Last Updated on January 27, 2022 by Nellie Huang
For a power-packed Nevada road trip, check out this 2-week itinerary from Nevada expert, Michelle from Silvas Travel Tribe.
Welcome to Nevada! Bring a sense of adventure as we travel Nevada, from the flamboyant city of Las Vegas to the state’s adventure-packed northwest, along the loneliest highway in the US to the Great Basin. Nevada is as quirky as it is rugged, and its landscape and culture are tailor-made for cowboys, visionaries, dreamers and doers.
We’ve been coming to Nevada for decades, and have explored almost every inch of the Silver State. I’ve designed this Nevada road trip itinerary to show you the best of the state, and I’ve also included a Nevada road map to guide you along the way. A Nevada road trip explores the unexpected, the eclectic, and the beauty of the great outdoors.
Table of Contents
- Nevada Road Trip Itinerary & Guide
- Current Nevada Travel Restrictions
- How to Get to Nevada
- How to Get Around Nevada
- Best Time to Visit Nevada
- Nevada Itinerary Days 1 – 2: Explore Las Vegas
- Explore Off Strip
- Where to Stay in Las Vegas [Off the Strip]
- Nevada Itinerary Days 3 – 4: Get Out of Town and Into Nature
- Hike in Red Rock Canyon
- Visit the Valley of Fire
- Admire the Seven Magic Mountains
- Day Trip to Hoover Dam
- Nevada Itinerary Day 5: Drive to Carson City
- Explore the Artistic Wild Side
- See the Hawthorn Museum
- Where to Stay in Carson City
- Nevada Itinerary Day 6: Explore Carson City and Carson Valley
- Nevada Itinerary Day 7 – 9: Get Active in Lake Tahoe
- Where to Stay in Lake Tahoe
- Nevada Itinerary Days 10 – 11: Enjoy Artsy Reno
- Visit World Class Museums
- Where to Stay in Reno
- Nevada Itinerary Day 12: Driving Day
- Visit Petroglyphs
- Look for Hidden Gems
- Where to Stay in Ely or Baker
- Nevada Itinerary Day 13: Hike in the Great Basin National Park
- Nevada Itinerary Day 14: Drive Back to Las Vegas
- Enjoy Your Nevada Road Trip!
- About the Author: Michelle Muncy-Silva
Nevada Road Trip Itinerary & Guide
Current Nevada Travel Restrictions
As of 26 January 2021, all air passengers entering the U.S. have to present a negative COVID-19 test, taken within three days of international departure. For those traveling to Nevada from other states, there are no current travel restrictions or quarantine mandates. Check the Nevada tourist board website for up-to-date info.
It’s important to have travel insurance for travel during the pandemic. Safety Wing is the most popular travel insurance company for COVID19-coverage. I use their Nomad Insurance plan, which covers COVID-19 as any other illness as long as it was not contracted before your coverage start date. Refer to my travel insurance guide for more details.
How to Get to Nevada
The main gateway to Nevada is the Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. You could also start this Nevada road trip by flying into Reno and reversing the itinerary.
It’s cheap to fly to Las Vegas from most parts of the US. You can fly into Las Vegas from New York for around $150 round trip. Miami to Las Vegas can be as cheap as just under $200 for a round trip ticket.
If you are flying in from Europe, you can find round trip tickets from London to Las Vegas for less than $650 if you book in advance.
How to Get Around Nevada
To do this Nevada road trip, you need to rent a car. A 2-week car rental in Nevada costs around US$350 with unlimited mileage. I always book my car rental on Discover Cars as they’ve consistently given me the best rates and customer service.
McCarran International Airport has an easy-to-use shuttle system that will get you to your rental quickly. Shuttles run every 10 – 15 minutes. Just follow the signs from baggage claim.
Best Time to Visit Nevada
Nevada is a year-round destination. I have traveled Nevada in all four seasons, and can safely say spring is the best time to travel Nevada. You can still see snow in the mountains and the heat hasn’t built up its strength in the dessert areas. The shoulder months found is spring can make your trip more affordable as well.
The Valley of Fire and Red Rock hiking trails are open. The average daytime temperature in Las Vegas in spring is a comfortable 81°F (27°C), while in Reno it’s around 73°F (or 23°C).
Nevada Itinerary Days 1 – 2: Explore Las Vegas
Start your Nevada road trip in Las Vegas, as it is the biggest city and home to the international airport. Yes the city is kitsch and touristy, but there’s actually quite a lot to do in Las Vegas, and even more cool natural attractions around the city. Whether you prefer to get out into nature or bask in the evening glow of neon, you will never get bored.
Explore the Strip
Give yourself a day to walk the strip and stop at each hotel that catches your eye. Enjoy the fountains at the Bellagio Las Vegas, ride a gondola at the Venetian, and don’t miss the roaring rollercoaster at the New York, New York Hotel. Snap a photo at the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign” on 5100 Las Vegas Boulevard South. Get a bird’s eye view of Fremont Street by taking a ride on the SlotZilla zip line!
Explore Off Strip
Head to the Bone Yard, AKA the Neon Museum, where history is told in neon. Come at twilight to see the signs in their glory. Be sure to take a volunteer-led tour as the amazing stories the volunteers share make the experience.
Not done with your craving of all things retro? Head out on East Tropicana Avenue to the Pinball Hall of Fame. Here you’ll enjoy a curated collection of meticulously restored pinball machines from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Slide your bills into the change machine and indulge knowing all profits go to charity.
Nevada Itinerary Days 3 – 4: Get Out of Town and Into Nature
Hike in Red Rock Canyon
Using Las Vegas as your home base, you’ll travel less than 30 minutes from downtown to the Red Rock Canyon, the highlight of any Nevada road trip. Undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Nevada, the conservation area lies in the Mojave Desert, and is best known for geological features such as towering red sandstone peaks and Native American petroglyphs. Panoramic viewing spots dot the 13-mile Scenic Drive.
Visit the Valley of Fire
Get up early and drive an hour outside of Vegas to visit the Valley Fire State Park. World-renowned for its 40,000 acres of bright red Aztec sandstone outcrops nestled in gray limestone, Valley of Fire contains ancient, petrified trees and petroglyphs dating back more than 2,000 years. Check out my detailed guide to Valley Fire.
Admire the Seven Magic Mountains
A relatively new art installation worth visiting, the Seven Magic Mountains is just 20-minute drive south of Las Vegas. Designed by internationally renowned Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, the large-scale public art installation is made up of seven towers of colorful, stacked boulders. A creative expression of human presence in the desert, this art piece punctuates the Mojave with a poetic burst of form and color.
Day Trip to Hoover Dam
If you’ve got some extra time, I recommend doing a day trip to Hoover Dam. Hoover Dam is a testimony to a country’s ability to construct monolithic projects during the Depression. It took less than five years, in a harsh and barren land, to build the largest dam of its time. This architectural icon is only 40 miles away and Get Your Guide has great package options for this trip. Check out this affordable walk-on-the-top tour with lunch included.
Nevada Itinerary Day 5: Drive to Carson City
Now it’s time to leave the big city behind to kick start your Nevada road trip for real! Today you’ll be experiencing some of Nevada’s complex history, visiting a quirky museum and admiring eccentric outdoor art installations via Highway 95. This is just over six hours of driving, but expect a day of driving with fun, quirky pitstops.
Explore the Artistic Wild Side
Drive to Beatty, Nevada and visit Goldwell Open Air Museum to experience this unique outdoor sculpture park. Then stop a little further up the road just beyond Goldfield, to see the International Car Forest of the Last Church. This distinctive display of over 40 cars, trucks and busses are artistically planted just off Hwy 95 south of Tonopah.
See the Hawthorn Museum
Just 90 minutes from Tonopah, take another break to enjoy the Hawthorn area. Stop by the picturesque Walker Lake for a stroll or picnic lunch. You can explore the Hawthorn Ordnance Museum, one of the most interesting small military history museums in the country. From here you are less than 2 hours away from Carson City.
Nevada Itinerary Day 6: Explore Carson City and Carson Valley
While in Nevada’s state capital, Carson City, don’t miss the opportunity to gain a stronger understanding of Nevada’s complex relationship with Native Americans by visiting the Stewart Indian School Cultural Center and Museum.
Itching to get back into nature, you can hike the Kings Canyon trail, a short quarter-mile trail which starts just west of downtown at the end of King Street. If you are traveling in the spring, you’re likely to have prime views of the beautiful Kings Canyon waterfall.
Indulge in an experience that can only be had here in Carson Valley by driving to Genoa Bar and Saloon, a “thirst parlor” marking Nevada’s first settlement. After drinks, head over to the JT Basque Bar and Dining Room in Gardnerville for dinner. If you didn’t get your fill at the saloon don’t worry because JT has a Picon Punch waiting just for you.
Nevada Itinerary Day 7 – 9: Get Active in Lake Tahoe
One of the best places to visit in Nevada, Lake Tahoe is an outdoor lover’s paradise, with plenty of opportunities to hike, mountain bike, ski and swim. Straddling the border of California and Nevada and it’s a popular stop on any California road trip. It’s an easy day trip from Carson City (just 30 minutes away) so there’s no need to change hotels.
Drive the loop around Lake Tahoe, stop at Emerald Bay viewpoint, and take in the best views at Inspiration Point. If you’re visiting Nevada in summer, there are lots of beaches and coves to swim in, with Kings Beach the most popular spot. And for those traveling in winter, Heavenly Resort and Squaw Valley are the most popular ski resorts in Lake Tahoe.
Culture vultures, be sure to check out the historic town of Truckee and hike the Rubicon Trail to the highest elevation lighthouse in the United States. There are so many things to do in Lake Tahoe, you can easily spend an entire week here.
Nevada Itinerary Days 10 – 11: Enjoy Artsy Reno
Just an hour away from Lake Tahoe, Reno is not just neon and casinos. Take a Truckee Riverwalk tour to enjoy the pieces of Burning Man art donated to the city. Pick your patio for some outdoor dining, enjoying any one of the multitudes of delicious places to eat and drink. Alternatively, do a hike to a hidden waterfall on Hunter Creek Trail.
Check out the Greater Nevada Field, home to the Triple A Reno Aces baseball team. If you’re traveling Nevada between November and February, take a spin around the ice-skating rink the city sets up in front of the park.
Visit World Class Museums
Visit the Nevada Museum of Art, the only accredited art museum in all of Nevada. This status puts it on the same level as the Met in New York. Explore the four themed areas on your own or sign up for a tour at the museum.
Housing more than 200 exceptional vehicles, the National Automobile Museum is another must see site. You can attend curator led talks or just explore the exhibits.
Note: If you’re doing this Nevada road trip at the end of summer, check out the Burning Man schedule. You’ll have to reserve tickets far in advance, but if you can get them it is definitely a week long experience you will never forget.
Nevada Itinerary Day 12: Driving Day
Prepare for a long day of driving from Reno to the Great Basin National Park (just over 6 hours)! You’ll be traversing Highway 50, also known as the loneliest road in America. This portion of the highway crosses large desert valleys with few signs of civilization except for a few ghost towns. Enjoy the silence, the expansive blue sky, and the distant mountain views.
Get out of the car just outside of Fallon to stretch your legs at Grimes Point Archeological Site. Here you can see petroglyphs on many of the area’s boulders and gain a better sense of the area’s ancient past.
Have lunch in Austin or grab snacks for a picnic at the Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area. Just beyond Austin is this amazing opportunity to see a glimpse into the early Native American life.
Look for Hidden Gems
Just outside of Ely, Garnet Hill is worth a stop if you’re interested in digging for ruby colored semi-precious gems. Ely District is an internationally known site for gem collectors, and Garnet Hill is the only designated rock hounding area. Garnet Hill is also an excellent location to view the excavations of the massive open pit copper mines near Ruth, Nevada.
Nevada Itinerary Day 13: Hike in the Great Basin National Park
Those traveling Nevada in search of adventure in the great outdoors will love the Great Basin. This is one of the few national parks that lets you experience a diverse landscape without the crowds. Here you’ll find opportunities for star gazing, caving and hiking. This is also one of the national parks with no entrance fee.
Guided tours through these amazing caves take you to the Lodge Room or the Grand Palace Room. A cave tour fee applies with discounts for seniors and youth. Since this is not an entrance fee the America the Beautiful pass will not apply to this cost.
Hiking at Great Basin
A range of trails from paved accessible pathways to full day backcountry adventures are available. Take the 4.6 mile Bristlecone – Glacier trail from the Wheeler Peak Campground to see breathtaking landscape on one of the park’s most popular trails.
Nevada Itinerary Day 14: Drive Back to Las Vegas
It’s a 4.5 hour drive back to Las Vegas from Great Basin so give yourself the time to drive back without rushing. You should have plenty of time if you have a late afternoon flight. If you have an early morning departure, you’ll want to spend the night at a hotel near the airport the evening before.
I recommend staying at Homewood Suites by Hilton as it’s the closest hotel to the airport and it has pretty high standards. A little further out is the more affordable Best Western McCarran Inn, which has equally comfortable rooms and a free shuttle to the airport.
Enjoy Your Nevada Road Trip!
There are so many cool places to visit in Nevada that it can be tough to put together an itinerary with everything you want to see. I’ve designed this Nevada itinerary to pack in a mixture of experiences: from hiking in national parks to visiting quirky museums and going on archaeological discoveries. Have a great time traveling Nevada!
If you’re interested in doing more road trips around the US, check out other articles I’ve written:
- Arizona Road Trip Itinerary
- Utah Road Trip Itinerary
- California Road Trip Itinerary
- Florida Road Trip Itinerary
Here are some weekend itineraries for cities in the US:
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links i.e. I make a small commission when you purchase something through my links, at NO extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!
About the Author: Michelle Muncy-Silva
Michelle Muncy-Silva is the founder of Silvas Travel Tribe. She and her husband are committed to raising their boys to become travelers who bring all the layers of their identity with them as they venture out into the world. They have a special interest in unpacking how travel can benefit local indigenous groups. Michelle’s work has appeared in numerous blogs around the world.
Inspired? Pin it!