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Spirit of the West

September 29 – October 5

$2,295 per person ($350 single supplement)

The northern Great Basin and the eastern Sierra are home to some of the most dramatic and harsh landscapes in the world, requiring complex strategies for survival by Indigenous people and early settlers that enabled them to not just survive but thrive. Accompanying the tour will be the Conservancy’s own Linsie Lafayette, a University of Nevada, Reno graduate and Great Basin archaeologist with 20 years of experience.

Tour Schedule


Join us in Reno, Nevada for a welcome reception and a presentation by Dr. Geoff Smith, a
professor at the University of Nevada, Reno whose research focus is on pre-contact archaeology of the Great Basin.

September 29


We’ll soak in the views of Pyramid Lake on a scenic byway to the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Museum to hear a talk by Billie Jean Guerrero, museum director and Tribal member. Next, we’ll travel to Fort Churchill, a National Landmark, and tour the photogenic fort ruins preserved in a state of arrested decay. We’ll spend the night in Fallon.

September 30



We’ll begin the day by crossing the Lahontan Valley to Hidden Cave, a site used 3,500 to 3,800 years ago, to view the archaeological excavations which ended 50 years ago. Next, we will stop at Grimes Point Archaeological Area and observe petroglyphs pecked into desert varnished basalt boulders overlooking an ancient shoreline. Lastly, we will move to a historic site, the ruins of a pony express station in the shadow of Sand Mountain, the largest single dune in the Great Basin. Later that evening, we will step back in time at a National Landmark, Virginia City Historic District, and enjoy dinner and a presentation by Margo Memmott, local archaeologist and President of the Fourth Ward School Museum Board of Directors. We’ll spend the night in Virginia City.

October 1

L, D


Virgnia City’s history is rooted in mining, and we will journey inside a mine tunnel and witness the last working stamp mill. Then we’ll ride a train along a historic train route that hauled millions in gold and silver. Afterwards, we’ll have a special tour at the Carson City, Nevada State Museum that includes the Under One Sky exhibit and a behind-the-scenes tour of Nevada’s Native American basket collection. We’ll spend the night in Carson City.

October 2



We’ll visit  Stewart Indian School, a former boarding school for Native Americans, now a museum, that integrates the past, present, and future. We’ll take a walking tour of the grounds and later have an opportunity to meet with alumni of the school. Then, we will head into the Sierra Mountains and Lake Tahoe on a scenic byway to the Gatekeeper’s Museum, which houses a Native American Basket Museum. We’ll learn about an archaeological dig that took place on the museum grounds. Adjacent to the Gatekeeper’s Museum is the 110-year-old Lake Tahoe Dam, a National Register site. We’ll have an opportunity to walk across the dam and enjoy a stunning view of Lake Tahoe and the Truckee River.  We’ll spend the night in Tahoe City.

October 3



We’ll travel to the Donner Memorial Visitor Center to view exhibits about the Native Washoe Tribe, Donner Party, and the Chinese Transcontinental Railroad workers. Next, we’ll travel thousands of feet in elevation to Donner Summit with Phil Sexton, the executive director for the North Lake Tahoe Historical Society, for a tour that includes petroglyphs, Chinese constructed walls, railroad tunnels and camps, remains of historic wagon and automobile routes, and an unmatched view of Donner Lake surrounded by the mountains of the Sierra. We then return to Reno for the night.

October 4



Tour participants depart for home.

October 5

Spirit of the West

Tour Details

Cost includes hotel accommodations based on double occupancy (single supplement is $350), meals as indicated, happy hours, admittance fees, tours and orientations, background reading, and surface travel via bus with restroom. Not included are meals other than those specified and travel to and from Reno, Nevada.

A moderate amount of hiking is required. Some sites have rubble, or have rocky, steep trails leading to them. Hiking these trails is necessary to see some of the sites and some are at altitudes of above 7,000 ft. People with heart or respiratory problems should consult their physician. People unaccustomed to higher altitudes sometimes experience fatigue and dizziness. The mine tunnel tour requires some crouching while walking. The driving terrain will be on curvy roads, people prone to motion sickness may be affected. The weather can be unpredictable, dressing for chilly weather in layers is recommended.

For more information about our upcoming tours, please email or feel free to call us at (505) 266-1540.


The adventure starts now