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Elko, Nevada: Cowboy Weekender

In cowboy-friendly Elko you'll find plenty of pioneer history, poetry gatherings, fine local fare and a gateway to the stunning Ruby Mountains.

covered wagons at California Trail Interpretive Center in Elko, Nevada, picture
Photo credit
Photo: Stephen Saks Photography/Alamy
Photo caption
The Interpretive Center’s 1850 wagon roundup.

As fall days turn crisp in the Ruby Mountains, glaciated valleys burst with quaking aspens, their leaves shimmering in shades of saffron, lime, and crimson. Nearby Elko provides a high-spirited gateway to this cowboy-friendly land.

The California Trail Interpretive Center focuses on one of the largest migrations in United States history, when 250,000 people—pioneers and prospectors—crossed the continent. Interactive exhibits of clothing, games, and tools testify to the ingenuity needed to travel in covered wagons.

At the Western Folklife Center, you can listen to little-known recordings of cowboy singers and poets. This coming year, from Jan. 30 to Feb. 4, the center hosts the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, an annual event celebrating the verse, music, and stories of ranch dwellers.

The Guerrilla Craft Eats food truck serves organic, seasonal fare. Try the roasted pork sandwich with rye whiskey barbecue sauce and applekale slaw, a regular on the menu.

Winding through the heart of the Ruby Mountains, Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway follows 12 miles of terrain that glaciers spent centuries scouring. Hike the gentle Lamoille Canyon Nature Trail to see high cirques and shining pools left behind by ancient ice. At the end of the byway, you can explore the back-country on the popular 3.7-mile round-trip Lamoille Lake trail or the steeper 3.8-mile round-trip Island Lake trail. Spy mountain goats on rocky ledges through a scope.

The hamlet of Lamoille, with its cottonwoods and iconic steepled white church, is a pretty remnant of Nevada's self-reliant Old West. Grab a burger on the porch at O'Carroll's and watch the ranchers and motorcyclists rub elbows at the pool table inside.

Cowboy Joe Coffee in downtown Elko serves espresso drinks around a woodstove. You can peruse local photography or browse The White Fawn, the latest children's book by Lamoille's Karen Collett Wilson.

This article was first published in Fall 2016. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.