Elko’s History

Elko’s history is a rich and wild one, from the early peoples who inhabited the area to the settlers who braved the California Trail for a chance at striking it rich in the great Gold Rush. Explore the past here.

elko history
History Up Close

The California Trail Interpretive Center is home to historic displays that bring history alive.

History Lives in Elko

Around here, the term “Battle Born” really means something. Whether it’s the earliest indigenous peoples who hunted and farmed this land to the pioneers of the 1800s who traveled across the country in covered wagons only to have to fight the elements every step of the way, the people of Elko have always taken pride in their ability to fight, survive and come out better for the experience.

In historic Elko, these stories jump off the page and come to life as you walk in the tracks of early inhabitants, reimagining how settlers lived day to day in this sometimes rough and tumble stop along the Central Pacific Railroad. See a fully-preserved wagon encampment and a Shoshone village at the California Trail Interpretive Center, hear cowboy tales at the Western Folklife Center, dig into mining history at the Northeastern Nevada Museum before venturing out to area ghost towns and see a blacksmith’s shop and 1800’s classroom at the Sherman Station Visitors Center.

Elko’s history encompasses so many sites, you could spend weeks checking out Nevada homesteads, the transcontinental railroad, courthouses, museums and other high-desert history hot spots — and merely be scratching the surface. So, if you ask, “What is Elko, NV known for?” get ready to hear a whole bunch of tales from the past as you experience Elko history firsthand. We’re always willing to sit a spell and tell a few stories to appreciative listeners


Preserving history is a labor of love for these Elko-area museums from the Northeastern Nevada Museum to the Cowboy Arts and Gear Museum and the Western Folklife Center. See artifacts and delve into the rich history of Elko.

California Trail Interpretive Center

Learn the stories of the pioneers who endured the 2,000 mile trek to California; some seeking land, some gold, others seeking adventure and some for reasons we may never know. Hike accessible trails, visit a wagon encampment and wander through a Shoshone village.

Historic Sites in Elko, NV

Whatever you picture when you think of Old West history, get ready to expand your worldview, because history lives and breathes in Elko. Explore these top historic sites on your next visit.

shermans station

Sherman Station Visitor’s Center

Located at 14th and Idaho streets, this historic limber pine house and its five outbuildings are home to the Elko Area Chamber of Commerce. Guided tours, artifacts, visitor information, local souvenirs and more can be found here.

Sydney Martinez / Travel Nevada

old town wells road trip

Side Trip to Old Town Wells

In 1869, the Central Pacific Railroad founded the town at Humboldt Wells on the California Trail. The town connected area mines to the railhead. 53 miles east of Elko.

Mountain City, Gold Creek & Tinto

Once home to a couple thousand gold, silver and copper mines, this ranching community lets visitors go deep into Nevada’s mining history. 65 miles north of Elko.

Pony Express, Donner Trail

At Overland Pass, see where the Donner Party crossed to rejoin the California Trail, then check out the Pony Express Overland Mail Service Trail near Ruby Lake. 65 miles from Elko.

Spruce Mountain Mining District

Routes connect 135 year old mining roads winding through five ghost towns and past several historic mines. 87 miles SE of Elko.