Nevada Travel Journal
This past week, we embarked on an incredible road trip through beautiful and diverse landscapes of the high desert region in Northeast Nevada. With some overnight camping combined with day trips and sunset hikes, Elko, Nevada, would serve as our home base for our adventures. Elko has a regional airport that Delta Airlines services, but you can also fly into either Reno or Salt Lake City, Utah, and drive from there. We chose to fly from Vancouver to Salt Lake City and make the 3-hour drive to Elko. Tip: We definitely recommend renting a 4x4/high-clearance vehicle so you can take advantage of anything that requires you to go off-road.
Once we arrived in Elko, we checked into the Red Lion Hotel and settled in. As per our plan, the next morning we were going to hike into the Ruby Mountains and camp overnight so we spent some time getting our camping gear organized. If you realize you need camping supplies for your overnight hike(s), CAL Ranch is a great supply store to get what you need. We went there to pick up some gas for our Jet Boil that we used to boil water and cook our dehydrated meals. In the early evening, we drove to the trailhead (and saw lots of deer along the way) and hiked in about a half hour or so to get an idea of what to expect and to access conditions for the following day. It was a particularly big snow year, so there was snow in certain parts of the hike which added to the adventure.
The next day, we had breakfast then made our way to the trailhead with our backpacks. It was a beautiful sunny day, and this is not a particularly busy trail or park, which made for a quiet, relaxing hike. That being said, anyone that we did walk by was very friendly. From what we gathered, we were the only ones doing an overnight, with the exception of one lone hiker who continued along further than we did. Most people were locals that were just doing a day hike, in and out. There was even one guy who passed by us with his snowboard! He hiked to the top and snowboarded his way back down following along the areas where a lot of snow remained.
Along the hiking trail (which was very well-maintained), we passed by streams, snowy patches, a few beautiful lakes (Dollar Lakes and Lamoille Lake) before we reached an area that we deemed perfect as our campsite. Before coming to that conclusion, we did continue onto the top (Liberty Pass) to look over to Liberty Lake on the other side, but we still found our initial site was the best choice. Without stopping too much, the trailhead to Liberty Pass was about 2.5 hours. When we got back down to this site, we set up our tent, gathered some firewood (dry pieces from dead or fallen trees), and grabbed a pile of nearby snow to keep our water and wine cold. We then scoped out a spot to shoot sunset. We decided to scramble up the rocky face right in front of us up to the peak. Once we got to the top, the 360-view proved well worth the effort. As the sun went down, so did we, and we safely made our way back down to the camp. There we started our fire (within a ring of rocks previously used by others as a fire pit), ate dinner, and enjoyed our personal-sized bottles of ice-cold white wine. A perfect way to end the day... but it wasn’t over yet! We easily got lost gazing into the infinitive twinkling stars above us, and because it was such a clear night, even the Milky Way was easily visible to us. Needless to say, we kept the fly off of the tent and dozed off staring at the sky above.
The next morning, we got up at the crack of dawn when our eyes caught a glimpse of the beautiful pink sky. We started a fire to warm up while we ate breakfast and around this time, we looked up the mountain a ways and made eye contact with two large mountain goats. Such amazing creatures! They carried on their way, while we began to pack up our camp. The best part about camping near snow is that it was a great tool to make extra sure the fire was extinguished when I smothered the remaining ash in piles of snow.
Once we packed up (leaving no trace, of course), we hiked back down, once again encountering friendly day-hikers along the way. We loaded up the car, then headed back to the
hotel to unpack, refresh, refuel and regroup. We should note that this particular hike is part of the Ruby Crest Trail - a 43-mile trail that winds its way through the Ruby Mountains. We definitely want to come back and do just that one day.
If you plan to stay in Elko and are out adventuring all day, you’ll find that most restaurants are closed by the time you get back late in the evening, but the two grocery stores have plenty of options for you to refuel. If you do make it back in time, there are plenty of dinner spots steeped in Elko’s cowboy and Basque sheepherder roots with generous portions and a drink to wash it all down!
Next on our agenda was a place for sunset. While driving along later that day, we found a dirt road and followed it along to Elko Summit. Here the sky lit up and we got a great view of the town below and surrounding mountains.
The next day, Angel Lake was our destination. This alpine lake is 59 miles from Elko, situated at an elevation of 8,300 ft up in the East Humboldt Range. The final stretch of the drive consists of a 12-mile winding road with views that got better after every turn. Angel Lake itself was right out of a fairytale. A beautiful round lake surrounded by mountains, wildflowers and breathtaking waterfalls. Like the other places we’d visited so far, it wasn’t crazy busy, which is a common theme in this part of Nevada. Sunbathing, swimming, hiking, cliff-jumping, floating, fishing, and camping were among the many different activities we saw people engaging in. After hiking along the waterfall and taking a refreshing dip into the lake ourselves, we continued on to the last item on our list... a natural hot spring within the Ruby Valley.
A local told us about a particularly hard-to-find hot spring that if we managed to find it, would be well worth the trip. We succeeded. Out of respect for the locals and one of their best-kept-secrets, we won’t say where it is, but if you do your research, you may be able to get there yourself. I will say, this is one of the times having a 4x4 vehicle was necessary, don’t even attempt this road without a 4x4 or if its been raining, the road is extremely rough and bumpy. This hot spring was the perfect size, the perfect temperature, situated in perfect surroundings. After having it to ourselves for about a half hour, a few friendly locals joined in for a quick dip to also take in the sunset. We decided to leave just before sunset, before it got too dark - like I said, it wasn’t easy to get to and definitely off the map, so we wanted to make sure we found our way back. After the hour drive, we made it back safely and after a relaxing soak in a natural hot spring, you can guess we slept like babies. The next day, it was time to check out and make our way back to Salt Lake City for our flight back home.
So many little adventures along our road trip in Nevada, but we barely scratched the surface. There’s so much to see and do there, yet I don’t think people have realized it.
With something for everyone, this area is definitely a place I recommend checking out for yourself!
This post was produced in partnership with Travel Mindset and Travel Nevada, as always all thoughts and opinions are my own.