Discover Hidden Treasures in Nevada’s Smallest Cities

Discover Hidden Treasures in Nevada's Smallest Cities

Nevada, a state renowned for its expansive deserts, breathtaking landscapes, and the vibrant city of Las Vegas, encompasses within its territory a selection of the smallest cities that provide a window into the heart and soul of the area. These towns, often overlooked in favor of their larger counterparts, are rich in history, natural beauty, and unique cultural traditions. In this article, we embark on a journey to uncover the charm and character of Nevada’s ten smallest cities. From the historic railroads of Ely to the romantic love locks of Lovelock, each city offers a story eager for discovery.

Caliente

Caliente, with its cozy and smallest area of approximately 1.9 square miles, lies about 150 miles northeast of Las Vegas. The historic Caliente Railroad Depot, a splendid example of Spanish mission-style architecture, distinguishes this city and harks back to its days as a pivotal railroad hub. The presence of hot springs adds to its allure, making it a fascinating stop for those interested in Nevada’s railroading past.

  • Size: Caliente covers an area of approximately 1.9 square miles.
  • Distance from Nearest Largest City: It is about 150 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
  • Interesting Fact: Caliente, once known for its hot springs, boasts the historic Caliente Railroad Depot, an exquisite Spanish mission-style building that serves as a reminder of the town’s past as a railroad hub.

Wells

Further north, approximately 376 miles from Las Vegas, Wells stretches over 6.9 square miles. It is a gateway to the Ruby Mountains, dubbed the “Alps of Nevada,” offering breathtaking outdoor activities from hiking to fishing amidst its stunning landscapes. This proximity to natural beauty makes Wells a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.

  • Size: Wells has an area of about 6.9 square miles.
  • Distance from Nearest Largest City: Approximately 376 miles north of Las Vegas.
  • Interesting Fact: Wells is near the Ruby Mountains, often referred to as the “Alps of Nevada,” offering spectacular outdoor activities like hiking and fishing in a stunningly beautiful landscape.

Ely

Ely covers 7.1 square miles and sits about 240 miles north of Las Vegas. The city is home to the Nevada Northern Railway Museum, offering visitors a journey through time with its well-preserved railway and steam locomotives. This living museum captures the essence of early 20th-century railroading, drawing history buffs and train aficionados alike.

  • Size: Ely spans roughly 7.1 square miles.
  • Distance from Nearest Largest City: It is about 240 miles north of Las Vegas.
  • Interesting Fact: Ely is home to the Nevada Northern Railway Museum, where visitors can experience a piece of living history through its well-preserved railway and steam locomotives.

Lovelock

Lovelock, the smallest in size at just 0.9 square miles, lies about 90 miles northeast of Reno. Couples celebrate its unique tradition of love locks by affixing padlocks on a chain around a metal sculpture in a park, symbolizing their undying affection. This quaint tradition adds a romantic allure to the city, attracting visitors with its message of eternal love.

  • Size: The city covers approximately 0.9 square miles.
  • Distance from Nearest Largest City: About 90 miles northeast of Reno.
  • Interesting Fact: Lovelock is known for its unique tradition of love locks, where couples secure padlocks on a chain around a metal sculpture in a park to symbolize their everlasting love.

Yerington

Yerington, the smallest city encompassing around 8.6 square miles, is located roughly 95 miles southeast of Reno. The area’s rich agricultural history is showcased at the annual Lyon County Fair and Rodeo, celebrating its ranching and farming heritage. This event, among others, ties the community together, offering a glimpse into the local lifestyle and traditions.

  • Size: Yerington encompasses around 8.6 square miles.
  • Distance from Nearest Largest City: Roughly 95 miles southeast of Reno.
  • Interesting Fact: The area is rich in agricultural history and is home to the annual Lyon County Fair and Rodeo, celebrating the region’s ranching and farming heritage.

West Wendover

  • Size: The city has an area of 7.5 square miles.
  • Distance from Nearest Largest City: It is about 120 miles west of Salt Lake City, Utah, making it closer to a major city outside Nevada.
  • Interesting Fact: West Wendover is known for its casinos and entertainment venues, serving as a popular leisure destination for people traveling between Salt Lake City and Nevada.

Carlin

West Wendover, with an area of 7.5 square miles, stands about 120 miles west of Salt Lake City, Utah, making it unique as it’s closer to a major city outside Nevada. Known for its casinos and entertainment venues, it serves as a popular leisure destination, blending the excitement of gaming with the charm of a small town.

  • Size: Carlin’s area is approximately 27 square miles, but its small population makes it one of the smallest cities in terms of population.
  • Distance from Nearest Largest City: About 23 miles west of Elko.
  • Interesting Fact: Carlin is situated along the historic California Trail and offers various outdoor adventures, including hiking and exploring nearby ghost towns.

McDermitt

McDermitt, covering a modest 0.6 square miles, lies approximately 193 miles north of Reno. Unique for its location straddling the Nevada-Oregon border, McDermitt boasts a rich geology that includes opal mines in the nearby Virgin Valley. This characteristic makes it a magnet for gemstone enthusiasts and those curious about the region’s mining history.

  • Size: McDermitt covers around 0.6 square miles, making it one of the smallest by area.
  • Distance from Nearest Largest City: Approximately 193 miles north of Reno.
  • Interesting Fact: McDermitt straddles the Nevada-Oregon border and is known for its rich geology, including opal mines in the nearby Virgin Valley.

Beatty

Beatty, stretching over 174.9 square miles, is about 115 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Despite its larger area, Beatty’s small population and close-knit community feel place it on this list. Known as the gateway to Death Valley National Park, it offers access not only to the park’s breathtaking landscapes but also to the intriguing ghost town of Rhyolite. This proximity to natural and historical sites makes Beatty a critical stop for visitors exploring the broader region.

  • Size: Beatty spans about 174.9 square miles, but its small population qualifies it for this list.
  • Distance from Nearest Largest City: It is about 115 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
  • Interesting Fact: Beatty is the gateway to Death Valley National Park and offers access to the park’s stunning landscapes and the ghost town of Rhyolite.

Gabbs

Lastly, Gabbs, with its 22.3 square miles, is situated roughly 140 miles southeast of Reno. Once thriving on magnesium mining during WWII, Gabbs’s history is a classic tale of boom and bust cycles typical of mining towns. Today, it offers a quiet, small-town atmosphere, allowing residents and visitors alike to delve into its rich mining past while appreciating the tranquility of its present.

  • Size: Gabbs has an area of about 22.3 square miles.
  • Distance from Nearest Largest City: Roughly 140 miles southeast of Reno.
  • Interesting Fact: Once a thriving magnesium mining town during WWII, Gabbs’s history is tied to the boom and bust cycles of mining, and it now offers a quiet, small-town atmosphere with a rich mining history.

The Differences Between Living in a Small and a Big City

Living in the smallest city offers a markedly different experience from the hustle and bustle of a big city. In these smallest communities, the pace of life tends to slow down, allowing residents to savor each moment and foster closer connections with their neighbors. Unlike the sprawling metropolises where anonymity can be the norm, smallest cities often boast a tight-knit sense of community where everyone knows each other, and there’s a strong sense of belonging and mutual support.

The reduced scale not only minimizes the stress associated with traffic and overcrowding but also offers a more intimate connection with local culture, traditions, and the natural environment. Here, local businesses flourish through personal relationships, and community-focused events weave a rich tapestry of shared experiences. While people often celebrate big cities for their vast opportunities and vibrant nightlife, small cities provide a tranquil retreat with their unique charm and character, prioritizing quality of life and community above the fast-paced, impersonal rhythm of larger urban centers.