1) The living ghost town of Unionville offers visitors a chance to tour the remains of a once-booming mining town, including the cabin of literary giant Mark Twain, who came to the area in 1861. One of the few remaining businesses in town is the Pioneer Garden B+B Guest Ranch—also built in 1861—which provides guests with comfortable beds and rave-worthy breakfasts and boasts a neighbor who doesn’t mind taking guests out on horseback. A jaunt out to the nearby Kyle Hot Springs—where a rancher graciously allows folks an all-natural soak in a stock tank—will ease those tender saddle sores.
2) Just north is Winnemucca, named after a Northern Paiute Indian Chief. There, cowboy events like the Winnemucca Ranch Hand Rodeo Weekend, the Tri-County Fair & Stampede, and the Western States Ranch Rodeo Finals dot the annual calendar from March until November. And, to make sure you know how to capture the cowboy action, kick the season off with the Shooting the West photography symposium, which attracts hundreds of participants and photography experts. Swing in to Tips Western Wear and Saddlery to make sure you’re fully outfitted for your cowboy adventure.
3) Head east, and in less than two hours, you’ll find yourself in Elko, home to one of the world’s most iconic cowboy events—The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. For more than 30 years, this event has attracted the keepers of cowboy culture to the stage, along with fans from across the world. If you can’t make the gathering in January, destinations like the Western Folklife Center, Sherman Station’s Visitor Center, and the California Trail Interpretive Center provide an incredibly vast look at the Great Basin’s cowboy history and culture. To take a piece of that authentic culture home, you won’t be disappointed by the longtime quality craftsmanship available at the historic J.M. Capriola’s Co. Finally, tap into Elko’s unique aspect of ranching culture with a Basque dinner at The Star Hotel.
4) Head east again to Wells, where guests at the Cottonwood Guest Ranch, owned and operated by sixth-generation ranchers, can seize the opportunity to head out on a multi-day horse drive. In town, the Trail of 49ers Interpretive Center is a can’t-miss, and if time permits, take a journey out to Angel Lake and Ruby Mountain Brewing Company.
5) For the icing on this cowboy cake, Old West train enthusiasts need to head to Ely for the annual Nevada Northern Railway National Historic Landmark’s Reality Week. Each June, participants take to these historic rails, learning how to perform every aspect of the operation. Really, if you’re looking to get your hands dirty, look no further. In July, the Shoshone Tribe Fandango will be the highlight of your travels, as members of the local tribe host traditional dances and games, tell stories, and sing.