Nevada : Safety by City
- Battle Mountain
- Blue Diamond
- Boulder City
- Burning Man in Black Rock City
- Carson City
- Incline Village
- Las Vegas
- Moapa Valley
- Mount Charleston
- North Las Vegas
- Virginia City
- West Wendover
Searchlight, Nevada, might be the best friend you have in Nevada if you’re looking to get away from the crowds.
You’re as close to a major recreation lake as you are to a seemingly endless desert.
You can easily get to three states in a short drive, and traffic is almost unheard of.
You’re surrounded by several federally preserved areas, and a few of them might not even sound familiar.
Exploring this area is worth the research, and we’re going to cover some of the lesser-known areas while talking about the popular places too.
Searchlight was once a booming mining town in the early 1900s.
Like many Nevada mining towns from that area, it didn’t survive much after the boom.
It’s also most famously known as the hometown of Nevada Senator Harry Reid.
Politics aside, he very much helped put Searchlight on the map in his books where he celebrated his hometown.
Senator Reid was such a powerful force in Washington that even McCarran International Airport was renamed Harry Reid International Airport after he passed away.
Also known as the Gateway to Lake Mohave, this town is a crossroads for desert explorers and recreation enthusiasts.
Whether you want to join the crowds at the lake or ride a dry lake bed, Searchlight has much more to offer than just a small town in the middle of “nowhere.”
Warnings & Dangers in Searchlight
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low overall risk here for crime, but as a transient town, you should always use common sense and safety steps. It's not a lively town, but it's a recreation lovers' dream.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Buses run between Searchlight, the tourist town of Laughlin, and Las Vegas. You can get a shuttle to and from the airport. If you're going to rent a car, don't wait until Searchlight to do it. Pick one up in Las Vegas or Laughlin. Taxis and rideshares will be very rare here, but not impossible.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There hasn't been a pickpocket or purse snatching in Searchlight going back to 2020. The potential is there with so many people coming through, but it's a low risk that can be kept low by using safety steps like locking your car at gas stations.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
Extreme heat and flash flooding are the major concerns here. If you aren't familiar with the desert, you'll be surprised at how devastating even a few inches of rain at one time can be. Look up the Mojave National Preserve, and you'll see how much damage floods did during the winter of 2022/2023. Wildfires are another concern in this region (look up Dome Fire), and you should know about wildfire safety and how to check air quality from smoke. While most days are sunny and bright, when it gets bad here, it can get REALLY bad.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
Just one robbery has been reported in Searchlight since 2020, so that's a low risk.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
This is another low-risk, with no hard targets nearby. Las Vegas will always be considered a potential target, but will also have high security across the region. Security becomes more elaborate after the October 2017 mass shooting. The best thing you can do is report any suspicious activity.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Most scams here are targeted at residents and the elderly. You can view the most common scams on the Nevada Consumer Affairs website. However, there's a low risk of a tourist scam. I'm always worried about credit card skimmers at rural gas stations, but reduce that risk by using the closest pump to the store or paying inside. Most pumps will have a safety device installed, warning people of the risks if the seal is broken.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women have the same low risk as anyone else. There's nothing in the crime data that indicates there's a great risk by gender. It is worth noting that this is not the Palm Springs kind of desert with shops and spas galore. This is the rugged, backcountry kind of desert. Plan accordingly.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
Use the Las Vegas Valley Water District Website to look up the Searchlight Water Quality Report. You'll need to know what well your water comes from, but that's really an overly cautious step, as the water here is safe to drink. If there were an issue, the hotel or restaurants would let customers know. If you have questions, call 702-258-3215.
Safest Places to Visit in Searchlight
Searchlight doesn’t have its own tourism website, so I’m going to go through the main attractions to help you find secure websites to learn about the places nearby.
Visit Nevada is the site for the entire area, and Visit Las Vegas will cover the entire region.
The first stop should be the Searchlight Museum to learn about the mining history here.
It’s quite fascinating to see how this town boomed, busted, and boomed again before settling into the small-town atmosphere it has today.
Four nearby locations to visit all fall under the National Park Service.
The website is nps.gov.
You can also download the NPS app to have all the locations on your mobile device.
Since Searchlight is the Gateway to Lake Mohave, we’ll start there.
Lake Mohave is under the listing for the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
The two lakes are in the same expanse of the park but aren’t really that close unless you’re boating down the Colorado River.
Cottonwood Cove is the popular entrance to Lake Mohave, that’s just 13 miles east of Searchlight.
Lake Mohave has many beaches to explore and wonderfully cool water.
You can rent a boat, jet ski, or kayak.
To get to the Laughlin end of the Colorado River, you’ll drive about 40 miles.
Lake Mead is 40 miles in the other direction.
The entrance to Mojave National Preserve in California is 30 miles to the west.
Here you can explore the Kelso Dunes and other sand dunes, where the sand “sings” if you visit during the perfect conditions.
Slot canyons, hiking trails, and the famous Lava Tube are other options here.
To get the best experience, bring a four-wheel drive high-profile vehicle.
Castle Mountains National Monument is one of the most underappreciated places in this stretch of desert.
If you can’t make it all the way to Joshua Tree National Park, you can get all the same experiences here.
The rare water access here provides hydration for 21,000 acres of Joshua Trees, unique wildlife, and stunning spring wildflowers.
This part of the desert is also along the Old Spanish National Historic Trail, which spans from Santa Fe to Los Angeles, covering New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California.
Sloan Canyon Conservation Area is a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property.
The Sloan Canyon Petroglyph Site is the biggest attractor, but you have also trails to explore and wildlife viewing you won’t find in the other preserved lands.
Eldorado Canyon and the ghost town of Nelson should be a must-see on your trip to Searchlight.
It’s a 40-mile drive through desert mountains on a paved highway.
The town was renovated to give the authentic Wild West ambiance, but it’s not a true “ghost town” as you’ll find in places like Rhyolite.
Nelson is a major tourist attraction at the center point of the mining industry that once brought thousands searching for treasure.
It also was a rough town known for its violence dating back to Native Americans.
You can tour the Old West town, take a trip to a mine, and see some movie sets left behind.
Searchlight does have a handful of hotels, casinos, and RV sites.
You’ll have enough amenities here to stock up for the next leg of your trip.
Places to Avoid in Searchlight
Searchlight is too small to have a bad part of town.
You actually have to zoom in on any map even to know it’s there.
There’s a certain social media thrill for going to hot places on the hottest day of the year, but just about every park ranger will tell you to avoid hiking in the summer unless you’re hiking a mountain at a higher elevation.
From May through September, the average highs are going to be near 100°(F) or more.
That’s in addition to a very dry climate which sucks the sweat off your body before you realize it’s happening.
Sunburns can cause second-degree burns if you aren’t careful.
I strongly urge you not to visit one of these parks without reading all the news releases and safety information on the website, plus calling the park ranger to talk about safety concerns.
Some of the best places to see are on treacherous roads.
Since some of the parks are visited as much, you won’t have the safety of crowds around you at all times.
That’s also kind of the lure, though, isn’t it?
Avoid relying on GPS for any location in this region.
It can be misleading or wrong.
Paper maps and your sense of direction will be the best options for a safe trip here.
Always check park alerts to see if trails or roads are closed due to weather damage or other issues.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Searchlight
- The Las Vegas Police (Metro) has a substation in Searchlight at 1090 Cottonwood Cove Road. You can call them at (702)297-1748.
- Always get gas wherever you can in this remote part of Nevada. Even if you just need 1/4 of a tank, it’s worth taking the time to fill up.
- Some of the backroads in the parks will require you to let some air out of your tires to be able to move forward. All drivers are encouraged to Drive Like a Tortoise, meaning to take it very slowly as you go.
- Check the Travel Nevada website for the Dirt Road Code, which offers a lot of great information about driving on dirt roads and how to keep yourself safe while respecting others and protecting the land.
- Take your time on the highways in this remote area. Too many accidents happen on these long stretches of road. The sun can blind you at times, so always have your sunglasses ready and go slow or pull over if you can’t see. If you’re riding a bike on these roads, keep at least one earbud out to listen to or trouble around you. Many semi-trucks drive these roads. In late 2022, a box truck driver hit and killed five bicyclists on the road near Searchlight.
- Summer brings the monsoon, which can churn up storms faster than you’re used to. Even a sunny day can quickly develop storms on the horizon. Lightning dangers and flash flood risks aren’t worth going into these preserved lands. Once the roads get wet, they can also become impassable, even with the best preparation.
- Do not pick wildflowers or take anything from the land here. It’s against federal laws to remove anything. If you see someone else breaking this law, report it to the park ranger’s office.
- Visiting the Kelso Sand Dunes is a great experience where you can hear the sand “sing” (although it’s much more like a guttural growl from the vibrations). The last part of this trail is strenuous. The tallest dune is 600 feet tall.
- The Lava Tube at Mojave National Preserve is incredible. This is a cavern carved by lava nearly 30,000 years ago. Unfortunately, it’s a tough road to get there. Even the NPS states, “Please note that the road approaching it is rough, and a high-clearance vehicle is recommended.”
- Always wear a life vest when you’re on Lake Mohave, no matter how skilled of a swimmer you are. Heed all wind warnings as the powerful gusts can knock over boats. If you look for drownings at Lake Mohave, you’ll be surprised to see that it’s far too common. Most of the drownings and accidents were caused by carelessness or ignoring the warnings.
NOTE: You might have noticed the different spellings of Lake Mohave and Mojave National Preserve. To make a long story short, it’s generally agreed upon that any spelling of the word west of the Colorado River is Mojave, and east of the river is Mohave. Both are correct, but the spelling will help you find the right location. There is a Lake Mojave in California, but it’s a dried-up lake with nothing around. Don’t confuse it with the Lake Mohave in Nevada.
So... How Safe Is Searchlight Really?
Searchlight gets law enforcement from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, which also covers all of Las Vegas and Clark County.
We don’t get official data from each individual location, but we can get it by zip code.
All Searchlight is in 89046.
Another challenge in answering the “Really” question is that Searchlight has such a small population that even a few crimes will make the “per 100,000 people rate” seem high.
For example, with five violent crimes in 2022, Searchlight technically has a violent crime rate almost three times the national average.
Anything more than one crime would send this town over the national average limit.
Adding to that, the crime data also doesn’t include the thousands that drive through this city every year.
We see the same thing looking at theft rates, where the “per 100,000 rate” is 5.5 times higher than the national average, even though just 27 thefts were reported.
Six of those thefts were from car break-ins.
Preparation is really the biggest safety risk here, and you’re in control of how safe it is “really.”
Plan for the worst instead of hoping for the best.
Keep water, an inflated spare tire, a roadside emergency kit, paper maps, and anything else you would need to survive a breakdown or being lost in the desert.
Know your limits and stick to them.
For the safest measure, stop by the Metro police station in town and talk to park rangers to let them know your plans.
That way, if you go missing, they at least know what to look for.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been paranoid about getting lost and forgotten.
I always checked in on social media letting everyone know where I was going and when I planned to be back.
It’s just an extra step to feel less anxious when exploring this dynamic desert.
How Does Searchlight Compare?
|Niagara Falls (Canada)||87|
|Buenos Aires (Argentina)||60|
- Visas - International visitors will be required to show proof of a passport that isn't within six months of expiring. In addition, a visa or visa waiver is needed. It depends on the visitor's home country if they are eligible for a visa waiver. Keep all of your documents in a sealed plastic bag to keep them clean for the return trip.
- Currency - You'll need to use the U.S. Dollar for all purchases. The international terminal at the airport has a Travelex location to exchange currency. Don't wait until you get to Searchlight.
- Weather - Stock up on sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, and water bottles for misting. Bring light, loose clothing. Hiking boots that are broken in will be necessary. Bring extra pairs of socks to change as you hike. Winter can be cold enough for a coat, and night temperatures will drop significantly from daytime highs.
- Airports - Searchlight is just under an hour from Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas. International flights have their own terminal, so be sure you know if you'll be using Terminal 1 or 3. The two do not connect.
- Travel Insurance - Standard travel insurance is important, but adventure insurance for the rough conditions of the desert is critical. Think of what could happen. Are you covered if your car gets stuck? If you need emergency health care?
Searchlight Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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