Nevada

Virginia City, Nevada

During the 1870s, this booming frontier town was considered “the richest place on Earth.” Thousands flocked here to mine the Comstock Lode, one of the biggest silver strikes in history that helped finance the Civil War and earned Nevada its statehood. A young reporter named Samuel Clemens honed his craft here and emerged as Mark Twain.

Austin, Nevada

Along the Lincoln Highway, or more specifically the portion of Highway 50 known as the Loneliest Road in America, lies Austin, Nevada.

The mountain town offers sweeping, stunning views of the high desert, including at the site of one of its most prominent landmarks, Stokes Castle. The three-story tower was completed in June 1897 by mine developer Anson Phelps Stokes as a summer home for his sons. The native granite structure was only briefly used and hasn’t been occupied since shortly after it was built.

Today, it stands to memorialize the locals who built it and has come to symbolize those who helped develop the mines of Austin.

The mining industry grew the city to some 10,000 people back in the 1870s and 1880s (with a year-round population of roughly 1,500). Today, the population is just over 100 people.

The area is also home to a lot of ghost towns, including Jacobsville, which became a Pony Express stop in 1860. At the time, it had a population of about 400 people.

A trip to this part of the West should also include a pitstop at Spencer Hot Springs, for a soak and maybe a night of camping. Wild burros frequent this area, where it’s eerily quiet (as long as you’re far enough away from RVers running their generators).

If you head south from there, be sure to at the very least pull over on Highway 376 to enjoy views of the Toiyabe Dome.