By Chris Moran
Ely was a copper boomtown in the early 20th century; today, this small city is mined for outdoor adventure, fun events and old West experiences.
That is, until the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year shut down non-essential businesses and travel in Nevada and states throughout the country. But now the Silver State is reopening, and Ely is dusting off the welcome mat.
“We’re here for you when you’re ready,” Kyle Horvath, White Pine County director of tourism, said. “Everybody is doing what they need to do to keep it safe.”
Mountain bike enthusiasts were expected to roll into town this month for the Fears, Tears and Beers endurance race. That has been postponed to Sept. 26, but you still can hit the trails. Horvath, an avid mountain biker, recommends the Ice Plant Trails just west of Ely for all ability levels, and the nearby Ward Campground area for a cross-country ride. If you’re up for a challenge, Horvath suggests Cave Lake State Park, “for world-class, bucket-list riding.” For details on Ely mountain biking, click here.
The area also is known for vestiges of the Old West, including the Nevada Northern Railway, which once hauled ore out of the mines but now transports passengers on 90-minute excursion rides. Tickets for rides can be bought on the NNRY website.
Another trip back in time — and a fun photo op — can be found at Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park, about 16 miles south of Ely. The defining feature here is a set of six beehive-shaped charcoal ovens, each about 30 feet tall. From 1876 to 1879, the ovens were used to make charcoal that then was used in smelters to refine ore mined in the area. State campgrounds are open for day use, and recently opened for camping.
Another way to delve into Ely history: walk around the downtown area. Several murals depicting the region’s past, including the discovery of the Lehman Caves at what is now Great Basin National Park (about 60 miles south of Ely), and life in the nearby mining town of Cherry Creek, can be viewed on a short walk. For descriptions of the murals and other public area in Ely, click here.
From Reno, Ely is a 320 mile drive east on U.S. 50. Travel Nevada has a road trip itinerary, the Loneliest Road in America, which includes things to do and see on the way to Ely. For a look at Ely lodging properties, click here.
Chris Moran is a public relations specialist at the Nevada Division of Tourism (Travel Nevada) and has lived in Reno since 1996. She is a former editor and writer at the Reno Gazette-Journal, and has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley. Her hobbies include skiing, hiking, reading, photography, coffee and coffeehouses, and exploring Nevada. Check out her blog at www.ChrisinNevada.wordpress.com.
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