Strap on your hat and pull on your boots for a visit to northern Nevada’s Cowboy Country, where jeans are the fashion norm and nobody stands on ceremony. In this region, Old West hospitality is the golden rule…and something that will assuredly elevate your travels from good to grand.
When you’re in Elko, stop by the Western Folklife Center, the host of the annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, which will celebrate its 31st anniversary in 2015. Basque culture also plays a tremendously important role in this neck of the woods. The hearty, multi-course Basque cuisine – steak, beans, salad, fries and rich red wine are the usual staples – is served family-style at several Elko restaurants. Although tough to choose from, The Star Hotel is one of Nevada's most legendary restaurants and its unmistakable neon sign continues to be one of the most photographed places in Elko County.
The Northeastern Nevada Museum and California Trail Center tells a fascinating story of pioneers and natural history in the region. For information about the Elko area, check out the Elko Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center, which is housed in the historic Sherman Station, a turn-of-the-century, log-style ranch house that at the time of its construction was the largest log home in Nevada.
The Ruby Mountains, also known as America’s Alps, rise majestically southeast of Elko. The minute you pop over the ridge and see the Rubies for yourself, you'll know what we're talking about. Follow State Route 227 from Elko through Spring Creek to the Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway, a 12-mile drive that curves upward through towering glacier-carved turns. The scenic drive is spectacular, but the real magic happens when you get out of your car and dive into Lamoille Canyon's stunning backcountry. Known for quite a collection of pristine alpine lakes, traveler's can park their cars at the top of the scenic byway and venture a short distance on well-maintained trails for a first-hand view of majestic scenery. Expect quite the variety of wildflowers, forest creatures and crystal clear lakes, just to name a few. If you're looking for more of an immersive trip, spend a few days backpacking into the canyon to far reaching alpine lakes like Liberty and Favre. Here, you can try your luck at fishing for Brook Trout, and if you're lucky enough to reel in a Mackinaw Trout, you'll be a local legend to say the least. You can hike and ride horses on the expansive Ruby Crest Trail, and Bass fishing and bird watching are superb at the Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
Off-highway vehicle trails afford miles of ATV action around Ruby Valley and areas near Wells and Deeth. If you want to explore stunning mountains and crystalline lakes the cowboy way, try riding horseback in the Jarbidge Wilderness north of Elko. Several ranches offer Western-style vacations. Or, if you want to just drop off the grid and enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery in the state with magnetic history and friendly locals to boot, Jarbidge is for sure the way to go.
Anglers pull trout and bass from Wilson Reservoir, South Fork and Wild Horse state recreation areas. In winter, ice fishing is popular at these three reservoirs. Additionally, the entire county as a whole is a fisherman’s paradise, where anglers can nearly complete an entire IGFA Royal Trout Slam in the area, as the opportunity to reel in Brook, Bull, Golden, Rainbow Trout exists. And, for a world-class winter experience, try Ruby Mountain Heli-Ski – one of two heli-skiing operations in North America – headquartered in Lamoille.
In addition to off-road opportunities and wildlife-viewing areas, West Wendover on the Nevada-Utah border has five major casinos with fine dining and lodging, and the Peppermill Concert Hall books top-name entertainment. The Nevada-Idaho border town of Jackpot also boasts casino action and entertainment.
Many communities along Interstate 80 serve as base camps for hunters and explorers. Supplies are available – and so are hotels and motels in case you want to sleep in a bed instead of a sleeping bag. After touring a gold mine near Battle Mountain and Carlin, you can sit down for a family-style meal featuring steak, lamb or jumbo prawns in one of Winnemucca’s four great Basque restaurants.
If you want to stretch your legs on your drive, you can stop at Rye Patch State Recreation Area for a picnic beneath tall cottonwoods. If you’re feeling romantic, lock your love in Lovelock by fastening a lock on the never-ending chain at Lovers Lock Plaza, or simply admire the more than 1,000 locks that adorn the plaza. Activities here are just as rich and varied as the heritage and backcountry. Revel in the unique mix of outdoor and cultural activities and take a long trip to experience all Cowboy Country has to offer.
The Cowboy Country is comprised of Battle Mountain, Carlin, Denio, Elko, Gerlach, Jackpot, Jarbidge, Lamoille, Lovelock, McDermitt, Wells, West Wendover, and Winnemucca.