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.

A sign shows the old Pony Express Route off of Highway 50, Nevada.
Pick up a Hwy 50 guide from a tourist office and hit the iconic routes © Rachid Dahnoun / Getty Images

1. 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 Hwy 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.

Planning tip: 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
Soak up some of iconic Las Vegas from the scenic byway © f11photo / Shutterstock

2. Las Vegas Strip Scenic Byway 

Best road trip for retro Vegas sights
Distance: 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.

3. 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.

Local tip: 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.

A boat travels along a sparkling lake with a road running alongside it
Stop along Mount Rose Highway to enjoy the views of glistening Lake Tahoe © Savannah Elenez / Getty Images

4. Mount Rose Highway

Best road trip 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 8000ft 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.

Planning tip: If you’re undertaking this drive in the winter, always check the road conditions before you set off.

5. 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

6. 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.

Planning tip: You’ll need to book a timed reservation to drive the route if visiting between October 1 and May 31. 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, visit Nevada Department of Transportation.

This article was first published January 2021 and updated November 2023

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