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If you're seeking an adventure on the roads less travelled, you'll love this fly-drive through Utah, Nevada and California. A journey of contrasts await you from desert landscapes to alpine lakes; the neon lights of the 'Biggest Little City in the World' to delightfully small town America. Combine this with some of the USA's most extraordinary parks and scenic drives and you've got a unique road trip you'll be talking about for years to come.
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Surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the Wasatch Mountains and bordered by the vast Great Salt Lake (the largest salt water lake in the western hemisphere), this city still manages to emanate a small-town feel.
For a touch of the extraordinary, spend the day on Antelope Island, the largest of the ten islands located within the Great Salt Lake. Discover miles of uncrowded white sand beaches, antelope, bob cats and coyotes, plus herds of free-roaming bison which were introduced to the island in 1893.
Distance: 229 miles
Through northern Utah and into Nevada, you'll encounter the otherworldly Bonneville Salt Flats. A land of salt, next to a lake of salt, this is a desert of the likes you'll have never seen before. Strangely beautiful, this immense white plain stretches over 30,000 acres and is home to the famous Bonneville Salt Flats Speedway, the setting for serious speed events since the early 1900s.
The northeastern Nevada city of Elko is your base for exploring the Ruby Mountains, the perfect playground for hiking, fishing and photography. One of the jewels of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, the Ruby Mountains are a steep and rugged range capped by the 11,387 foot Ruby Dome.
This is the heart of cowboy country and the city of Elko is synonymous with cowboys and ranching. Head to the Western Folklife Centre, the Cowboy Arts & Gear Museum and J.M Capriola, a western-wear store and saddlery dating back to the 1920s.
To explore the region further, take Lamoille Scenic Byway and enjoy the mountain scenery as you climb to elevations of 8,800 feet. During the summer months, trails to Lamoille Lake and Ruby Crest Trail are well worth exploring.
Be sure to make time to visit Angel Lake. Perched at an elevation of 8,500 feet this pristine lake is surrounded by glacial cirques and is the perfect spot for a bit of serenity, fishing or wildlife spotting.
Distance: 170 miles
Historic Ely is the start of the 'Loneliest Road in America' and situated at the top of the Great Basin Highway. Founded in the 1870's and referred to as 'Nevada's Best Mountain Town', this ex-cooper mining hub oozes small town charm. Travel back in time at the Nevada Northern Railway, a historical train depot and rail yard along with Renaissance Village, a section of restored homes that reflect the ethnic groups that came to the region.
Use Ely as your base to explore the Great Basin National Park, one of the USA's most isolated and stunning parks. Here you can tour Lehman Caves with 300 rare shield formations and hike up one of the tallest peaks in Nevada, Wheeler Peak. For the less energetic, take a short drive to Wheeler Peak campground where you can hike to the bristlecone pines - 5,000 year old trees believed to be the oldest living things on earth.
Distance: 299 miles
Today is all about the drive. Highway 50 runs from Ocean City, Maryland to Sacramento, California. The section between Ely and Lake Tahoe was named by Life magazine 'the loneliest Road in America'.
Break the journey midway along Highway 50 in Austin. According to local legend, a Pony Express rider accidentally discovered silver ore here in 1862, and the rush was on. Over $50 million in gold and silver was shipped out from this area over the next ten years.
For a satisfying off-the-grid experience take a short detour from Austin to Spencer Hot Springs for a soak in classic 'cowboy tubs'. These cattle troughs have been re-purposed as soaking pools for the weary traveller and offer gorgeous views and solitude.
Before you arrive into Virginia City consider a stop at Frey Ranch and Churchill Vineyards, Nevada's first estate winery - and one of the only national estate distilleries. Virginia City, the largest federally designated Historical District in America, is an absolute blast from the past with wooden sidewalks, buildings from the 1860's and saloons with swinging doors. In the evening head to the Bucket of Blood Saloon for fine views down the mountain and good old fashioned Wild West fun. Don't forget your cowboy hat and boots!
Distance: 25 miles
From Reno, don’t miss out on Pyramid Lake. Covering over 125,000 acres, this strikingly beautiful lake is what remains of ancient Lake Lahontan, a colossal inland sea that once covered most of Nevada. Widely acclaimed as ‘North America’s most beautiful desert lake’, its surrounded by dramatic rock formations and has many myths and legends attached to it.
Distance: 56 miles
On your way to Lake Tahoe, make a stop at the picturesque town of Genoa, founded my Mormon farmers in 1851. This delightful place is full of quaint antique shops, cosy cafes and Victorian homes. Linger a while at Nevada's oldest watering hole, the Genoa Bar & Saloon. Over the years this 'thirst parlour' has been frequented by the likes of Mark Twain, Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore Roosevelt, Clark Gable and John Wayne.
Historic Carson City is also worth a look. Perched on the edge of the Sierra Nevada mountains and founded in 1858, the city was named after the famous frontiersman and scout, Kit Carson. Today, you can enjoy the 2.5 mile Kit Carson Trail which includes the areas oldest residences, including Victorian homes from the 1800s. The fascinating museums and churches along the way will give you a glimpse into what life was like here in the gold rush era.
Lake Tahoe is extraordinary. It's so deep you could completely submerge the Empire State Building in it. It's the highest lake of its size in the USA at an elevation of 6,225 feet and one of the purest lakes in the world. Big Blue, as it's fondly referred to, has something for everyone from quiet beaches to mini-Las Vegas style strips; cosy cabins to swanky hotels; exciting outdoor pursuits to relaxing spas. All set amongst the dramatic backdrop of snow capped mountains and cobalt-blue waters.
Explore glacier-carved Emerald Bay's uncrowded beaches or take the 2.4 mile ride up the Heavenly Mountain Gondola for remarkable views over the lake and surrounding area.
Distance: 190 miles
Welcome to the Golden State's capital city, Sacramento and the Napa/Sonoma Wine Valley. Stop for lunch in a vineyard, or forge on and enjoy the sight of the Pacific Ocean at Point Reyes National Seashore, a rugged part of the California coast just shy of San Francisco.
Drive across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and enjoy the views of this beautiful city on the bay. 'Frisco is easily explored by foot, historic tram, or hop-on, hop-off bus. Drop off your vehicle and discover the diverse neighbourhoods, world-class attractions, and of course, eerie Alcatraz Island.
If you're still wanting more, this holiday can be tailored to include other USA cities - just call Bon Voyage to discuss your road less travelled itinerary.