Eastern travels

Discover rural Nevada east of Reno

A view of Dixie Valley downhill from the earthquake faults at Fairview Peak.

A view of Dixie Valley downhill from the earthquake faults at Fairview Peak.

They say Nevada State Highway 50 is the loneliest road in America, but that title might be a contradiction since there's so much to explore.

The real journey begins 60 miles east of Reno. There are remarkable landmarks to tour after passing through Fallon, such as hidden caves, ghost towns and earthquake faults.

Nevada is one of the best places when it comes to summertime family adventures. We're close to cities such as Virginia City, Lake Tahoe and San Francisco. But sometimes families have that appetite to fulfill their wanderlust fever, while not having to spend too much money at the same time.

It sounds impossible but cruising through Churchill County on Highway 50 is an affordable way to take the family out on great day adventures. Most are about an hour or two out from Reno.

Preparing for a day trip to Churchill County is easy. All that's needed is a backpack full of snacks, water bottles and sunscreen. These trips are like nature-walks, so it's best to wear a hat along with good clothing and shoes.

Lahontan Reservoir

Think of this place like Lake Tahoe except much smaller and surrounded by desert. Lake Lahontan is a great place to camp, barbecue and swim during the summertime. The lake is an hour outside of Reno before hitting Fallon, 45 miles east of Carson City. If the lake is lucky enough this year, the water levels may raise high enough to open up the boat docks.

Don't forget to bring the dogs, too; they'll love running around this place more than chewing a bone.

Grimes Point, Hidden Cave

This place is pretty much an outdoor museum. At Grimes Point, there's a self-guided recreational trail filled with petroglyphs on rocks from ancient civilizations more than 8,000 years old. What's also amazing about this place is that Lake Lahontan once covered it, 700 feet deep. You'll notice scars and patterns from waves inside of the caves and on the mountains.

If you decide to do the Hidden Cave tour, you will be able to walk inside of caves. They're great places to cool down and eat lunch on a hot day. There's a lot of amazing photography opportunities, too. They make great memories for the family.

The tours are the second and fourth Saturday of every month at 10 a.m. You can register at the Churchill County Museum in Fallon. It's 10 miles east of Fallon off of U.S. Highway 50.

Fairview Peak, Earthquake Faults

In December 1954, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake rumbled Fairview Peak, a few miles south of Highway 50, an hour east of Fallon. More than 10 miles of faults were created and the mountains lifted up an average of six feet, almost to the valleys below.

If you haven't seen earthquake faults before, Fairview Peak is a great place to discover them. The faults are dramatic—very hilly and defined.

There will be signs directing where the faults are. You can travel as far up the mountain as you wish to look at them.

Along the way, you'll cruise through the desert landscape of Dixie Valley. The alkali flats, mountains in the distance, and patches of green will make you feel like you're walking through a painting. You'll find a few ghost mining towns along the way as well.

Sand Mountain

A message to winter lovers: snowboarding and skiing don't have to end in the summer. You can try sand boarding at Sand Mountain now.

To play in this big sandbox travel 25 miles east of Fallon. Spring and fall are the best seasons to visit the mountain since the temperatures are cooler. Many people hike up the mountain or ride their ATVs. According to the Bureau of Land Management, there is free admission to the mountain on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Sand Springs Pony Express Station

The most popular time to visit this landmark is May through September. The station was built in March 1860 to send messages from coast to coast until 1861, when the transcontinental telegraph began operation. At this landmark, you'll walk through a history of time; the remains of the Pony Express can be visited by walking into a wall made out of rocks.

There's also historical markers nearby. They are blue, Nevada-shaped signs with history text about the area. It's a tradition for Nevada travelers to take a photo in front of these signs to show proof that you were at the site. You'll bump into plenty of historical markers as you travel across these locations.

When the day ends

After a long, exhausting day of hiking, sightseeing, and exploring the life of rural Nevada, you can stop by one town before snuggling back into your bed in Reno: Fallon.

Honestly, it wouldn't hurt to grab a bite in a town that's not full of sirens and rushing traffic. After growing up there for about 17 years, it's probably one of the most peaceful places in the evening.

From fine dining to Mexican, Basque and pizza, Fallon has the restaurants to satisfy a full stomach crying for carbs.

End-of-the-day grubs I suggest:

• The Wok on Maine Street for Thai and Sushi lovers.

• Pizza Barn on Williams Avenue for those craving fresh-made, barely greasy pizza.

Great place for kids.

• Julio's on Williams Avenue offers both Mexican and Italian dishes.

• Top Gun Restaurant on Center Street: quick Philly cheesesteaks and wings.