Explore Nevada’s rugged Elko Cowboy Country, set amid the backdrop of the Ruby Mountains.
Discover wide open spaces filled with vintage towns, historic gold mines, old time saloons, natural wonders, loads of hospitality and even a ghost town or two. Located halfway between Reno and Salt Lake City, Elko Cowboy Country is the quintessential cultural expression of the American West.
The Center of Cowboy Country
Elko is a unique little town with true Western flair accented by the Basque heritage of shepherd immigrants. Make your first stop the Western Folklife Center, where you’ll learn about the authentic west and its cultural spirit. True to form, the most epic element of the center is its annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Cowboys and poetry – now that’s a memorable slice of Americana. Further uncover your inner cowboy or cowgirl at the Cowboy Arts & Gear Museum. Learn about historic customs, participate in workshops and watch demonstrations on trades like silver engraving, raw hide braiding and leather stamping. You can’t come to Elko without stopping in J.M. Capriola, a revered western-crafted goods purveyor known for high-quality saddles, bits & spurs and pocket knives. Sit down for a hearty steak at The Star Hotel, where you’ll be treated to Basque-inspired cuisine and given a warm Elko welcome.
Pioneer reenactment at Elko's California Trail Interpretive Center
Explore Gold Mines, Ghost Towns and Ranches
Strike out to mines scattered along the byways of Cowboy Country in the Golden Horseshoe, the region starting in McDermitt and heading south on U.S. Highway 90 to Winnemucca then east on Interstate 80 to Battle Mountain and Elko. Visit the not-so-spooky ghost town of Paradise Valley and its classic Paradise Valley Saloon & Bar G for a raucous good time, not too far from the historic mining town of Tuscarora. For a hands-on mining experience, take a guided tour at Newmont Gold Mine. For a true taste of Western life, head to Jarbidge Wilderness, an idyllic spot for horseback riding, hunting and fishing. There’s also several ranches here offering Western-inspired accommodations and experiences.
The Wild West may be rugged, but it’s also beautiful and alive with opportunities to immerse yourself in nature. Hike trails along the Santa Rosa Mountains like the Summit Trail or Falls Canyon Trail. Bird watch and check out other wildlife at Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge, or find yourself in the midst of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, the largest national forest in the continental USA. Be sure to add Lamoille Canyon and Angel Lake Scenic Byway to your itinerary to hike trails filled with wildflowers, alpine lakes and dense forests.
Try your luck trout fishing at Wilson Reservoir, South Fork State Recreation Center or Wild Horse State Recreation Area. The famed Black Rock Desert isn’t far either, known for its many wonders especially the famous Burning Man festival. There’s even something for thrill seekers: Try heli-skiing in the Ruby Mountains. Or, go traditional with sledding or snow skiing in the SnoBowl Ski Area.
Afternoon clouds and Ruby Mountain peaks reflect on Lamoille Lake
Casinos, Nightlife and Rodeo
In Cowboy Country, you can mix a little city life in with your outdoor plans. Catch live music or a comedy show at the Peppermill Concert Hall in Wendover, or travel to West Wendover, home to casinos and a mix of fine dining. Jackpot, on the border of Idaho and Nevada, is also another town with Las Vegas-style entertainment and a championship golf course peppered with mountain views. If you want to include just one more Western activity, attend the local rodeo in Winnemucca. (Be sure to check out the Winnemucca Sand Dunes, perfect for camping and ATV-riding during the day.)
Illuminated Wendover Will sign, a landmark and mascot for West Wendover
Fly into Salt Lake City International Airport in Utah and rent a car. Take a 360-kilometer drive to Elko, Nevada. You can also fly into Reno-Tahoe International Airport and drive 466 kilometers to Elko.