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Cowboy Corridor winter road trip: Reno to Elko

Reno to Elko Road Trip

Let’s normalize embracing the unexplored and visiting places that aren’t on the top 10 listicles, the latest social media trends, or Instagrammable hotspots. That being said, buckle up and get ready for a wild ride along Nevada’s Cowboy Corridor, where the spirit of the Wild West meets the frosty charm of winter. 

Kick off your journey in Reno, Nevada, the Biggest Little City in the World, where neon lights dance and the excitement never sleeps. But don’t linger too long, because you’ll hit the open road, tracing the footsteps of cowboys and outlaws through the heart of Nevada. As you navigate through this rugged landscape, keep your eyes peeled for hidden gems like historic mining towns and quirky roadside attractions. Did you know that Nevada is home to the largest concentration of hot springs in the United States? There are over 300 known hot springs in Nevada. Imagine soaking in natural hot tubs while surrounded by snow-capped peaks – talk about the ultimate winter wonderland experience!

And let’s not forget about the culinary delights awaiting us in Elko, where hearty basque cuisine and warm hospitality are always on the menu. So grab your cowboy boots and your sense of adventure, because this road trip is about to take us on a journey through the untamed beauty of the Silver State.

There may be some affiliate links in this post, meaning I get a small percentage of any purchases; however, this is at no additional charge to you!


Airport: If you are starting your trip in Reno, the best airport to fly into is the Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO). Departing from Elko, can fly out of the regional airport, Elko Regional Airport Airport (EKO), or for cheaper flight options you can make the 3+-hour drive to Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)

Weather: Reno has more than 300 days of sunshine per year, and experiences all four seasons. In the winter, temps average in the 40s F during the day, and dip below freezing at night. Average temperatures in Elko during winter hover around a high of 46°F and a low of around 16°F. The coldest month to visit is January. Elko averages about 231 days of sunshine per year.

Transportation & Getting Around: Whether you are driving your own vehicle or renting one, I highly recommend a vehicle with 4-wheel drive (4WD) to help navigate snowy and icy roads/hills. The interstate isn’t so bad, but once you get into Elko, backroad conditions could be a little slippery and 4WD will definitely come in handy.

Food: Basque cuisine and culture is huge in this region. That means communal dining and being sat at a family-style table with folks you don’t know, sharing all the dishes except whatever you choose for your entree.

Before our road trip journey could begin, we had to fly into Reno where we spent a day and a half exploring the artsy streets of this eclectic city. Driving the short 11-minute drive from Reno-Tahoe International Airport to Silver Legacy Resort Casino, our stay for these short couple of nights was very reminiscent of Old Las Vegas. If you’ve ever veered off the strip and visited Downtown Las Vegas, this will give you a general idea of the vibe of Downtown Reno. In fact, before Las Vegas boomed in the 1960s, Reno was the gambling capital of America. Despite this fact, Reno still offers world-class attractions, countless casinos, riveting shows, and a gateway to some epic outdoor adventures and attractions.

Since we got in later in the evening, we checked in to our hotel, then headed to dinner at Bone Appetit BBQ, a Black-owned restaurant located inside the Reno Public Market. The Food Hall is full of dining options from locally-owned businesses. You’ll find everything from bar-b-que to bao buns and burgers, Mexican to Mediterranean. The options are endless! We settled on Bone Appetit and tried a little of everything including, bar-b-que ribs, sausage links, mac and cheese, collard greens, cornbread, loaded fries, cajun shrimp, and BBQ ranch-style chili beans. The food did not disappoint! Besides dining at the new Reno Public Market, you can also shop local-owned businesses or simply hang out in the community spaces and play board games, while enjoying live music some nights.
With day 1 of our Cowboy Corridor being a travel day, we turned in early for the night, in anticipation of an adventure-filled day on day two.

Things to do in Reno

Hit the Slopes at Mt. Rose

Reno to Elko Road Trip: Black Woman Skiing at Mt. Rose

Mt. Rose Ski Resort is the closest ski resort to Reno. It is just 25 minutes outside of Reno and provides 67 runs over 1,200 acres of skiing. Whether you are a complete newbie or have been slaying the slopes for a while, there’s terrain for everyone. Because it’s not your typical glitzy destination resort (think Vail, Whistler, Aspen, and the likes), and because skiing in Nevada is probably not top of mind for many travelers, this resort has less crowds and more of a local vibe. Be sure to catch some of the resort specials like Two’fer Tuesdays (get two lift tickets for the price of one), Ladies Day Thursday ($69 lift tickets for ladies on Thursdays), and Fridays = Ski.G.I.F ($49 lift tickets after 12:00 pm on Fridays). Of course, some exclusions apply.

Hang out at the Reno Public Market

From savoring mouthwatering bites to discovering local treasures, this dynamic hub offers it all! First up, let’s talk about the food scene. At the Reno Public Market, you’ll find a bevy of stalls, each offering a tantalizing array of culinary delights. From artisanal pizzas to exotic fusion dishes, there’s something to satisfy every craving. It was hard to choose from so many enticing options, but we landed on Bone Appetit Bar-B-Que a local Black-owned business serving up down-home, Southern soul food. Everything from mac and cheese to collard greens, and finger-licking-good ribs were on the menu. 

After fueling up, it’s time to play! The market buzzes with energy as live music fills the air and performers captivate audiences with their talents. Take a stroll upstairs where you’ll find games, activities, and plenty of opportunities to connect with locals and other fellow explorers.

And of course, no visit to the Reno Public Market would be complete without a bit of retail therapy. Browse through eclectic shops offering everything from handmade crafts to vintage finds.

Kick off your mornings with Star Village Coffee

Reno to Elko Road Trip: Star Village Coffee

Nothing to kickstart your day like a cup of freshly roasted brew. What’s even better is a great cup of joe with a rich Indigenous background. Star Village Coffee is a cultural hub owned and operated by members of the Indigenous community; in fact, it is the largest Indigenous-run coffee shop in Reno, NV. From the moment you step inside, you’re greeted with warm smiles and a welcoming atmosphere. The décor reflects Indigenous art and craftsmanship, creating a space that feels both inviting and authentic.

Beyond the coffee, Star Village also hosts events and gatherings that celebrate Indigenous culture, from storytelling sessions to art exhibits. It’s a place where the community comes together to honor and preserve their traditions.

So next time you’re in Reno, skip the chain cafes and head to Star Village Coffee for a truly special experience that’s steeped in history and brewed with love.

Explore Midtown

Midtown, Reno is renowned for its unique shops and boutiques, and the thrift stores here are no exception. Whether you’re on the hunt for vintage finds or searching for budget-friendly ski gear, you’ll find it all and more in this vibrant neighborhood. Some of my favorite thrift stores in Reno are Freestyle Clothing Exchange, Bad Apple Vntg, and Junkee Clothing Exchange.

As you meander through the aisles, keep your eyes peeled for some fashionable treasures. From retro ski jackets to gently used equipment, you never know what gem you might stumble upon. Plus, shopping second-hand is not only budget-friendly but also eco-conscious—a win-win in my book!

But, Midtown isn’t just about shopping, it’s also a haven for foodies, with a plethora of cafes, bistros, and eateries lining the streets. Take a break from your thrift adventure and refuel with a delicious meal or grab a coffee to-go and continue your exploration.

And don’t forget to soak in the local art scene while you’re here. Midtown is dotted with colorful murals and street art, adding to its eclectic and vibrant atmosphere.


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Dine the Basque Way

Hailing from the Basque Country, a region straddling the border of Spain and France, Basque cuisine is characterized by its emphasis on family-style dining and the importance of sharing and togetherness around the table. You will find lots of restaurants along the Cowboy Corridor offering Basque cuisine and dining experiences. One of the most popular places in Reno is Louis’ Basque Corner, famous for its hearty and flavorful Basque cuisine, with dishes like lamb chops, angus beef filet mignon, and its signature drink the “Picon Punch” gracing the menu. One of the more interesting menu items is its sweetbreads. If you’re clueless as to what this is, like me, just know, it isn’t sweet and it isn’t bread — it’s actually meat harvested from the neck area of young cattle or lambs. Are you bold enough to try it?

One of the other unique aspects of dining at Louis’ Basque Corner is the seating arrangement. You might find yourself seated at long communal tables, surrounded by fellow diners from all walks of life. I always aim to provide genuine feedback on my platforms, so I must say, personally, I had mixed feelings about my experience at Louis’. While the idea is to provide a space for kinship and camaraderie, we didn’t feel unwelcomed, but we didn’t exactly feel welcomed either. We came in excited to break bread with others, but ended up conversing amongst ourselves, except for the occasional “Would you like some soup or salad?” asked/asnwered from the neighbors sitting next to us. Nonetheless, the food was pretty delicious!

Enjoy breakfast at the only riverfront restaurant in Reno

Reno to Elko Road Trip: The Shore Restaurant

While there may be restaurants with views of the Truckee River, there is only one that sits right along its edge and that’s The Shore restaurant, located inside the Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel & Spa. Nestled along the tranquil Truckee River, The Shore offers a beautiful setting where you can indulge in a delicious breakfast or brunch while soaking in breathtaking views of the water. Even on those crisp winter mornings, the outdoor heating elements will keep you toasty. But, it’s not just the scenery that makes The Shore a must-visit restaurant while in Reno. Their menu boasts a delicous array of dishes crafted from locally sourced ingredients. From fluffy pancakes drizzled with maple syrup to savory eggs benedict, and my favorite chilaquiles. Whether you enjoy sweet or savory, there’s something for every palate.

Where to Stay in Reno

$$$: Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel & Spa / Courtyard Reno Downtown/Riverfront
$$: Element Reno Experience District / The Jesse Hotel & Bar / Whitney Peak Hotel Reno
$: Silver Legacy Resort Casino / Peppermill Resort Spa Casino / Eldorado Resort Casino

Hit the road to Elko

Reno to Elko Road Trip: Cowboy Corridor

The next stop on our Cowboy Corridor road trip is Elko, Nevada. The drive from Reno to Elko spans approximately 290 miles, with a driving time of around 4.5 hours. But don’t let the distance deter you – there’s plenty to see and do along the route. Our first stop takes us to the charming town of Winnemucca, about halfway between Reno and Elko. Here, you can stretch your legs and explore the historic downtown area, with its quaint shops and local eateries. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even take a detour to the nearby Rye Patch State Recreation Area for some outdoor recreation along the Humboldt River.

Heading east on I-80 you’ll pass through vast expanses of desert landscape, dotted with rugged mountains and occasional glimpses of wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for wild horses roaming freely in the distance – a true symbol of the untamed West. As you approach Elko, the landscape begins to change, with rolling snow-covered hills and sprawling ranches greeting you on the outskirts of town. 

Things to do in Elko

Visit J.M. Capriola Co. & Cowboy Arts and Gear Museum

Head into town and stop by J.M. Capriola Co., a legendary saddle shop that has been crafting high-quality leather goods since 1929. Make sure you make your way upstairs and see saddle-making in action. Oscar, who’s been hand-crafting saddles for over four decades, gives you a glimpse into the intricacy of his artistry and has stories for days! This is one of my favorite moments in Elko, watching him at work and learning about his craft. 

Reno to Elko Road Trip: J.M. Capriola

Afterward, venture into the Cowboy Arts and Gear Museum, where you’ll discover a treasure trove of Western artifacts and memorabilia. I love that they have a small section about Black cowboy history and heritage, as there is such a rich history. Historians believe 1 in 4 cowboys were Black. Post-Civil War, many freed enslaved people picked up skills, like ranching and cow herding, which made them invaluable to the cattle/ranching industry.

Of course, that didn’t come without its own set of adversities, but women like Bridget “Biddy” Mason, Clara Brown, Henrietta “Aunt Rittie” Williams Foster, and the list goes on, were Pioneers in the Wild West.

Elko had its own Black cowboy legends; namely, Henry Harris and Lawrence Jackson, who were both highly regarded for their horsemanship.

Enjoy an Artwalk in Elko

Downtown Elko has an array of stunning murals that showcase the spirit and identity of the community. From larger-than-life portraits of local heroes to whimsical depictions of wildlife and landscapes, each mural offers a glimpse into the heart and soul of Elko. These murals were birthed from the 2019 Elko Mural Expo, which attracted over 40 muralists from around the world to paint 51 murals within a one-square-mile radius around Downtown Elko.

Dine at a local favorite

Reno to Elko Road Trip: The Star Restaurant

“Where should we eat in Elko?” We were told you can’t come to Elko without dining at The Star! So, that’s exactly what we did. The Star Restaurant is a beloved eatery for locals in Elko. It gives that old country, Western saloon vibe. It’s another basque-style restaurant; however, we popped in for lunch so we had our own table. The traditional soup, salad, and fries were served up before our respective entrees. I had garlic prawns, my friend had a burger — as the local who’d suggested the place, it wasn’t five-star dining, but it fills your belly.

Cozy up in a yurt

Reno to Elko Road Trip: Ruby 360 Lodge Yurt

Want to experience a couple of days off the grid? Book a stay at Ruby 360 Lodge and spend a night or two in their rustic and cozy yurt. Snuggle up by the crackling fire, unplug and recharge, catch up on a good book, or simply relax being surrounded by the tranquility of nature. One thing to note, there is no running water in the yurt. This caught us a little off guard, but we were able to shower in the main lodge and they provided water for drinking and washing dishes if needed. Also, don’t be like us and keep those cute twinkle lights lit up for long, if so; you will drain the battery in the generator and be left in the dark, getting by with only battery-operated lanterns. Lesson learned.

Reno to Elko Road Trip: Ruby 360 Lodge Yurt

If yurts aren’t your style and you prefer modern luxuries, fear not — Ruby 360 offers stylish lodge rooms with all the amenities. And for those seeking the ultimate adrenaline rush, Ruby 360 even offers heli-skiing adventures that will surely take your breath away. Strap on your skis or snowboard and soar high above the peaks, carving fresh tracks in untouched powder as you experience the thrill of heli-skiing.

Ruby 360 is located in a completely remote area and in winter the winding roads up and down the mountain can be pretty icy, so I highly recommend reserving a family-style dinner spot at the lodge or bringing food and snacks with you, if you plan to stay in the yurt. Luckily, we had leftovers from lunch because we didn’t feel comfortable going back down the mountain at night and there were no reservations available for dinner at the lodge our first night as meals are prepped according to the exact number of guest reservations. 

Explore the Backcountry on Snowmobiles

Reno to Elko Road Trip: SledNV

Hit the backcountry with SledNV. Our adventure started with about an hour’s drive to Harrison’s Pass on Ruby Mountain. Here, you’ll embark on a scenic tour through the pristine backcountry. Whether you’re a snowmobiling newbie or a seasoned pro lots of adventure will be in store. You’ll zip through twisty trails, dodge snow-laden trees, and feel an exhilarating rush as you carve fresh tracks in the snow in the Ruby Mountains. If it’s your first time snowmobiling, check out this blog post on what to expect as a first-timer — different location, but I answer many frequently asked questions about snowmobiling for the first time. 

Reno to Elko Road Trip: Snowmobiling with SledNV

We wrapped up our journey on the Cowboy Corridor driving from Elko to Salt Lake City to fly out. If you wanted to extend your stay a bit longer, you could add on a stop to West Wendover, where the Bonneville Salt Flats and a 63-foot neon cowboy await. 

This post was sponsored by Travel Nevada however, all opinions are my own


Reno to Elko Road Trip Reno to Elko Road Trip


  • soundos

    I liked the post, very interesting and well written, I really needed to know about it thanks.

    April 28, 2024 at 5:13 am Reply

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