The drive from rural Nevada into California and over to Lake Tahoe features some pleasant surprises along the way. Yerington, Nevada is definitely worth a brief stop, to stretch your legs and explore.
Yerington is located along Alternative 95, east of Lake Tahoe, in northern Nevada. From Hawthorne, take US 95, then Alt 95. From Carson City, take US 50 east, then Alt 95 south, or take US 395 south, then Nevada 208 north/east.
I had spent all of Day 1 driving across Nevada. That was plenty of time in the desert, and I was ready to see something else. But, in order to get to the mountains, I had some more desert driving ahead of me.
There were two ways to get from Hawthorne over to US 395. I could have taken Nevada 359 to California 167, which ends near Mono Lake, then drive up 395. I had seen the area around Mono Lake and Lee Vining before — and if I had time to visit Bodie Ghost Town again, I would have gone this way. Instead, I chose to go north and then west, through Yerington, Nevada and Topaz Lake.
I didn’t know anything about Yerington when I arrived, but I was glad it had a McDonald’s. After downing a McFlurry, I went for a walk through downtown Yerington, Nevada. Compared to Hawthorne, where I had spent the previous night, Yerington felt alive.
Along Yerington’s Main Street (Nevada Highway 208), you’ll find the Lyon County Courthouse. Yerington became the county seat in 1911, two years after a courthouse in a neighboring town burnt down.
It’s hard to forget a town like Yerington when the bowling alley is screaming its name at you!
Yerington has some interesting historic buildings, like this old garage…
… and the neon hanging above Rex Rexall is quite nice, as well. I guess if your name is Rex, it only makes sense that you would own a Rexall.
Whether you take Nevada 208 or 339 out of Yerington, you’ll end up in Smith Valley, and historic…
The town of Wellington dates back to the 1860’s when a farming community was established in the area. Along highway 208, you’ll pass a collection of old buildings including Wellington’s schoolhouse, which was built in 1898, and later moved here.
The old Wells Fargo stage stop ticket office is nearby. It was built in 1863. You can see it all from the side of the road, or wander onto the grounds of this mini-museum for a closer look.
Highway 208 ends at US 395, where it’s just a short drive south to…
Topaz Lake: California/Nevada Border
No surprise, there’s a hotel and casino on the Nevada side of the border at Topaz Lake. Near it, you’ll find a nice place to view the lake, off to the side of the highway. Just down the hill, you’ll cross the border into California, and pass through an agricultural inspection station, where they’ll confiscate your fresh fruit. Or, you could just tell them you don’t have any.
Here’s a look at the drive from Hawthorne to Yerington and into California:
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The Bottom Line
The drive from Hawthorne to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Lake Tahoe covers some beautiful desert, and offers a few interesting places to stop. I’d suggest taking at least a few minutes to walk around Yerington, Nevada, and check out the historic buildings in Wellington, on your way to California.