The northeastern Nevada city of Elko is your base camp when exploring the Ruby Mountains, Nevada’s wettest mountain range. It's the perfect playground for hiking, fishing and photography; and in winter, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. One of the jewels of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, the Ruby Mountains are a steep and rugged range capped by the 11,387-foot (3,470-meter) Ruby Dome. In winter, many of the roads at higher elevation are closed due to snow, so plan your trip accordingly.
From Elko to scenic Lamoille Canyon Road, 22 miles/35 kilometers; Plus another 12 miles/19 kilometers on Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway. Check out the map HERE.
From Elko to Angel Lake and Ruby Mountain Brewing Company, ending at Wells. 73 miles/117 kilometers. Check out the map HERE
- Day 1: Elko to Lamoille Canyon
- Day 2: Elko to Angel Lake, with side trips to Ruby Mountain Brewing Co.,12 Mile Hot Springs, Jarbidge and Ruby Lake National Widlife Refuge
DAY 1: ELKO TO LAMOILLE CANYON
Start your trip in Elko, famous for its cowboy and ranching traditions, and home to the Western Folklife Center, which presents the annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering every January. On your way into town, swing by the California Trail Interpretive Center, just off Interstate 80 on the western edge of Elko. Here, visitors can learn the stories of pioneers who endured this 2,000-mile trek.
If time allows, check out the Western Folklife Center office, which has the Wiegand Gallery, featuring Western-themed exhibits; a 20-seat black-box theater, where you can watch a 16-minute video about cowboy song; and a gift shop.
Head across the street to J.M. Capriola, a Western-wear business dating back to the 1920s to see saddles being made in the store’s small, second-story workshop.
Head out of town on Nevada state Route 227 (Lamoille Highway). This 22-mile (35 km) drive takes you through the residential community of Spring Creek before you make a right onto Forest Service Road 660 (Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway). This 12-mile (19 km) paved road cuts through a glacier-carved canyon that is a photographer’s favorite for its fall colors and spring waterfalls. There are places to pull over your vehicle on the drive, including one that leads to an interpretive trail that passes by a small pond and beaver dam. Lamoille Creek, which flows near the road in many places, is a popular place for stream fishing.
The scenic drive ends at 8,800 feet (2,438 meters). This upper part of Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway is closed in winter due to snow. During the more temperate seasons, hikers can access several trails from the terminus of the Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway, including trails to Lamoille Lake and a multitude of other alpine lakes the Rubies are known for, as well as the Ruby Crest Trail. Cowboy John Tours out of Elko offers a Ruby Crest Trail Shuttle Service.
On the drive back to Elko, if time allows, you may want to take the one-mile detour into the tiny community of Lamoille, population 105, according to 2010 Census data. Here, along Lamoille Highway, is the picturesque Lamoille Presbyterian Church, one of the most photographed locations in Elko County. Grab dinner at the Pine Lodge for a hearty meal and an eyeful of big game taxidermy. Lamoille also is home to historic Red’s Ranch, which can be reserved for conferences, special events or family gatherings. During the winter months, take advantage of one of the only heli-skiing operations in the United States at Ruby Mountains Heli-Experience. The business also offers yurt accommodations at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), open year-round.
CATCH SOME ZZZs
DAY 2: ELKO TO ANGEL LAKE AND RUBY MOUNTAIN BREWING CO. PLUS INFO ON JARBIDGE AND RUBY LAKE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Angel Lake, a mountain lake in the East Humboldt Range just north of the Rubies and also part of the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest, is your goal today.
From Elko, head east on Interstate 80 about 48 miles (77 km) to the junction with Nevada state Route 231 (Angel Lake Road). This paved road winds up the east side of the East Humboldt Range before ending at the Angel Lake Recreation Area. At 8,500 feet (2,591 meters), this area is closed during the winter due to snow.
When the road is clear, you’ll want to schedule time to explore Angel Lake, a natural body of water that was dammed in 1900 to create an irrigation system still in use today. Fishing is allowed (rainbow, brook and tiger trout), as well as non-motorized boating. Look to the south for a glimpse of Chimney Rock, a rock spire that serves as a local landmark. Here, you’ll find trailheads to Smith Lake and Winchell Lake, as well as a picnic area, restrooms and a campground. Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep, mountain goats, mule deer and pronghorn antelope.
On your way back down the mountain into Wells, take note of Angel Creek running down into the valley toward the east. In the foothills, you’ll spot a picturesque white ranch, also known as Ruby Mountain Brewing Company. This is a working ranch, but owner Steve Safford allows appointment-only tours.
Head back to the city of Wells. From here, you can head back to Elko, or explore these other areas:
Jarbidge. This living ghost town is about 145 miles (233 miles) from Wells, very close to Nevada's border with Idaho. Jarbidge may be one of our closest ties to the Wild West: one of the last gold rushes took place here, as well as one of the last stagecoach robberies.Visitors can relish lush mountain scenery, peruse the historic (and free!) Jarbidge Jail, and even try their luck at catching and releasing a bull trout.
Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is 80 miles (129 kilometers) south of Wells. Hunting and fishing are allowed in particular areas during specific seasons on Ruby Marsh, so be sure to check with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services prior to your visit.
CATCH SOME ZZZs
- Super 8 Wells, I-80 Exit 353, Wells, 775-401-6636, http://bit.ly/1WLePFD
- Angel Lake Campground - reserve your site at Recreation.gov here
- Outdoor Inn, Main St., Jarbidge, 775-488-2311. [Phone reservations only, no booking website.]
TravelNevada PRO TIP: While adventuring our great big state remember to travel prepared to surivive, Loneliest Road in America or not. With so much room to explore, you'll likely be covering a lot of ground. Be sure to plan ahead and carry extra fuel, water, snacks and even a paper map, and pay attention to amenity opportunities along the way. Often times, it might just be your last chance to refuel, grab a bite to eat, use a restroom or catch some ZZZ's. And hey, it might be a good idea to call ahead to check on room availability or campsite reservations and plan your gas stops prior to hitting the pavement. While you're at it, also remember that a lot of these off grid gems are in fact small towns; don't expect restaurants to be open late, regardless of advertising online or even billboards you encounter as you ramble on. Nothing beats a good ol' fashioned phone call, especially if it can curb some serious heartbreak after discovering your favorite burger joint isn't open. Nevada is an incredible place to redefine your sense of freedom, but remember that a lot of our favorite haunts are most certainly remote in the most satisfying of ways. Take advantage of places to stop when you can get 'em. Our road trip rundowns should help get you off and running, but are a far cry from every place to see and do along this amazing route. Peruse this itinerary for some road trip inspiration, and customize your #NVRoadTrip by planning ahead and building out your very own itinerary in the toolbar above. Use that noggin out there, happy and safe exploring!