Nevada Northern Railway
National Historic Landmark     Ely, NV 

Nevada Northern Railway - How to get here

Explore the mountains of Central Nevada and Great Basin National Park


Fast Facts

WHERE: Ely, NV: 245 miles North of Las Vegas, 245 Miles West / Southwest of Salt Lake City, 300 miles East of Reno.

HOW: Best way is to drive and enjoy the adventure of getting here. Check out the map.

WHY: The Nevada Northern has been acclaimed as the best preserved railroad complex in North America. For railfans, history buffs, and those who are generally curious, it is well worth the journey.

WHEN:  Check the calendar for year-around activities.  Summers are mild at a mile high in elevation.  Expect snow in the Winter. 


It is true. The Nevada Northern Railway is probably not located anywhere near your hometown.  Chances are that if it had been located any closer to civilization (or your hometown) it would have been torn down and sold for scrap years ago.  Because Ely is so remote this railroad has the good fortune of being the best-preserved standard-gauge short-line railroad in North America.

Getting to Ely can be a great journey.  The mountains of Central Nevada is a place that not may people ever get to.  The "Loneliest Highway in America" passes right through Ely.  It was named by a Life Magazine editor in the 50's to make a point that the area may look lonely on a map, but it is a great place to visit. 

You will find Ely to be a full-service town, within reason.  There are no Home Depot or Macy stores here, but you will find friendly accommodations and restaurants. It has a unique frontier personality since it is the only watering hole for an area the size of several New England states.   It is the most remote town in the lower 48 states and the jumping-off point for Great Basin National Park, including the spectacular underground caverns of Lehman Caves and the 13,000 ft peaks of Mt. Wheeler. 

Ely is more than a mile high in elevation, so it has a climate more like Denver or Salt Lake rather than Las Vegas or Phoenix.  Daytime Summer temperatures are usually in the 80's. Even Summer evenings can be cool here.  Expect a nice little afternoon rain shower every few days in the Summer and look for snow in the Winter.

Getting to Ely by Air

Ely has a great airport with a runway that can easily accommodate a 737.  As of the last update to this webpage commercial air service has been suspended.   If you have your own airplane (or a good friend that does) make Ely your destination. Car rental available in Ely or transportation from and to your hotel and the railroad can be arranged.  Give us a call at 866-407-8326.

Fly-and-Drive

Either the Las Vegas or the Salt Lake City airports are about 245 miles from Ely.   It is about a three and a half hour drive through some great, rural Inter-Mountain West scenery.   Reno is another option.  It is about 300 miles.  Elko, NV is the closest airport with scheduled flights.

Getting to Ely by Rail

That would have been us, the Nevada Northern Railway, 80 or even 100 years ago.  Every day of the year, rain or shine, wind or snow, we would have several passenger cars and locomotive #40 with her tender full of coal spotted right here at our East Ely Depot, ready for the 260 mile round-trip up to the transcontinental connection points and back.   Fortunately, that depot, Locomotive 40, and her original passenger cars are still in active use now, but for shorter trips.  That's pretty amazing when you think about it. 

Map to Ely NV from CaliforniaToday you can take Amtrak's California Zephyr to Elko and rent a car from there.   By the way, your membership could help maintain locomotive #40 and her original passenger consist to possibly make the long trip again someday.   That is our goal, and we would love to have you join us.   After all, we still own all of our original main-line right-of-way and we keep about 70 miles of it under active maintenance today.

A Road Trip to Ely and the Mountains of Central Nevada

This is the favorite way to get here.  The trip can be a fun vacation with new things to see along the way.  Click on the map to the right to view and print a full-size version of our treasure map of Central Nevada, with lots of ideas for what to see on your way here.   Give it 4 or 5 seconds to load.  It is a large map. 

If you are coming in from the east or west on US 50, "The Loneliest Highway" check out this great video.

Accommodations

Our first choice would be to spend a night in the East Ely Yard, either in the caboose or the bunkhouse.  Granted, there are many local hotels and motels here that offer more creature-comforts and you can still hear the whistle of a steam locomotive all over the town.   For more listings see the accommodations page.


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David (Laguna Beach CA) says...
I have been up there a few time, and enjoy taking NV 315 rather than staying on US 93. 315 is faster and just as scenic. Either way, it is a nice trip.
3rd February 2014 9:42am
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