Ely - Nevada

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 Ely Nevada: What to See and Do | Where to Stay

Gateway to Great Basin National Park, Ely is a mining town that is a rarity: it still has a working mine, the huge open copper pit just west of town. The "glory hole" is so big that in its expansion, it consumed the old townsite of Ruth. An overview offers a good look at the largest open pit in the western U.S.

Ely (pronounced Eee-Lee) is the seat of White Pine County, a desert and mountain region near the eastern boundary of the state. To the south and also to the north, there are state parks, wildlife preserves, and recreation sites operated by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service. These include the Ruby Marshes (north) and Cave Lake State Park (south). Ely offers what many railroad buffs think are three (not one, but three) of the finest short-line scenic railway experiences in the country.

The Nevada Northern Railway, inaugurated in 1906, was a necessity for copper mining around Ely. It connected the mines with the Southern Pacific Railroad line, 130 miles to the north. It provided passenger service until 1920 and provided local service until 1983, when the line was donated to a non-profit foundation.

What to See & Do

The Nevada Northern Railway Museum is the old Ely Station. It's a museum and a station -- where you catch the short-line passenger rides into the countryside.

"The most nostalgic ride is the 'Ghost Train of Old Ely.' One of two classic Baldwin or Alco Steamers pulls coach cars from the 1800's and an open observation car past Ely's downtown and through Robison Canyon and through one of the few curved railroad tunnels in the world, past ghost towns to the Keystone mining district. The Hiline route takes you above Ely onto the mountain benches toward McGill to view stunning sunsets via a 1951 Alco electric-diesel. Each route is approximately 14 miles round trip and takes 2 hours." Rates range from $12 to $16 for adults, and seniors and juniors are discounted. Their excursion season lasts from mid-May to late September.

"Special dinner trains, 'Ely After Dark' trains, and a 'Fourth of July Fireworks/BBQ' train is available along with engine rentals for the would-be engineer (beginning at $200 for in-yard diesel rental to $550 for mainline steam instruction for two hours). For those who wanted to be railroad engineers in their youth, this is the ultimate indulgence and a service provided by only a few railroads in the country! For more information and reservations, call 775/289-2085 or e-mail: nnry@mwpower.net.

The White Pine Chamber of Commerce, the visitor center, is in an office on the main street (Hwy. 50). The BLM office, with plenty of good information on recreation sites and backroads, is just north of town on Hwy. 93.

Day Trips from Ely

Great Basin National Park is just an hour's drive southeast of Ely via Highway 6/50. The park's scenic drive will take you from desert flatland up the slopes of Mount Wheeler, to a campground and a trail that leads to the peak. Also accessed by a trail is an ancient bristlecone pine forest with some of the oldest living things on Earth.

Cave Lake State Park is located south of Ely on Success Summit Road. Past the park, the road is unpaved and suitable only for 4WD and high-clearance vehicles. This is a fascinating 32-mile loop route with deer and elk to be seen (evenings are best) and several primitive camping areas along Success Creek. The dirt road ends in Duck Creek Basin (Forest Service campgrounds), with the end at Highway 93, near McGill.

Ely Hotels

Ely has a selection of motels -- some attached to casinos -- an RV park, and a fine bed and breakfast place, the Steptoe Valley Inn.

Ely Camping

KOA of Ely is almost 3 miles south of town on U.S. 50/93. With 110 sites, the operation has pull-through spaces, hookups, dump station, laundry, store and propane. There is also a recreation room, horse boarding, and playground.

Cave Lake State Recreation Area is south of town via the same route and then east on State Route 486 (Success Summit Rd.). There are no showers here, but the park covers 1,240 acres, with swimming, boat ramp, and fishing and ski trails during the colder months (a good part of the year in this high altitude).


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