An hour's drive west of the park, at the intersection of three U.S. highways, Ely (population 4,262) has the biggest population in the area and has been called "where Eastern Nevada goes to town." It grew up in the second wave of the early Nevada mining boom, right at the optimistic turn of the 20th century. For 70 years copper kept the town in business, but when it ran out in the early 1980s Ely declined fast. Then, in 1986, the National Park Service designated Great Basin National Park 68 miles to the east and the town got a boost. Ely has since been rebuilt and revitalized, though it's kept a quirky, faded feel. Downtown is dotted with vintage neon signs and a few abandoned buildings. It's home to a railroad museum, the county seat, and a great old hotel-casino (Hotel Nevada), as well as plenty of hotels and tourist amenities. If you want to get closer to the park, you can stay in tiny Baker (population roughly 75), which sits at the main park entrance. Little more than a cluster of small businesses a few miles south of U.S. 6/50 on Route 487, the desert oasis is 5 miles from the visitor center.
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