Wells is a small railroad town situated in Town Creek Flat, a valley of the Great Basin. Peaks at the northern tip of the East Humboldt Range stand prominently over the town to the southwest, reaching elevations above 10,000 feet. Contrasting the sagebrush and grass of the hills surrounding Wells, the peaks are often snow-capped, and harbor forests of quaking aspen and evergreens. Juniper trees cover some of the lower slopes.
Just north of town lies a swampy area called Humboldt Wells. The Humboldt River, which flows through most of northern Nevada, has its source in the springs at this spot. The Humboldt River has been an important influence on the exploration and settlement of Nevada. The California Trail was the first route to pass through Wells. Later the Transcontinental Railroad took this route, which led directly to the settlement of Wells.
In the 1920s, U.S. Highway 40 was built through Wells, where numerous motels sprung up, attesting to its popularity as a stopover on this route. Today Interstate 80 passes to the south of Wells, and most travelers hurry on past, making Wells a quiet and economical place to stay. Aside from the old highway, a grid of quiet residential streets compose the center of town. Seventh Street, fronting the train tracks, sports a number of quaint old buildings dating from the era of passenger trains.
Wells lies at a junction of valleys. Clover Valley stretches to the south, along the eastern side of the East Humboldt Range. Starr Valley lies to the east beyond a ridge of low hills which are breached by the Humboldt River. Starr Valley faces the northwestern slopes of the East Humboldt Range. The Snake Mountains approach Wells just to the north, and Town Creek Flat extends to the east of this range. To the northwest lies Bishop Flats and a hilly area west of the Snake Range. Grass that is frequently green, and a healthy tint to the sagebrush indicate that the high mountain peaks contribute to a little more rain here than other surrounding areas.
A population of 1,346 people live at Wells as of 2000. U.S. Highway 93 intersects Interstate 80 at the eastern edge of town, connecting to points north and south. The elevation is 5,630.
On February 21, 2008, Wells was struck by a devastating 6.0 earthquake, which destroyed many of the buildings of the historic district and damaged most of the buildings in the city. The UntraveledRoad tour, being photographed before the quake, preserves the previous appearance of the historic district.