Hidden Gems: Discovering the Diverse Allure of Nevada's Lesser-Known counties for Nevada Tourism

When most people think of Nevada, Las Vegas with its dazzling neon lights and bustling casinos often comes to mind. In fact, 65.5% of all out-of-state tourists to Nevada in 2023 visited the Las Vegas area. 

Deeper analysis by origin market reveals a clear trend: the further visitors are from Nevada, the more likely they are to visit Las Vegas. The data below shows the percentage of Nevada visitors who travel to the Las Vegas area from various states. Remarkably, only four states—Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon, and Utah—have less than 50% of their visitors heading to Las Vegas, underscoring Las Vegas' dominant influence on Nevada's tourist appeal.


Las Vegas continues to be a magnet for tourists globally, but Reno is quickly becoming a preferred choice for Nevada Tourism. Close to Lake Tahoe, the “Biggest Little City in the World” beckons not only gamblers, but those interested in outdoor recreation, public art, and a diverse culinary scene. Reno's appeal is on the rise, drawing an increasing number of visitors from across the nation to Washoe County's hub, with Californians being the top origin market. The map below illustrates Reno's nationwide draw, highlighting the states from which visitors traveled to Washoe County in 2023.


However, Nevada's expansive outdoor landscape offers much more than the glittering allure of Sin City. In exploring other Nevada counties, we observed emerging patterns that suggest a variety of attractions appealing to travelers, especially outdoor enthusiasts that Nevada Tourism looks to attract. We have categorized these counties into four groups based on origin patterns and to ensure we have enough sample volume to further analyze these trends.


Group 1: Carson City, Douglas, Storey, Lyon

These counties are nestled near Lake Tahoe and brim with outdoor recreational opportunities. Those seeking the beauty of nature, Wild West history, and small-town charm find ideal retreats here.

Our analysis of visitor origins reveals that a significant 78.5% of 2023 visitors to these counties came from California. Meanwhile, Arizona, Texas, Washington, Oregon, and Utah each contributed around 3% of visitors. Given this existing interest, there's a strong case for these counties to ramp up marketing efforts in these neighboring states to boost Nevada Tourism further.



Group 2: Elko County

Elko County's popularity is increasing annually, warranting its classification as a standalone category in our analysis. The county is home to the Ruby Mountains, often referred to as the Swiss Alps of Nevada, which attract numerous outdoor enthusiasts in every season. Summer brings hikers, cyclists, and anglers, while an average snowfall of 300 inches welcomes backcountry skiers, snowmobilers, and snowshoers. Elko is also a hub for Western and Basque heritages, as well as standout cultural events like the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, further promoting Nevada Tourism.

Utahns, in particular, have recognized the outstanding outdoor opportunities Elko County offers, with over 39% of visitors hailing from the Beehive State. Furthermore, despite being located across the state line, Elko has also successfully attracted a substantial number of Californians, who make up 32% of its visitor base.



Elko County's rising popularity is further underscored by data on Short Term Rental bookings from AirDNA. In 2023, the number of Supply nights in Elko County increased by 78%, and Demand nights rose by 44% compared to the previous year, signaling a robust growth in the demand for accommodations in the area and highlighting it’s increasing role in Nevada Tourism.


Group 3: Humboldt, Pershing, Churchill, Lander

This region offers outdoor enthusiasts a plethora of landscapes to explore, ranging from sand dunes and mountains to rivers and lakes. Farm-to-table fare, diverse museums, and special events delight every type of traveler. 

Californians remain the predominant visitors to these western counties, accounting for over 58.7% of the tourism traffic. Interestingly, Oregon has risen to become the second most common origin of visitors, closely followed by Utah, with both states contributing around 7.5% of the visitor share, emphasizing the diverse appeal of Nevada Tourism.



Group 4: Nye, White Pine, Mineral, Lincoln, Eureka, Esmerelda


With Nye and Lincoln Counties bordering Clark County, this group presents a striking contrast to what many typically associate with the region. These areas are sanctuaries for outdoor enthusiasts, with Great Basin National Park in White Pine County as a prime attraction. Far removed from the urban glitz of Las Vegas, these counties offer a peaceful retreat into nature, where visitors can enjoy expansive landscapes, stargazing, and activities like mountain biking, fishing, and camping. Additionally, these counties host numerous ghost towns, providing insights into the area's historical mining operations and communities.


Positioned centrally, this group may attract fewer visitors compared to other areas, but it still manages to draw significant interest from neighboring states. California leads with 45% of the visitor share, followed by Arizona at 12.4%. With its rich history, this group also draws visitors from Idaho, Utah, Washington, and Oregon, highlighting the potential for increased focus on the historical aspects of these communities to further appeal to visitors from nearby states and enhance Nevada Tourism.



When we examine the four groups and compare the origin markets side by side, we can see how some groups draw visitors from nearby, while others appeal to distinctly different visitor profiles.


Las Vegas and Reno remain major draws, with the latter quickly gaining favor among gamblers near Lake Tahoe, reflecting a nationwide spread of visitors. However, the focus shifts beyond these urban centers to the vast outdoor opportunities Nevada offers. 

Carson City, Douglas, Storey, and Lyon Counties provide access to Lake Tahoe and attract predominantly Californian visitors. Elko County, gaining traction through its proximity to the Great Basin National Park and notable hiking and camping sites, is drawing more visitors from Utah and California. This is evidenced by a significant rise in short-term rental bookings.

Humboldt, Pershing, Churchill, and Lander Counties offer rugged landscapes ideal for outdoor sports and events like Burning Man, with a noticeable visitor influx from California and Oregon. Lastly, the central counties of Nye, White Pine, Mineral, Lincoln, Eureka, and Esmeralda, though attracting fewer tourists, offer unique historical insights through their ghost towns and natural retreats, appealing especially to visitors from neighboring states.


Kyle Shulz, Travel Nevada's Research Director, comments on these findings:

“This data provides interesting insights into the visitation patterns observed in Nevada and outlines the draw that rural Nevada provides to outdoor recreationalists. The data also clearly shows the reliance that rural Nevada destinations have on neighboring drive markets, particularly from California, while also highlighting that origin markets farther away geographically from the state have higher likelihoods to visit Nevada’s metro areas, mainly Las Vegas.”

Overall, Nevada's varied counties are gaining recognition for their unique characteristics, drawing distinct visitor profiles from across the country and encouraging a broader appreciation for Nevada Tourism’s rich and varied offerings.