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Nevada's public lands have trails galore for four-wheeling fanatics.
Photo: Gary A. Reese (River Mountains); Charlie Ekburg (Elko area, left)
Las Vegas residents Gary Clinard and his wife, Sallie, have been avid all-terrain vehicle riders for 17 years. They have traversed much of the Western United States and seven foreign countries on four wheels, but they still consider Nevada the land of off-road bliss. “While most of Nevada lacks the thick forests found in some places, it probably provides the most access to public land,” Gary says.
The Clinards, who founded Vegas’ Dunes and Trails ATV Club, would know. Along with four friends, they recently completed a six-day, 640-mile round trip from Pioche to Jackpot on their ATVs—with no support vehicle. The group camped overnight and stayed in motels in Ely, Lund, Preston, and Wells.
Sure, the six friends covered a lot of real estate, but their excursion represents the tip of the sand dune when it comes to ATVing in Nevada. And, depending on where you ride, you might think you’re the only one who knows Nevada’s dirty little “secret.” “Outside of the towns, we saw only one person in the entire six days of riding,” Gary boasts with a dusting of wide-open-Nevada pride.
Following is information on a few of Nevada’s highly regarded ATV areas. The ATV is not your bag? No problem. There are hiking, biking, horseback, motorcycle, and 4x4 trails aplenty.
In June, the Elko Convention and Visitors Authority introduced the “Gem of Nevada Trails System,” three trails that surround Elko, a northeastern Nevada town off Interstate 80. The off-highway vehicle trail system was made official after the convention authority, Bureau of Land Management, USDA Forest Service, and local groups teamed for years to mark each trail with kiosks containing maps, global positioning system locations, and information regarding trail usage.
One of the areas is the Merritt Mountain/Sunflower Flat route about 80 miles north of Elko starting at Wild Horse Reservoir off State Route 225. From Gold Creek Road, riders weave through Sunflower Flat before an ascent into the aspens and pines that grow around Telephone Creek. You can stop at the mining ghost towns of Pats Ville and Rio Tinto, then climb Merritt Mountain, elevation 8,789 feet. Riders are rewarded with a stunning view of the surrounding mountains before finishing the 68-mile trail.
The second route is centered around Spruce Mountain, located 37 miles south of Wells (50 miles east of Elko) off U.S. 93. Access is seasonal, as the trail starts at the desert floor and rises to more than 10,000 feet. Off-roaders pass the mining ghost town of Spruce Mountain and its abandoned structures and equipment.
If you’re looking for a nonmotorized-use trail and would rather not stray too far from the city limits, the Hamilton/Bullion route begins three miles outside of Elko—south of Bullion Road between Elko and South Fork State Recreation Area. Accessible to horses, hikers, and mountain bikers, the trail passes by the old Oil Shale Mine and offers panoramic views of Elko and South Fork Reservoir.
In May, Elko hosted its third annual ATV Jamboree, featuring trail-riding tours and a parade and rodeo.
The Silver State Trail, a nationally designated, protected, and funded OHV route, became official in late 2004 when the Lincoln County Public Lands Bill was passed. The trail system covers approximately 260 miles round trip from Caliente Summit on the south end to Mount Grafton on the north. Three trailheads are located near the Chief Mountain Area, two of which are located off U.S. 93 at mile markers 77 and 85. The towns of Caliente, Panaca, and Pioche are close to the trail.
The route was created for leisurely, family-oriented ATV riding, says Cory Lytle, a Lincoln County resident who worked with the BLM to write the management plan. “The difficulty on the trail is quite mild,” Lytle says. “It’s basically a scenic OHV trail.” Lytle notes that riders will cross various high-desert landscapes and can camp at the trailheads.
The Clinards, who also worked with the BLM to select a route and provide GPS information, were instrumental in getting the public lands bill passed. In conjunction with the Dunes and Trails Club, the Clinards are coordinating with the BLM to establish more campgrounds and trailheads on the route. Outside of the hard work, the Clinards make time for play on their ATVs. A majority of that playtime is on Lincoln County trails. “We visit decaying ghost towns, old stone and brick kilns, played-out mines, forgotten cemeteries, corrals built long ago of stone, and Native American art sites,” Gary says.
Gary also points to the rock formations, fossils, hidden springs, surprising oases, and great vistas as reasons to ride in Lincoln County. It’s also possible to spot wild horses, turkeys, elk, deer, and antelope along the way, and Gary adds that most Lincoln County towns welcome ATV riders.
Elko Convention & Visitors Authority
Ely Field Office (BLM)
Silver State Trail Project
Remember to stay on designated roads and trails, camp where it’s allowed, and practice the Leave No Trace principles (visit lnt.org for more information).
WORTH A TREK
Black Rock/High Rock
Location: Northeast of Gerlach
What: 800 miles of designated trails (dunes are off limits to motorized travel).
Contact: Friends of Black Rock/High Rock; blackrockfriends.org; 775-557-2900
Location: East of Fallon off U.S. 50
(Sand Mountain Recreation Area)
What: 5,000 acres of trails near one of the highest dunes in the United States.
Contact: Carson City Field Office (BLM); 775-885-6000
Location: North of Las Vegas off I-15, exit 58
What: All the sand you can ride on, 15 minutes from the Strip.
Contact: Las Vegas Field Office (BLM); 702-515-5000
Logandale Trails System
Location: North of Las Vegas off I-15, exit 93
What: You’ll be sold once you view the Valley of Fire’s red sandstone.
Contact: Las Vegas Field Office (BLM); 702-515-5000
Nevada Magazine asked ATV club members to share their thoughts on why the Silver State is a great place to ride. Bruce Cooper of At Large ATV in Churchill County and Dave Faulk from Renner ATV Riders in Fallon responded:
“Riding an ATV allows me to explore the trails through Nevada’s open wilderness, reaching places that I never would have reached otherwise. Churchill county and the surrounding areas offer some great opportunities for ATVing and high-desert exploring. You can follow the trails of the pioneers in the infamous 40-mile desert, climb mountain ranges with views from near 10,000 feet, and discover ghost towns and mining camps. The best part of riding in the back country is putting along and enjoying the natural beauty of Nevada—and the chance to be alone with your thoughts.”
— Bruce Cooper
“Why is Nevada such a great state to ride ATVs in?:
- Because there are so many unique things to see once you leave the highway and hit the trails.
- Nevada allows riding on most public lands, so the riding areas are almost endless.
- Areas that look uninteresting and boring from the highway come alive with beautiful and historic sites once you ride the routes traveled by the pioneers on their horses and covered wagons.
- Being the state with the most mountain ranges, the terrain is ever-changing and interesting.
- You don’t have to worry about rain too much!”
— Dave Faulk