Lonely Planet Writer

Take a night train on a stargazing adventure in Nevada

Far away from the glowing reach of Las Vegas there’s a new type of transcendent nightlife on offer under the dark skies of Nevada.

The Star Train takes passengers on a stargazing journey under Nevada’s dark skies. Image by Kevin Grant

The Silver State boasts spectacular night skies, especially in and around the Great Basin National Park, which was designated an International Dark Sky Park in 2016. It’s here, in this otherworldly outback, where visitors can see thousands of stars, multiple planets and, if the stars are in their favour on an especially clear night, even the Milky Way.

On select nights in July, August and September, visitors to this part of Nevada can enjoy a stargazing experience by train with the Nevada Northern Railway’s vintage diesel locomotive, the Star Train. Departing at 7.30pm from the town of Ely – about four hours north of Las Vegas – the 90-minute journey takes passengers on a dusky stargazing adventure with little around for miles to dilute the starlight.

The milky way in middle of Nevada desert. Image by Getty

On board the train are stargazing guides from the Great Basin National Park who come armed with special telescopes. The train travels about 11 miles east and features two stops: one to watch the sun go down from atop a mountain ridge and another to stargaze. At the stargazing spot, rangers point out major constellations and set up the telescopes so passengers can enjoy a detailed, kaleidoscopic view of the stars.

The Star Train runs every year between May and September on select Fridays. The tours for 2019 are already sold out but tickets for the 2020 summer season will go on sale later this year.

Astronomy guides from the Great Basin National Park set up special telescopes for passengers. Image by Kevin Grant

Tickets cost $41 (£33) for adults (13 and older,) and $20 (£16) for children (four to 12). Passengers have the chance to stay overnight in a working train caboose or bunkhouse in Ely from $60 (£48) per person.