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Spotlight: Pahrump

Get away from the bright lights and back to nature

Tucked away in the sun-soaked southern tip of Nevada—just 60 miles west of Las Vegas—the small Mojave Desert town of Pahrump has rapidly become a city on the rise. The first telephone lines and paved roads didn’t appear here until the 1960s, yet today the community plays host to a mix of world-class wineries, preeminent national parks and even a luxury motor sports speedway. Add it all up and you have an ideal spot to set up camp, park the RV and go exploring.

Most visitors find themselves stopping in Pahrump while en route from Las Vegas to Death Valley, which lies just 60 miles (about an hour’s drive) to the west across the California border. For this, the town is a popular place to stop and have lunch, stretch the legs and recharge for the final push to Death Valley.

Try going against the grain and turn this logic on its head. Rather than simply stopping in Pahrump while traveling between Vegas and Death Valley, set up shop in Pahrump and use it as a quiet small-town base-camp to branch out and explore some of southern Nevada’s busiest attractions.

Chris Moran/TravelNevada

Chris Moran/TravelNevada

Pahrump Pathways

This is particularly savvy advice for outdoors enthusiasts and anyone on the prowl for some rugged desert recreation. Hikers, mountain bikers and off-road junkies drown in trail choices here. Carpenter Canyon, Wallace Canyon and Wheeler Wash are among the most popular, offering spectacular views of Pahrump Valley and the Spring Mountains.

The Elk Meadows Trails is another collection of renowned trails popular with mountain bikers, but keep your eyes peeled as you pick up speed—the trails are named Elk Meadows for a reason, and wild elk often find themselves wandering onto the runs.

For a more relaxed exploration of the incredible Mojave landscapes surrounding Pahrump, get in your vehicle and head 40 miles east to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Cruise the 13-mile scenic byway that loops around the canyon, offering breathtaking views from dedicated observation points. Dozens of well-maintained hiking trails snake their way through the wilderness at Red Rock Canyon as well, so if the mood to hoof it on foot strikes there’s plenty of opportunity.

Other major points of interest and attractions for recreation seekers are the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area (94 miles to the east), Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge (28 miles to the west) and Goldwell Open Air Museum (79 miles to the northwest).

The Spring Mountains NRA is home to massive Charleston Peak (the third highest peak in the state), and an array of historic sites, hiking trails, campsites and crisp mountain springs. During winter, the mountain is also home to the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort.

At the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, visitors can explore the largest official oasis left in the Mojave Desert. The refuge is home to prehistoric desert fish, fossil water left behind from the last ice age, the highest concentration of indigenous species in the country and 500-foot-deep Devils Hole (which local legend argues is actually a mysterious bottomless pit).

© Photography by Horace Langford Jr.

© Photography by Horace Langford Jr.

Explore Past and Present

Goldwell Open Air Museum is one of the more unusual attractions in all of Nevada—a feat by any definition. Here, in 1984, Belgian artist Albert Szukalski installed and unveiled a major public sculpture that depicted The Last Supper. Six more sculptures were eventually added to the site by other artists, leaving behind one of the world’s most striking open-air art galleries.

For its part, the Pahrump Valley Museum is surprisingly vast. Covering nearly 10,000 square feet indoors and paired with four acres of space outdoors, the museum’s highlights include original artwork and letters from Abraham Lincoln, exhibits detailing nuclear weapons testing and “Main Street Pahrump”—a life-sized recreation of bygone eras using fully restored historic buildings. If you’re a history buff, plan to spend a good deal of time here, combing through the myriad informative displays and exhibits.

Wine connoisseurs can pencil in a pair of trips to the Pahrump Valley Winery (on the eastern edge of town) and the Sanders Family Winery (on the southern edge of town). Each location hosts daily wine tastings, informative tours and gorgeous grounds to explore.

Speed demons flock to the Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump, which offers driving schools, racetrack rentals and space for events. With six miles of challenging track, drivers can find endless opportunities to hone their high-speed skills. Lovers of Corvettes can indulge in their passion of putting this iconic American speedster to the test when attending the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School, held at Spring Mountain.

There’s no way to easily define the booming town of Pahrump. At once a laid-back small desert community and a vibrant city on the rise, the community offers visitors everything from premiere outdoor recreation to world-class entertainment options.

For More Information

Town of Pahrump
Nevada Commission on Tourism