Hiker standing atop red rock formation in the Southern Utah desert near Cedar City.

The Best Small Towns in the Great Basin to Chill Out

Life can sometimes feel chaotic and stressful, especially when unexpected challenges arise. Traveling in a quiet area can help with relaxation and feeling whole again. The Great Basin is a geographic and hydrographic section of the US's West Coast, including California, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, Oregon, Wyoming, Baja California, and Utah. While much of the desert portions of the Great Basin are within Nevada's borders, the surrounding states hold much of the hydrographic and range sections of the Great Basin. These small towns in the Great Basin are full of relaxing vibes and surrounded by nature's embrace for a chill vacation or long weekend away from the city.

Ely, Nevada

Tall hotel building in Ely, Nevada.
Hote in downtown Ely, Nevada.

In eastern Nevada rests the small stagecoach and mining town of Ely. The city is not far from the border of Utah and is the county seat of White Pine County. Ely's origin isn't thoroughly established, with many historians debating the original meaning of its name. However, most agree the name "Ely" may come from the founder's hometown of Ely, Vermont. However, others believe it was taken from the main funder of the city's development, Smith Ely. 

This "wild west" feeling town is ideal for chilling out. Ely’s Renaissance Village is just outside the main center of town and affords a deep immersion into the West. After spending the day walking about in the heat, cool down at the Prospector Hotel and Gambling Hall.

Mesquite, Nevada

Picturesque Mesquite, Nevada, nestled in a valley.
Mesquite, Nevada, nestled in a valley.

Located in southern Nevada, Mesquite is a small town in Clark County that touches the border of Arizona. It is one of the few towns outside the desert region of the Great Basin. Rather, it's within the hydrologic part of the Great Basin area, meaning it's near the water drainage of the many rivers. Mesquite was founded in 1880 by Mormon pioneers. The city's name origin isn't well known, but it has changed slightly over the years. Originally, the town was named Mesquite Flat, and was shortened to Mesquite and incorporated in 1984.

The Mojavo desert and Virgin Mountains lie just south of the small town. The town rests within the Virgin River Valley, making it a little oasis in an otherwise arid area. After spending the day exploring the town, stop by the Casablanca Hotel and Casino to float in the lagoon or chill out in the spa. 

Cedar City, Utah

Cedar City surrounded by beautiful mountains.
Cedar City, surrounded by mountains.

Cedar City is in Iron County, Utah, near Salt Lake City. It's a beautiful town within the Great Basin Desert region with around 35,000 residents. Despite its arid climate, Cedar City is a favorite spot for outdoor enthusiasts and explorers. The Mojave Desert touches the edges of the town and the surrounding region. Even though it's too arid for most farming practices, it still has some plants and wildlife. 

Cedar City is an important cultural spot both for native peoples and pioneer Mormons. Cedar City Temple is a sacred site for many Mormons with vibrant architecture. Visitors can tour parts of the temple, including the baptismal area and the Celestial Room. After exploring all the beauty this town offers, get a soothing massage and spa treatment at the Stone Path Massage and Energy Center.

Moapa, Nevada

Looking out over the Moapa Valley in Nevada
Moapa Valley in Nevada.

Moapa, Nevada, is not an official town but an officially recognized area by the census bureau. Despite its small population of just over 1,000 residents, it has an extensive history. Two of the tallest towers in Nevada are in this town: The Moapa Kemp Tower and the Moapa Entravision Tower. Although, they're both a little shorter than the Strat Tower in Las Vegas.

Moapa may not have a large population, but it has much to offer visitors looking to enjoy the outdoors. Nestled in the Moapa Valley means it's conveniently close to several outdoor parks, including the lost town of St. Thomas and the Valley of Fire. Spend time in the Warm Springs Natural Area, reconnecting and rejuvenating after a long journey. The warm sun and beautiful natural scenery will help calm your mind and energize you.

Rachel, Nevada

Restaurant and gift shop near Area 51 in Rachel, Nevada.
Restaurant and gift shop near Area 51 in Rachel, Nevada. Image credit sallystap via Shutterstock. 

Rachel is in southcentral Nevada in Lincoln County. It's a small town resting along Highway 375. It doesn't look very impressive at first glance, boasting a gas station, an Inn, and a whopping total of 48 residents. 

However, Rachel is a small town you should consider visiting on your travels. As one of the closest towns to Area 51 and the US Airbase in Nevada, it's a hotbed of alien activity. Stop at this town while you go through the western US. It's a great place to rest and kick back. As a reported hot spot for UFOs and extraterrestrial activity, who knows what you might see!

Pioche, Nevada

Old building in Pioche, Nevada
Old building in Pioche, Nevada. Image credit Mobilus In Mobili via Wikimedia Commons

Pioche is another unofficial town with a population lingering around 1,000 residents. It's located within Lincoln County, Nevada, and is not far from the borders of Utah and Arizona to the east. Settlers originally came to the area in search of gold and silver. However, in 1864 the locals were ambushed by natives who massacred many settlers. In 1868, after the fighting subsided, the town was re-established with the help and funding of François Louis Alfred Pioche. The town was officially restarted in 1870 as a silver mining community named Pioche after its primary founder.

The region has a semi-arid climate, getting more rain and cooler temperatures than most surrounding areas. It's cool weather and laid-back environment makes it a great spot to relax and enjoy peace amidst your travels. Kickback and enjoy the sites and scenery from the Pioche Aerial Tramway. Even though parts of the experience require walking, you’re sure to feel refreshed and rejuvenated after spending hours in nature and the local historical sites along the trail.

Lovelock, Nevada

Lock in Lover's Lock Plaza in Lovelock, Nevada.
Lock in Lover's Lock Plaza in Lovelock, Nevada. Image credit EWY Media via Shutterstock.

Lovelock is the only officially incorporated town in Pershing County, Nevada. The town originated as a rest spot for pioneers making their way into California and later became a train depot. Visitors to the area will quickly notice that the town still carries many of the features of its past. The region grows wild rye rather abundantly, which drew travelers to it in the past who were in need of food. The area is still dominated by agriculture thanks to its rich soil. The city took its name from one of the founders of the original train depot, George Lovelock.

As a classic small town of under 2,000, it offers a slow-paced and restful atmosphere. Nearby, Rye Patch State Recreation Area provides the perfect opportunity to chill out in nature along the Humboldt River.

Palm Springs, California

A resort in Palm Springs, California with water and palm trees.
A resort in Palm Springs, California. 

Palm Springs is a vibrant town in southern California, near the border of Baja California, Mexico. The region was originally settled by natives known as the Cahuilla, who spoke a dialect of the Aztec language. The Cahuilla people lived in relative isolation for approximately 2,000 years until the Mexican government claimed the area in the 1820s. After the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Palm Springs became part of the United States of America. While the name's origins are somewhat debated, most historians agree it was derived from the Spanish name for the area, "The Palm of God's Hand."

Palm Springs is sunny, chill, and welcoming. It is an ideal spot for vacationers or travelers hoping for a break from the busyness of life. L’Horizon Resort and Spa is one of the most beautiful, quiet gems nestled near the mountains, designed to maximize recovery and rejuvenation. The bungalows are personalized and designed to give the guests a feeling of home away from home.

Lakeview, Oregon

Photo of a junk store near Lakeview, Oregon called just stuff
Store near Lakeview, Oregon called Just Stuff.

Lakeview is a quiet, small community located in Lake County, Oregon. It’s a few miles north of the California border, with Goose Lake being one of the closest large bodies of water. The area has been inhabited for close to 14,000 years and has established several semi-permanent settlements. European settlers arrived much later, with trapper Peter Skene Ogden being one of the earliest to arrive around 1827.

Today, Lakeview is a close-knit small town that’s perfect for anyone hoping to sit back and enjoy life for a little bit. One of the main attractions in the area is the Warner Canyon Ski Resort. This is the perfect place to visit if you want to reconnect with nature and for a rare chance to indulge your adventurous side all while disconnecting from the hustle of everyday life.

The Great Basin extends through a large area of the Western United States. It's a beautiful part of the country, including parts of California, Utah, Arizona, and almost all of Nevada. While much of the Great Basin is a wild desert, there are plenty of small towns to relax and unwind. The unique and adventurous history of the wild west is still preserved in many of these little towns. To kick back in a quiet yet fascinating region, head to the Great Basin region.

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