Daily Wanderlust: The other side of Las Vegas

From 2005 until 2012, I lived mostly in a place that is known for gambling, amazing food and late, late nights resulting in questioning the activities the following morning. Whenever people ask me about what it was like to live in Las Vegas, I always tell them there is much more to the desert town than The Strip and taking in the city’s infamous skyline. In fact, there is an entire other world. From the towering and snow-capped (in the winter) Mt. Charleston, to the water-depleted Lake Mead, to the charming town of Boulder City and more. There is no shortage of gorgeous places to visit in and around Las Vegas that take you to an entirely different (and very real) world.

This last trip home, I found yet another place to visit in Vegas that is off-the-beaten-path, the ghost town of Nelson, Nevada. While there are plenty of great things to do in Las Vegas that do leave your feet firmly planted in the artificial worlds of Venice, Paris, the pyramids and more, on your next visit, consider hitting up this hidden gem of a spot.

Nelson isn’t far from Vegas, but I promise you this — it is the absolute opposite of the rest of the city.

The ghost town of Nelson, Nevada, just outside of Las Vegas



Escape of the Week: the ghost town of Nelson, Nevada

En route to Nelson, Nevada

It’s a long, mountain-framed drive to arrive at the ghost town of Nelson, Nevada, just outside of Las Vegas.

Driving to Nelson

This tiny, dusty town  is about a 40 minute drive from the sensory-overload of Sin City, and a gorgeous spot to simply breathe in the fresh air and spy relics from a bygone era when mining lined the pockets of the town’s inhabitants and lawlessness was the name of the game (thanks to deserters from both the Union and Confederate armies heading there during the Civil War).

A visit to the ghost town of Nelson yields a serious step back in time, with a super pop of color along with an over-sized smattering of knick-knacks which give this spot old school flavor …

Nelson, Nevada

Old gas pump in Nelson, Nevada

Ghost town of Nelson, Nevada

Building in Nelson, Nevada


Nelson, Nevada building

While you can’t get into some of the buildings anymore — it’s not like they do inspections on these bad boys — you can explore the grounds of the area, which is intersected by the two-lane road which leads visitors down towards the Colorado River in Eldorado Canyon.

Nelson, Nevada

Be sure to take the time to investigate the little details of Nelson, which make the area so special.

Signs in Nelson, Nevada

Nelson, Nevada

Old machine from Nelson, Nevada

The main building in the small area is filled with tokens from a the past …

Nelson ghost town

Like weathered license plates …


Nelson ghost town

Remember the old marketing logos for soda? If not, Nelson does a great job reminding visitors. Nearly every area includes some sort of Coca-Cola or other soda memory.

Old relics in Nelson

Founded back in 1775 by the Spaniards, the town became popular thanks to the discovery of gold deep in the Eldorado Canyon, which led to the creation of Techatticup Mine.

Techatticup Mine

Today, visitors to the area can take a tour of the historic mine and learn more about the history of Nelson.

Antique car-lovers weren’t left out either. There are plenty of old rides forever remaining here.

Car in Nelson

According to the US Census of 2010, there are a mere 37 people who call Nelson (also known as Eldorado) “home.”

Tip: Skip the crowds and head up during that gorgeous golden light, just before the sun sets. Then, stick around to the delicious pinks and purples the surrounding peaks turn when the sun dips below the horizon.


Sunset Eldorardo

 Nelson, Nevada sunset

Plus, with the stunning backdrop of the mountains which give way to the Colorado River, it is impossible not to get some fantastic photos.

Bonus tip: Don’t miss the antique war plane nose-deep in a sandy mountain. To get there, head past the airstream trailer near the parking lot and turn the corner around the barren rock/hill/mountain-type natural object.

Getting there: From Las Vegas, take I-15 South to 215 East. Then, merge onto 95 South. Stay on 95 towards Boulder City, then follow signs to 95 South (if you hit US 93 or Boulder City, you’ve gone too far). Take 95 towards Searchlight, then turn left onto State Route 165. Follow it around the mountains and you will hit this little gem. Take note: fill up on gas before you leave town. Otherwise, you may become a relic in the old ghost town yourself.

Sticking around the region for awhile and want more ghost town action? There’s also Bonnie Springs, another Las Vegas attraction, or head to California and check out the high desert Pioneertown. It’s kitschy but fun!