By Wendy Fuell
Mountain City District Ranger, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
When you find yourself with free time on a weekend or when you have a vacation to plan, one great and affordable get away is to pack up the camping gear and head for Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest’s campgrounds. Even if you only have time for an overnight trip, there are several beautiful camping spots in the Ruby Mountains, East Humboldt, Jarbidge, and Mountain City areas that don’t require much travel time.
The Mountain City Ranger District has three main campgrounds, Wildhorse Crossing, Big Bend, and Jack Creek. Wildhorse and Big Bend are fee campgrounds and cost $5 and $8 per night, respectively. The fees collected go back to the campgrounds to make improvements, provide camp hosts, and maintain the sites.
Wildhorse Crossing is easily accessible off the Mountain City Highway (SR 225), and is next to the Owyhee River where many people enjoy fishing, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, and mountain biking.
Big Bend is reached via the Gold Creek Road (Elko County Road 745), and is a great base camp for those who enjoy riding their ATVs and dirt-ready motorcycles on the miles of Forest and County roads. Sunflower Flat, Meadow Creek, Merritt Mountain, and the Bruneau River are among the local’s favorites. An excellent longer trip will take riders to Jarbidge. Big Bend is also a great campground for mountain bikers, horse riders, hikers, and anyone else who enjoys the peace, quiet, and beauty of an off- the beaten path.
The Jack Creek Campground is free to all and is a small, relatively undeveloped campground on the banks of Jack Creek in a beautiful drainage below Jack’s Peak and north of the Independence Mountains. Opportunities abound for just about any outdoor sport one can imagine.
The Ruby and East Humboldt Mountains have several campgrounds and picnic areas run by the concessionaire, “Scenic Canyons.” The staff of this company maintains the campgrounds, day-use areas, water systems, and all other day-to-day operations associated with the facilities and sites. Fees at these locations go to staff for cleaning and maintenance to keep everything neat and in tip-top shape.
Lamoille Canyon, sometimes called “the other Yosemite,” and a true jewel in the Ruby Mountains, is home to the Thomas Canyon Campground at the mouth of a spectacular rocky and steep canyon. A hiking trail is suitable for anyone with strong legs and lungs who wish to access the high-alpine country. Hikers may be rewarded with sightings of mountain goats and Himalayan snowcock if they hike up high enough and keep a sharp eye on the above cliffs and ridges.
Some sites at Thomas Canyon Campground may be reserved and some are first-come, first-served. Both tent and RV-suitable campsites are available, with drinking water, but no hookups. Thomas Creek enters Lamoille Creek at the campground and is a welcome sight when you arrive at your campsite after a big hike into the mountains above the campground.
Powerhouse Picnic Area is at the bottom of Lamoille Canyon, near Spring Creek and the town of Lamoille. This area can be used from dawn to dusk for family picnics; a group site is often reserved for weddings, reunions, and other functions. You may enjoy lovely views up and down the canyon, as well as cool water near your picnic site. The Lamoille Creek runs from high in the mountains, through the picnic area, and into the below valley.
Scenic Canyons also maintains the Terraces Picnic Area, a lovely day-use area, approximately two miles below Road’s End, where the paved road ends at the top of Lamoille Canyon. This picnic area is in the heart of the steep, rugged, and rocky cliffs of the canyon and has spectacular views in all directions.
Drive to Road’s End to take a hike toward Lamoille, Liberty, and Favre Lakes to earn your picnic lunch when you return to take a much-deserved rest at Terraces. The South Ruby Campground is a unique, quiet campground surrounded by pinyon pines and juniper trees for shade and is just above the Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Opportunities abound for fishing, kayaking, canoeing, relaxing, and enjoying a view of the marshes.
In the East Humboldt’s, there are two main campgrounds run by Scenic Canyons, Angel Lake and Angel Creek. Both are accessible via the Angel Lake Road (SR 231), and just above the town of Wells. Angel Creek is best for both tents and RVs. A picnic area is nestled in the aspens at the heart of the Angel Creek Campground with a large picnic table and grill. Both Angel Lake and Angel Creek have drinking water.
Angel Lake can accommodate tents and smaller trailers; the paved road, however, is steep and winding, so use caution if you are hauling a large trailer or fifth wheel. This campground has several picnic sites, each with grills and tables, in the aspens and at the edge of the lake. Angel Lake is a small man-made lake that sits in a beautiful alpine basin with steep cliffs above and aspen trees around the edge. A one-mile hiking trail leads to Smith Lake, which is situated just to the northwest of Angel Lake. Stretch your legs on this trail, see another spectacular natural alpine lake in a beautiful basin, and watch for goats and bighorn sheep.
The Jarbidge Ranger District has two free campgrounds, Pine Creek and Slide Creek. Both are small, primitive, remote campgrounds with fire rings and tables, and can accommodate smaller trailers or RVs. Pine Creek , in particular, is near the end of a narrow and rocky road with a difficult turnaround; scout it out ahead of time if you have a larger trailer. Drinking water is not available at either location, so bring your own water or a purifier. Both campgrounds are wonderful places to tent camp.
The Pine Creek Campground is located along the Jarbidge River with a nearby trailhead to access the Jarbidge Wilderness via Snowslide Gulch. The Slide Creek Campground sits near the springs where Slide Creek begins. This campground’s amenities include small corrals with a large parking area for horses and trailers. Horses are not allowed in the campground. The Slide Creek Trailhead is right next to the campground, and Hummingbird Springs Trailhead is also nearby. Many roads invite unlimited exploring with mountain bikes, ATVs, or 4WD vehicles in both areas. The town of Jarbidge is just north of Pine Creek.
So, the next time you have a couple of days or a week to spare in northeast Nevada, consider heading out to your National Forest campgrounds for a relaxing and fun outdoor adventure. For more information, visit our website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/htnf/, or contact the Mountain City Ranger District at 775-738-5171 or the Ruby Mountains-Jarbidge Ranger District at 775-752-3357.
The Humboldt-Toiyabe is the largest National Forest in the lower 48 states, and is the only National Forest in Nevada. Its 6.2 million acres are mostly spread across the scenic higher mountain elevations and cross into the Eastern Sierra of California. These spectacular lands are your lands, and afford multiple recreation opportunities for all seasons.