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A bus and two cars on a hill with a picnic area at the open-air art gallery called International Car Forest of the Last church outside of Goldfield.

Road Tripping Las Vegas -> Tahoe: Where to Go & What to Do

From water sports and mountain biking in the summer and fall to skiing and snow play in the winter, Lake Tahoe is an all-year outdoor playground. So let’s go road tripping. At just over a seven hour drive away from Las Vegas, many locals and tourists like to make a quick getaway to explore all the fun this Northern Nevada hot spot has to offer. Now you could just drive straight through, but where’s the fun in that? The stretch of road between Las Vegas and Reno (just north of Lake Tahoe) is known as the Free Range Art Highway, and there are plenty of hidden gems worth making a pit stop for along the way.

Amargosa Valley - Pit Stop #1

Area 51 Alien Center

With it’s bright neon exterior popping out amidst the desert vista, you can’t miss this out-of-this-world roadside stop featuring a souvenir shop complete with alien wares and Area 51 security swag, roadside diner, and truck stop with all the snacks and drinks to help fuel you up for the rest of your trip. For a small price you can even get your fortune read by the extraterrestrial version of Zoltar.

Big Dune Recreation Area

Have you ever heard of a singing sand dune? Maybe not because there are only thirty of them in the world – and Nevad has three! Big Dune Recreation Area features one of these singing sand dunes, a rare geological phenomenon which occurs exclusively with particular grain sizes in very dry conditions. Each singing sand dune produces its own specific pitch. Many geologists are known to explore the area amidst wildlife lovers, campers, off-road enthusiasts and everyone in-between.

The Area 51 Alien Center is a light semi lime green building. It filled with alien souvenirs.
A picture of the Big Dune Recreation sign at an entry point. This is located in Nevada Silver Trails territory part of the state above Las Vegas on your way Lake Tahoe, NV.
Roadtripping - Inside Area 51 Alien Center

Beatty - Pit Stop #2

Goldwell Open Air Museum 

This road tripping adventure  isn’t known as the Free-Range Art Highway for nothing. Goldwell Open Air Museum features an outdoor collection of sculptures and art that is available to the public free of charge. Here you’ll find a group of white ghost-like sculptures that portray a life-size version of Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper. There’s also a 24 ft. steel sculpture of a prospector and a penguin. The former pays homage to the area’s former mining days, while the penguin is… just cute! While you’re there be sure to walk the labyrinth for a little meditation and serenity in the midst of your adventure.

Rhyolite Ghost Town

Just past the Goldwell Open Air Museum lies the remnants of the town of Rhyolite. This once booming mining town used to feature 50 saloons, 35 gambling tables, 19 lodging houses, 16 restaurants, among a few other buildings. Now all that remains are a few crumbling buildings such as the Train Depot, Cook Bank Building, Senator Stewart’s Mansion, and the Rhyolite Schoolhouse. Many of the buildings were deconstructed and their materials used elsewhere, especially the nearby town of Beatty, NV. However, the remains are worth a pit stop to learn about the area’s once thriving history.

Tom Kelly Bottle House 

Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like – a house made of bottles. Back in the early mining days wood and stone were scarce in the desert so miners would often build homes out of cheaper material – in this case glass bottles. The Tom Kelly Bottle House is built out of 50,000 medicine, whiskey, and beer bottles held together by Adobe, and is one of the oldest and largest known remaining bottle houses in the United States. It has been a featured location for movies such as Wanderers in the Wasteland and The Air Mail. While you can no longer go inside the building, you can get a pretty good up close view. While you’re there, sign the guest book and make sure to turn around for some stunning views of the desert vista.

Eddie World

As you prepare to leave Beatty, NV make sure to make a pit stop at this popular gas station and convenience store. Its castle-like exterior sticks out on the edge of town and is a tell-tale sign that the interior will be anything but your ordinary roadside convenience store. Inside you’ll find aisles of delectable treats from Death Valley Nut & Candy Company, with many made on site, an ice cream shop, coffee & breakfast shop, Jedediah’s beef jerky stand, and lots of toys, games, etc. to keep the kids entertained on the next leg of your road tripping journey. 

In this pic we are road tripping to Goldwell open air museum outside of Beatty Nevada - ghost like sculpture holding a bicycle..
Rhyolite Ghost Town is just outside of Beatty Nevada and this road tripping pic shows what is left of the school house building.
In this pic we are road tripping to Rhyolite Ghost Town for a shot of the the Tom Kelly Bottle house on a beautiful blue sky, light cloud day.

Goldfield - Pit Stop #3

The International Car Forest of the Last Church

The next open-air art gallery you will encounter on the trip is the International Car Forest of the Last church. This Guinness World Record Breaking Car Forest was created by Mark Ripple, a longtime Goldfield resident and features towers of partially buried junk cars, their rusted exteriors spray painted several times over by inspired patrons. Though in the past visiting guests were encouraged to tag where they found inspiration, the curators now ask that you leave the art to the experts as they look to bring in specific artists for a more curated experience. But you can still enjoy the art by wheels or by heels, though you’ll need a vehicle with high clearance and four-wheel drive to make it through the exhibit.

Goldfield Historic Walking Tour

There’s so much more to explore in Goldfield. While you’re there, be sure to take the Goldfield Historic Walking Tour including nearly 200 historic sites in the town. You’ll see historic and unique buildings, mining sites, saloons, and the town cemetery. Sound overwhelming? Travel Nevada has also put together a list of 15 top sites to see while in Goldfield.

Roadtripping - Car Forrest Goldfield
Roadtripping - Goldfield
Roadtripping - Car - Goldfield

Tonopah - Pit Stop #4

The Clown Motel

The early days of Tonopah’s history saw many disasters such as mine fires and even a plague. The Clown Motel was created out of the tragic Belmont Mine Fire of 1942 where a man named Clarence David died. 43 years later his children Leona and Leroy decided to honor their late father by putting to use his collection of 150 clowns, opening The Clown Motel next to the Tonopah Cemetery where he was buried. When you build a motel next to a cemetery you are bound to get some paranormal action, and there’s plenty to be had at The Clown Motel. It was even featured on an episode of Ghost Hunters. Over the years many guests have flocked to the hotel, bringing their own clown memorabilia to add to the collection.

The Mizpah Hotel

For those who are coulrophobic or just want to experience a much more upscale paranormal venue, be sure to visit the Mizpah Hotel. Originally built in 1907, it was on the list of many firsts for Nevada including the first 5 story building (the tallest in the state at the time), one of the first luxury hotels, and had one of the first all electric elevators. Known for its glitz and glamor and Victorian charm, in its heyday it was THE place to be, visited by many celebrities, politicians, prospectors, boxers, etc. Some people loved it so much they have stayed on-site in the afterlife. The most famous spirit being the Lady in Red, who lived in a palatial suite on the 5th floor where she often entertained lonely men until a jealous ex lover stabbed her in a fit of rage. Now The Mizpah Hotel is known as one of the most haunted hotels in America, attracting many ghost hunters and enthusiasts from around the world. Read more about a ghostly adventure here.

Tonopah Brewing Company

Before you leave town, make sure you stop by Tonopah Brewing Company for some bites and flights of delicious craft beer. The menu features favorite bar bites like beer battered onion rings, pretzel bites, craft burgers, and delicious flatbreads. The beer menu features a wide variety of craft beers, available in flights or by the glass. For those who prefer grapes over grains, a selection of Cline Family Wines is also available to enjoy. Always make sure you are road tripping responsibly. 

LVT Road Tripping Clown Motel Tonopah
Road tripping to Tonopah to stay at the haunted Mizpah Hotel in the picture on a bright blue skyed day.
A pic of a flight of beers from the Tonopah Brewing Co.

Road Tripping - Plan Your Trip

From the alien-themed quirkiness of Amargosa Valley to the artistic and historical treasures of Beatty, Goldfield, and Tonopah, each stop along the Free Range Art Highway offers a unique glimpse into the rich tapestry of Nevada’s landscape and culture. Whether you’re drawn to the ghost towns and roadside attractions or the vibrant outdoor activities awaiting you at Lake Tahoe, this road trip promises memories that will last a lifetime. So pack your bags, fuel up, and embark on an unforgettable drive from the bright lights of Vegas to the serene beauty of Tahoe. Happy travels!

Distance from The Strip Route

448 miles, 7 HRS, 2 MIN – straight through, but take your time and explore all the Silver State has to offer.  This road tripping guide starts in Las Vegas Territory and takes you through Nevada Silver Trails into Reno-Tahoe Territory.

Route 
Take US 95N – but adventure off the beaten path and get a little out there.  Explore more at Travel Nevada.

A view of Lake Tahoe and its surrounding mountains from the Nevada side at Heavenly Mountain Resort. There is a sign that talks about the colors of the lake.

Las Vegas Territory has some amazing activities and day trips to soak in some adventures beyond the neon. Check out more fun from our travel experts: Plan Your Trip.

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