An Epic Four-Day Nevada Road Trip Itinerary
Taking a road trip on my motorcycle through Nevada may just be one of the most underrated things I’ve done in quite some time. In May of 2023, I spent four days exploring Nevada’s historic mining towns, endless public lands and mountainous views, scenic byways, national parks, hot springs, iconic restaurants, and more. I quickly learned that Nevada is a very worthy destination for motorcycle enthusiasts looking to hit the open road.
Here is the exact itinerary I used for my four-day, 1,500-mile Nevada road trip. This route covers four scenic byways: The Great Basin Highway, The Loneliest Road in America, The Lake Tahoe Loop, and the Free Range Art Highway.
Getting to Nevada
The best place to start a road trip in Nevada is Las Vegas. The city’s airport and overall amenities are built to host millions of travelers a day. If you’re looking to rent a motorcycle, there are multiple Eagle Rider Rental locations in Las Vegas that are a short Uber or Lyft from the airport.
Found this blog and you’re not a motorcyclist? That’s okay! This Nevada Road Trip itinerary will still be a great asset for you however you choose to travel!
Best Time of Year to Visit Nevada
It’s hard to believe when you get off the plane in Las Vegas in May, with temperatures easily reaching 90+ degrees Fahrenheit at this time of year, that Nevada sees much cooler temperatures outside of the city! Once you leave Las Vegas and head north, you’ll be greeted with cooler temperatures as you climb in elevation. Most of the state sees significant snowfall in the Winter months, so visiting when the roads are passable is a must.
My suggestion: Visit in May or early June if you wish to see snowpack and cooler temperatures throughout the state, or wait until the fall to take a road trip into Nevada’s high country. Parts of this road trip can be brutally hot in the middle of Summer, especially Highway 95 as you head back to Las Vegas on Day 4 of this itinerary.
Day One: Exploring The Great Basin Highway
We started off the first leg of our trip by picking up our Eagle Rider Rental bikes and heading to a local motorcycle coffee shop nearby called Pikey Coffee. If we could do it all over again, we would have left significantly earlier on day one in order to enjoy more of what we found along the Great Basin Highway. If you plan to attempt the trip in the middle of the Summer, my suggestion would be to start very early and avoid the brutal summer heat. You’ll also be able to explore much more of what the Great Basin Highway has to offer!
Stop One: Pioche, Nevada
Pioche is a historic mining town located roughly 180 miles from Las Vegas. For ghost towns and history lovers, this is a must-stop. In short: Pioche is the epitome of the wild west, having been the most deadly mining town of its time. Boot Hill Cemetery is the final resting place to over 100 murderers, and many of whom were laid to rest here were buried so quickly, the tips of their boots were sticking out of the ground of their shallow graves. There’s also the Million Dollar Courthouse and a handful of other historic mining relics around town.
Our primary stop in Pioche was Gunslinger’s, a small eatery inside a building that was built in the late 1800’s and served as a repair shop for stagecoaches. Beyond the history lessons, Gunslinger’s also serves up ice cream and outlaw-themed sandwiches, making it a great lunch stop along the Great Basin Highway.
Stop Two: Great Basin National Park
No Great Basin Highway road trip is complete without a stop at the Great Basin National Park. Not only is it one of the least visited National Parks, but it’s also free to visit! In my opinion, this park is highly underrated and well worth a stop. Plus, taking a ride up Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive is a must.
Because we visited Great Basin in May after a historic year of heavy snowfall, the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive was only open to Mather Overlook. The views from this overlook were well worth the short and scenic ride up the mountain. If you visit when the byway is completely open for the season, you can also see some of the oldest living trees on earth via a short hike near the summit: The Bristlecone pines.
If you’d like to enjoy Great Basin National Park beyond the free entrance fee: This is a dark sky park, making it a great place for motorcycle camping if you manage to get a reservation. You can also take a tour of the Lehman Caves if you get a reservation ahead of time (they typically sell out weeks in advance).
Stop Three: Snap a photo at the State Line
On the border of Utah and Nevada, you’ll find the iconic “Highway 50: The Loneliest Road in America” sign. Be sure to snap a photo with the sign before you start the next leg of this road trip! This is also a great place to refuel since gas stations are minimal along these routes.
Stop Four: Ely, Nevada
60 Miles west of Great Basin is the historic copper mining town of Ely. This is the perfect destination for overnight lodging on the eastern side of the Loneliest Highway. We chose to stay at the Jailhouse Motel & Casino, as it’s home to the Cellblock Steakhouse. You get to eat your steak dinner inside of a pretend jail cell, so the food and experience combo was the perfect way to end the day. Reservations are recommended for the Cellblock Steakhouse, which we made ahead of time.
If you have the time: check out the historic buildings along the main street in addition to the Lincoln Highway marker, which can be found adjacent to the Nevada Hotel.
Day Two: The Loneliest Highway: Ely to Fallon, Nevada
Stop One: Eureka, Nevada
Coined as “The friendliest town on the loneliest highway,” Eureka is one of the best-preserved mining communities in the country, with plenty of historic buildings still in tact – even an outhouse on main street. There is gas and food available in Eureka, but keep in mind this is a small remote town, so hours may vary from what is listed online.
Stop Two: Soak it all in at Spencer Hot Springs
By this point in the trip, you should have noticed the ample amount of public lands throughout Nevada. Spencer Hot Springs sits a few miles down a dirt road and are free for the public to enjoy. You can also camp here. Please keep in mind that these hot springs are not situated in any sort of bath house, nor are they regulated in any manner. It’s your responsibility to clean up after yourself.
Stop Three: Eat a Monster Burger at Middlegate Station
Middlegate Station is an iconic pitstop along the Loneliest Highway. With dollar bills stapled to the ceiling and friendly locals on the bar stools, it’s the perfect place to spend the afternoon and grab a bite to eat. We ordered a Monster Burger and split it. However, there are regular-portioned meals available as well.
Their famous “monster burger” consists of 1 ⅓ pounds of Angus beef on a sourdough bun, piled high with lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, pickles, cheese, peppers, and olives, and a gargantuan heap of fries.
Stop Four: Listen to the Singing Sand Dunes at Sand Mountain
This six-story-by-two-mile-long sand dune constantly moves and shape-shifts, and is a popular spot for off-road riding. What makes it even more special, is that it’s one of only six “singing sand dunes” in the world, reaching 105 Decibels at times. Sometimes you may hear the natural sound phenomenon, and during others, you may only hear the sound of dirtbikes and side-by-sides ripping to the top of the dunes to watch a fiery sunset.
Stop Five: Fallon, Nevada
The closest town to Middlegate station, where we overindulged in a Monster Burger, was Fallon. Nicknamed “The Oasis of Nevada,” Fallon has plenty of hotel and lodging options to choose from, in addition to breweries and places to eat. We arrived at our hotel just after sunset, and after such a beautiful day exploring the Loneliest Road in America, we passed out pretty early.
As if we didn’t have enough “Wow!” moments on day one along the Great Basin Highway, day two left us with our jaws dropped once again. The Loneliest Highway had far exceeded our expectations, And, we still had a few more destinations to hit along the route. Our group once again agreed that there were a few things along the way that we wish we would have had time to stop and check out. For such a “lonely highway,” it sure is packed with sights!
Day Three: The Loneliest Highway: Fallon to Lake Tahoe
Stop One: Virginia City, Nevada
“The Richest Town in Nevada” is a popular motorcycle destination in the greater Reno area. Once a mining boom town, Virginia City is nestled up in the mountains and boasts plenty of historic Victorian-era buildings, eateries, bars, and gift shops. We enjoyed breakfast at the Canvas Cafe and had an “old timey” photo created at one of the many gift shops on the main street.
Looking to do the “typical biker” thing? The most popular stops for motorcyclists are the Bucket of Blood Saloon and Red Dog Saloon.
Stop Two: Lake Tahoe
After we finished up in Virginia City, we hopped back on Highway 50 and headed for Lake Tahoe. The western terminus of Highway 50 can be found in Stateline, Nevada.
If you have the time, you can ride around the entire lake in a couple of hours. We chose to check out the picturesque Emerald Bay on the California side of the lake before heading down Kingsbury Grade (Nevada State Route 207) to our next Nevada destination.
Stop Three: Nevada’s Oldest Thirst Parlor
Nestled at the base of the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada Range, just 25 minutes east of beautiful Lake Tahoe you’ll find the oldest bar and settlement in Nevada. A quick, scenic, twisty ride down Kingsbury Grade will lead you to the Genoa Bar. Originally built in 1853, the Genoa Bar still contains many of the building’s original fixtures.
Hungry rather than thirsty? There is typically a food truck available on site in addition to a few other eateries across the street.
Stop Four: Carson City
Nevada’s State Capitol has a ton to offer, including lodging. We chose to stay in Carson City for the night. Our hotel was connected to a casino that had restaurants on site, so we didn’t do much exploring in town for the evening.
Day Four: Free Range Art Highway
Day Four consisted of riding roughly 450 miles from Carson City to Las Vegas via the Free Range Art Highway (US Highway 95). There is plenty to see and do along this route. However, our schedule didn’t allow for a 5th day to make that possible. This was mostly a “gas and dash” type of day for us.
Road Trip Tip: Pay attention to the blue “Next Available Services” signs. There are multiple areas along this route with NO gas stations for 100 miles.
Stop One: Historic Downtown Carson City
The final morning of our trip started with a stop in Carson’s historic downtown. We visited their tourism office to collect one last stamp in our Highway 50 Survival Guide Passport. (You can order these online or look for them along the route.)
While we were in town, we got a glimpse of the capitol city’s downtown offerings. In addition to a walking tour of the city’s historical buildings, there are plenty of places to eat. We all agreed we wish we had spent the previous evening at a brewery or other establishment rather than at the casino’s restaurant. What’s that saying…? There’s always next time!
Stop Two: International Car Forest
We couldn’t ride the Free Range Art Highway without a stop for some quirky art. The International Car Forest, located in Goldfield, Nevada, checked that item off of our bucket list. Just a few blocks down a dirt road from Highway 95, you’ll see plenty of buried, abandoned, and graffitied cars. (Think Route 66’s Cadillac Ranch, but more fascinating). There’s also a motorcycle section if you have time to explore.
Stop Three: Evel Pie – Las Vegas
Located just outside of the Fremont Street Experience is an Evel Knievel, motorcycle-themed pizza joint called Evel Pie. For us, it was the perfect way to end a four-day road trip through Nevada.
Looking for more Nevada Road Trip Tips? Check out Travel Nevada’s website for more Nevada Road Trip ideas!
Leave a Comment