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Outdoor Nevada: See a Ghost

 The main street of the town of Belmont, Nevada. In the center stands the historic Belmont courthouse.

Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park

You can’t throw a stone in Nevada without hitting a ghost town. That’s what Vegas PBS’ “Outdoor Nevada” host Connor Fields discovered on a trip to Belmont with Austin Metz, a ghost town historian with Nevada Expeditions.

Most of the state’s boom-and-bust towns started as mining camps in the late 1800s and early 1900s, though a few were originally ranching settlements. They exist in all of Nevada’s 17 counties, some, like Belmont, still inhabited with residents. In these towns, remaining structures are a window into the past, a testament to the state’s mining, engineering, and cultural heritage.

“These places have survived so long that we are able to see them 100, 150 years later,” Metz said. “It’s important to share while they’re still here and before the desert reclaims them, as well as to promote the stewardship and preservation of them for future generations.”

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As Metz told Fields, there are around 1,000 ghost towns in Nevada depending on who you ask. Berlin stands out for its uniquely maintained history, glorious desert views, and tight preservation as part of a state park. The town is in the northwestern edge of Nye County, miles from civilization. At its peak, Berlin only had about 300 residents, as it was a company town built around a mine. Firmin Bruner grew up in Berlin and the neighboring town of Union, and provides information for dozens of interpretive signs around the town. He guided visitors through Berlin until 1990, and today, self-guided walking tours reveal a taste of life in the Old West.

Ghost Town: Berlin, within Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park ($5 admission)

Getting There: From Las Vegas, follow U.S. 95 north for 276 miles past Tonopah until you reach Luning, Nevada (and enjoy a view of Pilot Peak right before Mina). Turn right onto NV-316 and follow that for 33 miles. When you reach Gabbs, turn right onto NV-844 East and follow that for 16 miles. Take a slight right onto Berlin Road and follow that for two miles until you are nestled along the western edge of the Shoshone Range.

From Reno, follow I-80 East to Fernley, then merge onto U.S. 50 East and drive for 109 miles until you reach Middlegate, then turn right onto NV-361. After 16 miles, turn left onto NV-844. Turn slightly left two miles later onto Berlin Road, and you will have arrived.

Distance: 328 miles from Las Vegas/158 miles from Reno

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Equipment Needed: The road to Berlin is mostly paved, but not well maintained, and the ghost town and park’s roads are dirt. A high-clearance vehicle can help ease the bumpy ride, and pack proper walking shoes. Also, pack plenty of water and food, and fuel up before taking the drive. The area is fully exposed in remote desert, so bring proper sun protection.

Pro Tip: Once you’ve taken in the town’s history and stunning vistas, drive 10 minutes along the provided park route and say hi to “Icky,” one of the many ichthyosaur fossils found in the area.

Kristen DeSilva (she/her) is the audience engagement specialist for Nevada Public Radio. She curates and creates content for, our weekly newsletter and social media for Nevada Public Radio and Desert Companion.