Monday, 1 June 2009 12:00 AM
If you're planning a fly-drive holiday in the US, you can't go past the spectacularly scenic state of Nevada for fantastic driving holidays.
Nevada is the most mountainous state in the US with many majestic peaks and valleys. A US road trip on the winding byways of Nevada is a chance to experience some of the most spectacular scenery in the country.
Travel along the shores of Lake Tahoe, visit a gem of a lake in Indian Territory, introduce the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas, and navigate through unique state parks.
Here we bring you the top five driving holidays in Nevada, packed with beauty, history, culture and recreation.
This has been described as "the most beautiful drive in America" and the Lake Tahoe East shore drive affords breathtaking views of spectacularly-clear Lake Tahoe. This pristine alpine lake is surrounded by the snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains.
The Nevada side of Lake Tahoe (Hwy 50 and State Route 28) is mostly undeveloped but there are fabulous recreational opportunities nearby. Zephyr Cove Resort, stables, campgrounds, Tahoe Rim Trail, Heavenly Ski Resort, Diamond Peak Ski Resort in Incline, the hotel/casinos on both north and south shores, and golf courses all offer fun for all the family in Nevada.
The Lake Tahoe area is part of the historical Pony Express trail and the historic sacred grounds of the Washoe Indians.
Distance: 28.0 miles / 45.1 kilometres
Time to Allow: One hour to drive or a few hours to enjoy the byway
Gold Butte Back Country Byway
The town of Gold Butte is an old mining town established in the early 1900s where precious metals such as gold, copper, zinc, and lead were mined. The byway offers chances to see petroglyphs, colourful sandstone, and great formations like the Muddy Mountains or the Virgin Mountains along the way.
The byway is near the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which is a great location for fun days out with the whole family.
Exciting places to visit on the way include Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam, Mesquite, or the Valley of Fire State Park.
Distance: 62.0 miles / 99.8 kilometres
Time to Allow: Four-five hours to experience this byway
Pyramid Lake is one of the largest desert lakes in the world and is famous for its tufa rock formations made from calcium carbonate deposits formed from precipitation over hot springs.
The lake is on an American Indian reservation that is home to the northern Paiute tribe, where there is an interesting museum. The Pyramid Lake Byway travels along the southern region of the lake from Sutcliffe to fish hatcheries, Nixon, the Pyramid, Anaho Island, and then to Dodge and Wadsworth.
The most astonishing attraction at Pyramid Lake is not the lake itself but its namesake, the pyramid-shaped rock formation that juts up from the water. The pyramid continues to be one of the most photographed attractions of the Nevada landscape.
Anaho Island, located in the in the south-eastern part of the lake is one of the only pelican nesting sites in North America and although the island remains off limits to the public, make sure to bring your binoculars.
As the lake is the only water source for miles, deer, antelope, bighorn sheep, and migrating waterfowl are all common on the lakeshore, while below the waters live the Lahontan cutthroat trout.
Distance: 30.2 miles / 48.6 kilometres
Time to Allow: Two hours to drive (including backtracking) or all day to enjoy the byway
The Loneliest Road in America
One of the best ways to experience Nevada on a driving holiday is to travel Highway 50 - the so-called "Loneliest Road in America." Highway 50 roughly parallels the historical Pony Express Trail, which goes from Silver Springs through Fallon and along the towns across Highway 50. Remnants of this trail are still visible for much of the way.
The road travels through snow-mantled mountains that reach summits of more than 11,000 feet and stretch the width of Nevada. It is a fascinating scenic and historic corridor through a land seemingly untouched by man.
Far from lonely, Highway 50 actually has a number of attractions that make travelling the byway a worthwhile holiday in Nevada. Many ghost towns and historical cemeteries dot the area and there is good fishing at Iliapah Reservoir, Cave Lake State Park, and Comins Lake.
Travellers will not want to miss unusual sites such as the Charcoal Ovens State Park, Hickison Summit Petroglyphs and the many beautiful historic mining towns scattered across the byway.
Visitors can also pick up a free survival kit at various locations in every town. After completing the survival kit, travellers receive a survival certificate, a Route 50 lapel pin, and a bumper sticker announcing that they have survived what was once described as an "uninteresting and empty" road.
Distance: 287.0 miles / 461.9 kilometres
Time to Allow: Plan for five to six hours to tour this byway
The Lunar Crater Back Country Byway
The Lunar Crater Back Country Byway is 24 miles long and was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1973. Along this bumpy and unpaved byway, explore a volcanic field complete with cinder cones and basalt flows similar to the findings on the moon.
Easy Chair Crater is one of the first visible craters you will come across on this byway and continuing further you'll pass through several rock formations before you reach Lunar Crater.
After visiting Lunar Crater there are another 20 extinct volcanoes close by and along with exploring the unique formations you will enjoy the wildflowers and the fantastic wildlife along the way.
Distance: 24.0 miles / 38.6 kilometres
Time to Allow: One or two hours to enjoy this byway
For more information on driving holidays in the US state of Nevada see the website of the Nevada Commission on Tourism