Giant structures stand sentinel over a landscape ripe with adventure. 

Tucked back in the Egan Mountains about 30 miles south of Ely—and an hour from Great Basin National Park—is Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park. As you approach, you’ll spot its six massive beehive-shaped charcoal ovens peeking over the hills, a sign you’re in for a very different state park experience.

The ovens date back to 1876, when they were used to turn pinyon pine and juniper into charcoal, which was crucial to the smelters used in ore processing for the nearby Ward Mining District. After the mining boom ended, the ovens were abandoned but used by travelers as shelter and—according to legend— a hiding place for stagecoach bandits. The state was given the land in 1969 and designated it a historic monument. Ward Charcoal Ovens became a state park in 1994.

Today, the ovens are open for self-guided tours, and the kids are very likely to test which of the 30-foot-tall beehive structures has the best acoustics. The park is still surrounded by pinyon and juniper forests—plus lots of sagebrush—and there are many camping options including two large pull-through spots. Even if you’re not staying a few days, make sure to stop at one of the day-use areas after viewing the ovens for a picnic. Grills, restrooms, and endless views await. 

With this state park as your base camp, many recreational opportunities await in the surrounding hills. For the anglers in your party, the park’s own Willow Creek is stocked with rainbow, German brown, and brook trout. Hikers and mountain bikers have their pick between seven nearby trails, each with varying degrees of difficulty, that can be chained together for a longer excursion. This is also an excellent trailhead for OHV exploration, and the thousands of acres of surrounding Bureau of Land Management land will have you returning every year.  

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