82 mi / 132 km
Lake Tahoe (TVL)
Follow in the footsteps of the trailblazing prospectors who first hit gold in The Sagebrush State on this 82-mile loop. It's a spur-spinning, saloon-door-slapping Wild West adventure that zigzags between the Pine Nut Mountains and the Sierra Nevada, dropping into old-school cowboy towns and pioneer settlements alike. Yeeha!
The 10,000-foot outline of Monument Peak on the Nevada-California state line marks the start point. You can take some time to ski there on the famous pistes of the Heavenly Resort if there's snow. Then, push on up the hair-pinning bends that take you through the easternmost flanks of the Sierra Nevada.
You can almost pinpoint the exact spot that the mountains end and the vast Great Basin begins. The hills flatten, the pine woods drop away, and rolling fields of scrub drift on to the horizon.
This is the vast heart of America that challenged the pioneers of the 1800s wagon trains. Their enthralling and often sobering stories are told at the Mormon Station State Historic Park, the site of the first ever permanent settlement in Nevada.
When it was first raised in 1851, it was little more than a backcountry trading outpost. You can see a replica of that original building today, and drop into the Genoa Bar, which has attracted towering figures in its 150-year history, including Mark Twain and Teddy Roosevelt.
A stop in Carson City is a must. It's packed with illuminating museums. There's the Foreman-Roberts House Museum, a timber-framed Gothic Revival home that's been preserved to look just like what it did back in the era of the Gold Rush. Then there's the Nevada State Museum, which chronicles the history of the territory from its very beginnings.
The road wiggles north into the sun-baked Virginia Range next. Miners bound for the rich gold veins of California would have passed through these inhospitable peaks in the 1840s and 50s. Aptly named Silver City was just a clutch of guesthouses and bordellos back then, but it was a rare and welcome pitstop in the sea of dusty peaks and canyons that is the American West.
Then its only just down the road to Virginia City, a town made famous by the booming wealth of the Chollar Mine. Be sure to stop by the Ponderosa Saloon in the center. On the surface it's a drinking hole, but it's also proper gun-slinger stuff, with a bank vault dating from 1864 and mine shafts cut beneath the bar itself!
In 1875, Virginia City was the site of a surprising bank robbery that captivated the town. Two masked men entered the Bank of California, making off with approximately $35,000 worth of gold and silver. What made this robbery unique was their daring escape plan: commandeering a fire engine and fleeing through the streets of Virginia City.
However, their getaway came to an abrupt halt when the fire engine became stuck in a gully, forcing the robbers to abandon it and disappear on foot. The Bank Robbery of 1875 remains a captivating tale from the town's rich history. The audacity of the robbers and their unexpected use of a fire engine as a getaway vehicle left a lasting impression on the residents. It also sparked a renewed focus on law enforcement and security measures.As your road trip through Nevada concludes, the memories of the rugged landscapes, the stories of Silver City, and the living history of Virginia City will remain etched in your mind. From the saloons and memorable architecture to the museums and historic mines, these places bring together the colorful characters and stories of the Old West in unexpected ways.
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