Follow the historic route of the old Pony Express
Before there were automobiles or email, there was the Pony Express. From April 1860 to October 1861, the 3,200-kilometer Pony Express route connected the USA with 10-day mail delivery from Missouri to California in the growing west. The trail may be gone, but the history remains. Venture into Nevada’s Pony Express Territory, where varied terrain and expansive, isolated highways – including Highway 50, called the Loneliest Road in the USA – offer encounters with historic towns, ancient natural wonders and amazing scenic beauty.
Dayton: Nevada’s First Gold Rush Town
Gold was discovered in Dayton in 1849. The city flourished when the Comstock Lode – the first silver ore in the USA – was found a few kilometers north. The remains of the 1861 Rock Point Mill that processed silver from Comstock still stand at Dayton State Park. Today, golfers come to play at the Dayton Valley Golf Club, an Arnold Palmer-designed course that hosts the longest-standing PGA Tour qualifier in the USA.
Fernley: For Racing Fanatics
Just 40 minutes east of Reno, Fernley began as a ranching community, but has picked up the pace since its 1904 founding. The city attracts racing enthusiasts to the Fernley 95A Speedway, a popular motorsports complex hosting a variety of racing events, as well as the Fernley BMX Track, where aspiring and experienced BMX bike riders will find tracks for all skill levels.
A colorful public sculpture in Fernley
Fallon: A Desert Oasis
Thanks to irrigation from nearby rivers, the “Oasis of Nevada” boasts more than 8,400 residents, a thriving farming community and a range of amenities. City-going folks can explore the shops and restaurants along Maine Street and do a craft liquor tasting tour at Frey Ranch Distillery. Outdoor lovers can look for native wildlife and birds at Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge and see prehistoric petroglyphs at Grimes Point.
The quaint Churchill County Courthouse in small-town Fallon
Austin: History and Outdoor Recreation
Founded in 1862, Austin offers a blend of historical sites and outdoor activities. Check out the old cemetery, the three-story Stokes Castle made of native granite and three of the oldest churches in Nevada: St. Augustine’s Catholic (1866), Austin Methodist (1866) and St. George’s Episcopal (1877). In the surrounding Toiyabe mountains, go hiking, horseback riding and camping.
The impressive Stokes Castle looming over the horizon at twilight
Eureka: The Friendliest Town on the Loneliest Road
Located on Highway 50, the historic district in this former mining town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its collection of buildings dating to the 1870s. Many have been restored and are still in use today, including the Eureka Sentinel Museum, housed in an 1879 newspaper building with its original printing press; the Eureka County Courthouse, built in 1880; and the Eureka Opera House, also from 1880.
A performer practicing in the historic Eureka Opera House
Ely: Ghost Trains and Copper Mines
Ely, a former stagecoach station along the Pony Express route, is known for the restored steam and diesel trains at the Nevada Northern Railway Museum. Explore museum exhibits and reserve a seat on a themed train ride like the Night Sky Star Train or Haunted Ghost Train. Don’t miss the photo opportunity at Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park, where huge, beehive-shaped ovens were used to process silver in the 1870s.
Ride in a train pulled by a century-old steam engine at the Nevada Northern Railway Museum
Great Basin National Park: A Mountain Oasis
Near the Nevada-Utah border, Great Basin National Park teems with natural wonders. Tour the 600 million-year-old Lehman Caves, hike through 5,000-year-old Bristlecone pine trees, drive at elevations of more than 3,000 meters along Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive and traverse the 4.4-kilometer Alpine Lakes Loop Trail for picturesque views of Wheeler Peak and Stella and Teresa lakes.
A scenic road passing through Great Basin National Park
Book an international flight to Reno-Tahoe (RNO), where you can rent a car and drive about 45 minutes to reach the first destination of Dayton. At the end of the trip, drive 625 kilometers back to Reno-Tahoe or book a flight leaving from Salt Lake City (SLC), which is 404 kilometers northeast, or McCarran/Las Vegas (LAS) about 541 kilometers south.