Nevada has long been a popular travel destination, thanks to stunning deserts, mountain ranges, and all of the adventures to be had in Las Vegas. While the big cities certainly offer the cool factor, it's the small towns that make Nevada such a special place to visit. The best small towns to visit in Nevada for adventure-seeking travelers allow them to do everything from kayaking to mountain bike riding. You may even want to explore a ghost town or spend long days fishing.
For a blast from the past, head to Virginia City, a small town that seems to be stuck in 1859, when it was the location of the first silver deposit discovery. Though just 900 people call it home today, adventure seekers can enjoy the Old West firsthand here. You can check out the museums and the V&T Railroad steam engine, which you can take for a ride along the rickety tracks. You can also take a mine tour or stay for a ghost town tour.
For those seeking out-of-this-world adventure, visit Rachel, one of the best small towns in Nevada for UFO sightings, with residents claiming they've seen plenty of them. Highway 375 is a popular location for spotting them, so it's often referred to as Extraterrestrial Highway. It's also the closest settlement to Area 51 and the Nellis Air Force Range, which makes it quite common to see overhead aircraft.
Austin is one of the best small towns to visit in Nevada if you love mountain climbing. It's within the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and offers miles of hiking opportunities. Bring along your mountain bike to take on some of the more challenging paths. You can also explore well-preserved historic buildings here, which date back to the 1860s.
Ely is another fantastic option for anyone who wants to enjoy the very best outdoor hiking. There are numerous paths here for mountain biking or cross-country skiing during the colder months, but some come just for the off-roading experiences. Many visitors enjoy the area's horseback riding opportunities while camping a night or two in the wilderness.
Located in Lincoln County, Caliente is a small town founded in 1923. Many know it for its historic Caliente Railroad Depot, but the area is ideal for adventure seekers looking to explore the wide-open West with cottonwood trees in every direction, walking paths, and lots of exciting amenities. You can go climbing along the steep hills and reach the Kershaw-Ryan State Park area. The natural springs here, which you can wade through on a warm day, help to feed an oasis of plants nearby, including roses and grapevines. It's quite a dramatic view when in full bloom.
A trip to Lovelock is great for hiking and fishing. However, for festival lovers, this is the place to be throughout the year. Time your visit to coincide with Frontier Days, the Portuguese Festival, or the Lovelock Street Fever Car Show. For a high-flying adventure, check out the Lovers Aloft hot air balloon races, which are sure to get your heart racing.
Though many of the best small towns to visit in Nevada offer desert scenery, those in Tonopah are truly deserted. Though you'll need to do a bit of hiking in the hot weather, a trip to the lunar crater is in order. It's a 430-foot deep crater at the heart of a volcanic field that's over 100 square miles across. The location was once selected as one of the locations NASA used to train for the Apollo Moon missions.
There are plenty of ghost towns out west, but Goldfield is definitely one of the most interesting. There's lots to see here, including historic buildings dating back to 1902 that are said to be full of paranormal activity. The Goldfield Historic Cemetery is in itself spooky, as those buried here likely died as a result of mining accidents.
The hilly terrain of Minden makes it an exciting place for dedicated hikers, but it's also a good place to rent an ATV and explore the mountains and valleys here. You can also rent a dune buggy to take on some of the sand dunes in the area. The rush of being behind the wheel as you crash up and down into the dunes can be exhilarating. It's a bumpy ride but a great way to get your adrenaline pumping.
Genoa is home to the River Fork Ranch Preserve, an expansive area managed by the Nevada Nature Conservancy. The Genoa Trail System offers hiking through a dense natural habitat. You'll likely see Golden eagles, prairie falcons, and red-tailed hawks. This is also an exceptional location for equestrian trail hiking. There's also a small town with some artisan shops, the Mormon Station State Historical Park Museum, and the infamous Hanging Tree, which is said to be haunted by the ghost of Adam Uber.
Jarbidge is a tiny mining town known for welcoming anglers from across the country looking for some of the area's best trout. The Jarbidge Wilderness spans 100,000 acres and is home to the Jarbidge River, which is packed with fish throughout the year. It's all nestled into the mountain ridges, creating an exceptional place for fishing in a quiet, more remote wilderness.
Nelson is a very small town, noted as one of the most active ghost towns in the region. Built around an abandoned gold mine and just 45 minutes from Las Vegas, the city has a few buildings and remote spots to stop. Many come to explore the El Dorado Canyon and the Techatticup Mine, both of which you can book guided tours for. A few small shops and vintage cars dot the landscape of this region, which has long been used in the movies thanks to its barren landscape.
Winnemucca is a small town in Humboldt County noted for its cowboy lifestyle. There's plenty to do here, including touring museums and an old-style bronco riding experience. For those who want to hunt, a visit to Rye Patch Reservoir nearby allows for the seasonal hunting of mule deer, antelope, and game birds. Take some time to explore the Humboldt Museum, which paints the local history of the area through interactive exhibits. There's also Pete's Gambling Hall, Spare Time Bowling Center, and Bella Grazia, a wine bar to fill your time.
Pioche is a small town that offers a fun opportunity for anglers looking for a quiet, remote place to fish. Not only can you fish and swim during the summer months, but it's also a popular location for ice fishing during the winter. Many fish near the Eagle Valley Dam. You can also explore the old Thompson's Opera House, tour the Million Dollar Courthouse that dates back 100 years, and then walk through the Lincoln County Museum, which helps tell the story of this small town.
Rockhounding is a popular activity in Nevada, especially around former mines. Many people come to Gardnerville to check out the veins used to mine gold, copper, and silver over 100 years ago. There's much to explore here, including Sharkey's Casino, Cheshire Antiques, and the Chocolate Shoppe by Sweet Images. You could also spend some time on the Carson Valley Golf Course or learn a bit about the city at the Carson Valley Museum.