valley of Fire State Park. Your first stop should be the visitors’ center, where you can learn about the area’s geologic and natural history before exploring trails through area canyons and past rock formations. Petroglyphs — ancient rock art — can be found throughout the park, but they are most easily viewed at the Atlatl Rock area near the western end of the park.

From Valley of Fire, you’ll head west on Interstate 15 to the junction with U.S. 93, the Great Basin Highway, heading north. You’re on your way!

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Las Vegas
Valley of Fire State Park
Alamo

DAY 2: STATE PARKS IN LINCOLN COUNTY: KERSHAW-RYAN AND BEAVER DAM

Grab a lunch to go at Windmill Ridge Restaurant and Bakery and head out on U.S. 95 north toward the state parks in Lincoln County (it’s about 55 miles/89 kilometers to the city of Caliente, home of Kershaw-Ryan State Park). If you get an early start, however, you might want to stop at Oak Springs Summit Trilobite Area (about 44 miles/71 kilometers) on the south side of Oak Springs Summit. This site, overseen by the federal Bureau of Land Management, contains fossil remains of six types of trilobites (marine creatures from the Paleozoic Era).

Continue on to Caliente and Kershaw-Ryan State Park (2 miles/3 kilometers south of Caliente on Nevada state Route 317). A verdant canyon with small springs and a spring-fed wading pool is the centerpiece of this park. Stretch your legs on the easy 1.5-mile Overlook Trail.

Then head over to Beaver Dam State Park, another 36 miles/58 kilometers, some of it on dirt roads. Anglers, there are plenty of opportunities to fish in the streams below the park’s day use area; there also are a few easy hikes here.

Overnight in one of the three Lincoln County towns in the area: Caliente, Panaca and Pioche.

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Oak Springs Summit Trilobite Area
Kershaw-Ryan State Park
Beaver Dam State Park
Caliente
Panaca
Pioche

DAY 3: STATE PARKS IN LINCOLN COUNTY: CATHEDRAL GORGE, ECHO CANYON AND SPRING VALLEY

Don’t pack your suitcase -- you’ll return to your hotel after a full day of exploration. First on your list today: Cathedral Gorge State Park, which features narrow siltstone canyons that can be explored and climbed. There are a few hiking trails through this dramatic scenery and there’s also a visitors’ center that explains this park as well as all eastern Nevada state parks. 

Continue on to Echo Canyon State Park, about 22 miles/35 kilometers from Cathedral Gorge State Park off U.S. 93 on Nevada state Routes 322 and 86. A 35-acre reservoir at this park offers opportunities for fishing and boating, as well as the 2.5-mile Ash Canyon Trail. Just 12 miles/19 kilometers northeast is Spring Valley State Park. Here, you’ll find the 59-acre Eagle Valley Reservoir and historical ranch homes from the late 19th century, including the Stone Cabin. 

If time allows, you’ll want to check out a few interesting sites in the town of Pioche: the Million Dollar Courthouse and Boot Hill Cemetery. The Million Dollar Courthouse, open May through October, is no longer a courthouse and wasn’t supposed to cost $1 million, but it’s a great place to visit and learn about the area’s history and see the old jail. Boot Hill Cemetery references the town’s origins as a lawless Western outpost. The cemetery sits below an old aerial tramway that was used in the 1920s and ‘30s to carry ore from the mines to a mill on the hill.

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Cathedral Gorge State Park
Echo Canyon State Park
Spring Valley State Park
Boot Hill Cemetery
Pioche

DAY 4: WARD CHARCOAL OVENS STATE HISTORIC PARK, CAVE LAKE STATE PARK, AND ELY

Continue north on the Great Basin Highway — it’s 101 miles/163 kilometers to Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park. Here, you’ll find a great photo opportunity in six large (30-feet-high by 27-feet-diameter) beehive-shaped ovens where charcoal was made from 1876 to 1879. Juniper and pinyon pine were burned in the ovens to create charcoal to be used in the smelters for the Ward Mining District.

From here, it’s only 17 miles/27 kilometers to Cave Lake State Park, which has a 32-acre reservoir popular for fishing — brown trout in particular. Hikers can attempt the Cave Lake Overlook Trail, a strenuous, 4.5-mile loop that begins on the eastern end of the lake. Cave Lake also is home to two of Ely’s biggest community events, the White Pine Fire and Ice Show (an annual ice sculpture competition, usually held in January); and Cocktails & Cannons: The Great Bathtub Races, an annual event usually held in June.

From Cave Lake, it’s a quick 13 miles/21 kilometers to the city of Ely. This mining town is home to the Nevada Northern Railway, a historical railway that now runs the Ghost Train of Old Ely, an excursion train, and the adjacent East Ely Railroad Depot Museum.

Stroll the downtown area to view the city’s many murals as well as Renaissance Village, a cluster of dwellings renovated to represent the different ethnic groups present in Ely in the early 20th century. For a downloadable map of the Art Walk murals and the Renaissance Village, visit the Ely Renaissance Society website, ElyRenaissance.com.

Rock hounds may want to visit Garnet Hill, a rock-hounding area just 4 miles/6 kilometers west of Ely, where you can search for garnets to take home. Garnet Hill is managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management; entry is free.

Overnight in Ely. There are several options available; for a list of options, visit the White Pine County Tourism and Recreation Board website, ElyNevada.net, and click the “Plan Your Visit” link.

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Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park
Cave Lake State Park
Ely
Nevada Northern Railway
East Ely Railroad Depot Museum
Renaissance Village
Garnet Hill
 

DAY 5: GREAT BASIN NATIONAL PARK AND BAKER

Grab a lunch to go and head to Great Basin National Park, 67 miles/108 kilometers east on U.S. 50 and Nevada state Routes 487 and 488. The Lehman Cave ecosystem; 13,063-foot-tall Wheeler Peak; and ancient bristlecone pine trees are the highlights here; the park also is known prime stargazing conditions. An annual astronomy festival is held in the fall.

Your first stop should be one of the park’s two visitors’ centers. The first is off Nevada state Route 487, open from May to October; the other is inside the park, at the end of Nevada state Route 488 and next to the Lehman Caves.

Discovered in the 1880s, Lehman Caves is a marble cave full of stalactites, stalagmites and other cave formations that developed over eons. Those delicate structures can be viewed via guided tours, offered year-round. It’s only up from here: you’ll also want to explore Wheeler Peak, one of Nevada’s tallest. A 12-mile scenic drive winds its way up to the Wheeler Peak campground. Here, find the trailheads for the Wheeler Peak Summit Trail and the Bristlecone Trail, which leads to a bristlecone pine grove, among others. Note that the scenic drive is closed during the winter due to snow.

Head back to Ely for a hot meal and a warm bed — your exploration of the Great Basin Highway is complete! From here, you can backtrack to Las Vegas (243 miles/391 kilometers). Or for more adventure, head to Reno on U.S. 50 westbound (320 miles/515 kilometers) and drive the famed Loneliest Road In America.

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Great Basin National Park
Loneliest Road in America

Point of Interest Go››

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