Those who enjoy wild and lonely places will love driving Nevada's scenic and remote back roads. Whether you’re planning to add some scenic byways into a longer road trip in the USA or just want to squeeze in a bit more sightseeing, our pick of Nevada’s best drives are worth adding to your itinerary.

The stunning views on offer in this wild state turn even more beautiful as fall rolls into winter.

A sign shows the old Pony Express Route off of Highway 50, Nevada.
A sign shows the historic Pony Express Route off of Highway 50, Nevada © Rachid Dahnoun / Getty Images

Highway 50  

Best for peace and quiet on the open road
Distance: 320 miles

Stretching east from Fallon, Nevada, to Great Basin National Park and the state line, remote Highway 50 follows some of America's most iconic routes – the Pony Express, the Overland Stagecoach and the Lincoln Highway – across the heart of the state. It was described by Life magazine in 1986 as the "Loneliest Road in America," and the name has stuck.

You can pick up a Hwy 50 Survival Guide from most tourist information offices; expect mile after mile without another vehicle in sight and only austere basin expanses and rugged peaks to keep you company.

The Welcome to Las Vegas sign
The Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign in Las Vegas, Nevada © f11photo / Shutterstock

Las Vegas Strip Scenic Byway 

Best for retro Vegas sights
Distance: 4.5 miles

This five-mile route may be short but it’s the USA’s only night-time scenic byway and it’s an iconic drive. Here you can soak up some of the best of the Las Vegas’ sights without diving into the craziness of the Strip (although it’s right there waiting for you when you're ready).

See the famous "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign and go "around the world" spotting the themed resorts, including Ancient Egyptian pyramids, medieval castles, the Eiffel Tower and more. It can take just thirty minutes to complete but many linger around the route for several hours exploring or taking snaps.

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Wheeler Scenic Drive, Great Basin National Park 

Best for heart-stopping hairpin bends
Distance: 12 miles

Ascending 3000ft, this out-and-back scenic drive will have your ears popping and jaw dropping at the staggering views of both Wheeler Peak and the basin floor. At each turn (these hairpins aren't for the fainthearted), the vistas just keep getting better. From the roundabout at the end of the drive, you can park up and climb the mountain (provided you're appropriately prepared). Other, shorter hikes are no less beautiful.

Park rangers tell us the drive crosses the same number of eco-regions as exist between northern Nevada and Canada's frozen Yukon, thousands of miles north. 

Mountain biker on the Flume Trail at Lake Tahoe.
Mountain biker on the Flume Trail at Lake Tahoe. ©aaronj9/Shutterstock

Mount Rose Highway 

Best for stunning alpine views
Distance: 24 miles

The romantic name for State Route 431, this drive connects Lake Tahoe’s Incline Village with Reno and includes an elevation of more than 8000 feet above sea level at Mount Rose Summit. The scenic overlook three miles in is an essential stop to get the full impact of the sparkling alpine lake. If you’re undertaking this drive in the winter, always check the road conditions before you set off (see tips below).

Pyramid Lake Scenic Byway 

Best for serene beaches
Distance: 34 miles

A piercingly blue expanse in an otherwise barren landscape 25 miles north of Reno on the Paiute Indian Reservation, Pyramid Lake is a stunning standalone sight, with shores lined with beaches and eye-catching tufa (a kind of limestone) formations.

From Reno, drive north on NV-445 to descend on the lake, then back to the visitors’ center on the NV-446.

A tarmac road runs through an area with ancient rock formations rising tall above the road
Take the one-way scenic loop around Red Rock Canyon © Jerry Alexander / Lonely Planet

Red Rock Canyon 

Best for dramatic landscapes
Distance: 13 miles

Red Rock's dramatic vistas are revered by Las Vegas locals and adored by visitors from around the world. Formed by extreme tectonic forces, it's thought the canyon was formed around 65 million years ago. A one-way scenic loop drive starting from the visitors' center offers mesmerizing vistas of the canyon's most striking features.

You’ll need to book a timed reservation to drive the route. Hiking and rock-climbing trails are accessible from roadside parking areas.

Tips for driving in Nevada

  • Most drivers get across Nevada on interstate highways I-80 or I-15. US 6 or US 50 are great, uncrowded alternatives.
  • It takes less than two hours to drive 125 miles from Primm, on the California state line, to Mesquite near the Utah border via I-15; Las Vegas is the most popular overnight stop along this route.
  • When driving across the state on I-80, Winnemucca and Elko are the most interesting places for a night's sleep.
  • US Hwy 95 may be the quickest route between Las Vegas and Reno, but it's still a full day's drive without much to see or do along the way.
  • Many scenic back roads are unsealed. Check with your car-rental provider to make sure you're permitted to drive off-road.
  • For road conditions, especially in winter, call 877-687-6237 or visit Nevada Department of Transportation.
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You might also like:

Las Vegas' 6 best day trips  
The USA's 11 best road trips and scenic drives  
The 14 best day trips on the US West Coast  

This article was first published January 2021 and updated November 2021

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