Day One: Las Vegas to Pahrump
Just 25 miles southwest of Las Vegas, Spring Mountain Ranch State Park feels a world away. A $10 entrance fee paid my way to 528 acres of ranch land and spring-fed meadows with shady picnic areas and several short hikes, all surrounded by rocky red-and-orange-colored mountains. The property’s main house serves as visitor center, museum, and gift house. Built in the 1940s as a country-style vacation retreat, the home had a string of famous owners, including Lum and Abner radio personality Chester Lauck (1948–1954), the colorful German actress Vera Krupp (1955–1967), and millionaire Howard Hughes (1967–1972).
After visiting the museum and the main house, I wandered the park’s National Historic District, home to some of Nevada’s oldest structures, and walked a trail lined with native plants like Mojave yucca, indigo bush, and brittlebrush while roadrunners and lizards scuttled nearby.
Approximately 50 miles from Spring Mountain Ranch, Pahrump provides several overnight options on either side of Highway 160. The town is also home to two of Nevada’s four wineries, with white-linen Pahrump Valley Winery serving up a menu of delectable dinner items such as filet mignon and chicken Tuscany with mushrooms in a marsala-sherry sauce. The winery is especially known for its Symphony blend, an aromatic white with hints of honeysuckle and apricot.
Smart Tip: If you have daylight to spare before settling down for the evening, drive the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Loop, approximately eight miles north of Spring Mountain. It’s a 13-mile winding route ($7) among crimson-hued canyons, natural chimneys, and impressive peaks, with pull-over vistas and trailheads along the way.