Cue the lonely desert music from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” The drive from Reno to Pyramid Lake takes only about 40 minutes, but it covers a vast change in scenery from downtown’s busy concrete streets out into layer upon layer of tinted beige. Not just beige, but blue-beige, rose-beige, purple-beige and orange-beige—and lots of gray-beige. Once you pass the last suburban subdivision, it’s easy to hit high speeds on this two-lane highway; just watch for tumbleweeds. You’ll pass sagebrush and a wild horse (and burro) sanctuary, and you’ll see heat ripples and imagine sun-parched bones. You’ll be thirsty.
Then suddenly, around a bend, Pyramid Lake spreads out across the landscape, cerulean against all the shades of beige. Tufa rock formations line the lakeshore, including the Stone Mother and Pyramid Island across on the east side. Check out the Paiute Tribe Museum and Visitor Center to learn about the area’s native inhabitants, the lake as a prime fishing area and as a breeding ground for the American white pelican. Unwrap a picnic at one of the semi-covered tables along the shore—the slats overhead provide the only shade you’ll have encountered for, oh, about 35 miles.