The Long, Lonely, and Lovely Roads of Northern Nevada

Nevada landscape

Vegas and Tahoe Draw the Crowds, But some of Nevada’s Best Travel Destinations are Between the Hot Spots – Especially if You Like to Fish!

For those who love driving lonesome roads, northern Nevada has some of the loneliest. One in southern Nevada is labeled “Loneliest in the Nation” for its miles of barren sage. But this is a different lonely among lovely mountain scenery.

The seclusion here is not sagebrush; it is simply seeing few other people. One reason is rugged terrain. Few people live here and few tourists know of it. I call it the Great Basin’s Best Kept Secret.

For instance, the road to the Bruneau River from Wild Horse Reservoir: My friend and I saw no one for 30 miles. At the river, there were a few other anglers seeking the stream’s reputed pristine virtues. But we did not catch many fish on the Bruneau, for it was high and swift even in mid-summer. We did find space and solitude. The only sounds were rushing of the river and chukar partridges calling from cliff ledges above.

Nevada Map

Another lonely sector we found was north of Wells en route to Tabor Creek. We saw no other human beings for 25 miles but we did see six buck antelope. Pronghorns love lonely country, and they had plenty of it here. The fact that we had a flat tire made it seem even more lonely. One thing about such abandoned roads: they remain in your comfort zone only if fully prepared.

A third lonely road in northern Nevada leads from the Duck Valley Indian Reservation at the town of Owyhee to Wilson Reservoir. Our adventure to Wilson included an hour on gravel without sight of another vehicle. And the three maps we carried showed no road directly accessing the reservoir. (Yet, an artificial lake has to have a dam on it; you can’t build a dam without a road. So, we kept driving.) The road led 11 miles south of the lake and then 11 miles north to reach it. That’s the way of back roads. You just go where they take you.

Wilson Reservoir, incidentally, did reward us with some good fly fishing for hard-fighting rainbow trout. I’m convinced it was so good because few people go there. Even the Nevada Wildlife Department calls it Elko County’s “most out of the way” fishing hole. Among many.

To truly be a “back road” it should be unpaved. Nevada 228 south of Elko is black top but qualifies for the above because it only goes to Jiggs (no services). Meantime, you’ve traveled alongside the majestic Ruby Mountains which might be compared to Wyoming’s Grand Tetons. They don’t rise quite as high (at some 11,400 feet elevation) but they are jagged and resplendent.

Lonely and lovely roads can be found in many places in the West. In Nevada, as elsewhere, you can get into trouble just looking at a map, or a GPS, and saying “I want to go there.” We asked dozens of people in the Silver State this question: “Is the road from (here) to (there) a decent road? “If answered in the affirmative, we also asked, “Is it passable in a regular vehicle (not four-wheel drive) on a rainy day?” Is it passable with a small trailer…which I like to take on back roads?

Best people to ask, of course, are with the U.S. Forest Service, or those who maintain remote roads. But we found many ranchers and townspeople (mostly small town people) who could answer with confidence about negotiable roadways., The postal worker in Mountain City, Nevada (no services) told me she hadn’t been out of town in 30 years. But she has advice on good fishing holes.

Of course, half the fun and adventure of driving back roads is not knowing what to expect next. Great, if no high mountain looms before you. If you do encounter something questionable, use wisdom. But consider the value of leaving the beaten path to look at new country. It might be country that few other people have seen as well as you.

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