Duke and I just got back from 8 days and 1500 miles exploring central and eastern Nevada. We never drove on a paved road when we could drive on a dirt road. We had a grand adventure. Nevada is a stunningly beautiful and interesting state and we had it pretty much to ourselves. We would drive for hours and not see another vehicle.
Day 1 – Reno to Berlin Ichthyosaur State Park
Day one was mainly on paved roads heading east on interstate 80 and then highway 50 (which is billed as the loneliest road in the world) through Fallon. We stopped at Grimes Point Archaeological site to see the petroglyphs painted on the rocks by Native Americans sometime between 5000 BC and 1500 AD.
The first night we camped at Berlin Ichthyosaur State Park, a very interesting park. Berlin is a mining ghost town with lots of old buildings and mine equipment to look at.
In the same park not far from Berlin we saw the fossil remains of ichthyosaurs. Fossils of forty of these ancient marine reptiles have been excavated at this site.
Day 2 – Berlin Ichthyosaur State Park to Ely, Nevada
We were cozy in our tent but we woke up to snow on the ground. In spite of the fact that we had a nice blazing fire my fingers were frozen by the time we had eaten breakfast and packed up .
Following the dotted and fine red lines in our Benchmark Nevada Road and Recreation Atlas we headed generally east. We saw the Round Mountain Gold Mine and Hadley the biggest company town in Nevada. In this picture of a woman and a girl roping a calf you can see the gold mine in the background.
We stop fairly frequently to stretch and look around. Duke always likes to look for interesting rocks. You can see him collecting in this picture.
We drove through the town of Manhattan and eventually got to Belmont. Belmont is now pretty much a ghost town but the old court house built in 1878 before the town was abandoned is a state historic site.
Because of the cold we decided to sleep inside.We headed through a beautiful green canyon called Hat Creek Canyon, opening and closing gates as we went and eventually hit pavement at highway 6 and headed in to Ely for the night.
Day 3 – Ely to Great Basin National Park
We stopped a few miles south of Ely at Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historical Park. The rock work in these charcoal ovens is beautiful. They were built in the late 1800's to make charcoal and are 35 feet tall.
In Great Basin National Park we did a hike in the snow up Timber Creek from the Baker Creek Trail head. I lost my GPS last winter after the last snow shoe hike of the year. Very upsetting! When I went to put on my winter boots for our hike guess what I found in my boot? Yep, my GPS! All I could do was laugh.
After our hike we headed to the Hidden Canyon Guest Ranch where we had reservations. It backs up to the park and it turned out to be one my top 5 best bed and breakfasts I have every stayed at. The canyon in which it sits is an oasis of green that you drop down into after you leave the highway and head off across the desert. The lodge and rooms are beautiful and the owners were very welcoming and friendly. They served a great dinner and breakfast. There is a long staircase up to the rim of the canyon behind the lodge. We climbed to the top and savored the view.
Day 4 Great Basin National Park
On Tuesday we spent the day at Great Basin. A lot of the snow had melted but the road up Wheeler peak to the 10,000 foot level was closed. We drove into the south end of the park and hiked to Lexington Arch. It was a beautiful day, the views were fantastic and we had the trail to ourselves.
Tuesday night we camped in the Baker Creek Camp ground. It was still cold and we had the campground pretty much to ourselves but the wind was much lower than the first night we camped and our fire was wonderful.
Day 5 Great Basin National Park to Ely, Nevada
On Wednesday we headed back to Ely. There are a lot of very interesting things to do in and around Ely. First we drove through Cave Lake State Park and up the valley on the Success Summit Loop. In addition to being beautiful this is an area that apparently has a lot of deer and elk. They were all in hiding though because it is hunting season and we saw a lot of hunters. We also saw that the hunters at least in some cases had been successful.
We went to an overlook to see part of the enormous Robinson open pit Copper mine. The scale is indescribable.
Day 6 – Ely Nevada
Thursday was another day in Ely. There really is a lot to do there. The railway museum is one of the best I have ever seen. Several years ago Kennecott the then owner of the Nevada Northern Railway gave the whole railroad and all it equipment and 32 miles tracks to the state of Nevada. It is now the Nevada Northern Railway National Historic Landmark. We got to wander around the East Ely yard. I'm going to quote the walking tour guide because it gets the experience exactly right.
"It's an operating historical railroad. It's gritty. It's dirty. It smells of coal smoke, creosote and sweat"
It was very cool!!
After exploring the Northern Nevada Railway yard we drove out to the Garnet Fields rockhound area to look for garnet. We had lots of fun collecting rocks that look to us like they might contain garnet. We really have no idea but the guide pamphlet says
"The garnets usually occur as single crystals attached to small cavities known as vugs or vesicles within the rhyolite…. carefully break the rock to see what is inside"
We brought a lot of rocks home and will be doing the breaking maybe tomorrow.
From the Garnet fields we went to the White Pine County Public Museum. I love small county museums. They are full of lots of interesting stuff and are very real and approachable. The White Pine museum has a replica of a fossil cave bear skeleton that was found nearby. It also had a 1940s era washing machine that reminded Duke of what his Mom used when he was little, a toy cattle truck like Duke played with when he was little and even a coke machine like the one we have in our kitchen.
Day 7 - Ely to Elko
On Saturday we drove to Elko through the Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge and the Ruby Mountains. The drive up Lamoille Canyon into the heart of the Ruby Mountains was stunning. The glacial scenery reminded me of being in the Alps. I love Nevada scenery but this was not like the rest of Nevada. It was a highlight of the trip.
In Elko we ate dinner at one of Elko's Basque dinner houses – Biltoki. It was the best meal of the trip and we had some very good food. The steak was thick juicy, and seared on the outside. the fries were hot and fresh and I'm sure had never been frozen, the vegies, soup and salad were OK and the price was very reasonable.
Day 8 – Elko to Reno (home)
Before leaving Elko we toured the Northeastern Nevada Museum another really interesting local museum. My favorite things to see were the wooden strap on shoes with cattle hooves attached to the bottom used by an old cattle rustler who was eventually caught and jailed. The picture below is me in front of the Ruby Valley Pony Express Cabin in front of the museum.
If you would like to see all the pictures from our trip they are on Flickr here.
I've also made a Google Map of the trip. I'm still learning to use Google maps.
One thought on “Exploring the back roads of Middle and Eastern Nevada”
This trip sounds amazing!
My friend and I are going to do a backroad trip in Nevada the first week of June and I’m really curious to drive into the Ruby Mountains, I’ve heard such wonderful things.
Thanks for your review.