The northeastern Nevada city of Elko is your base camp when exploring the Ruby Mountains, Nevada’s wettest mountain range and 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 54 miles/87 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 Historic Interpretive Center, just off I-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), and 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. For a true Nevada experience, grab dinner at the famed Pine Lodge. The food is certainly something to write home about, but the décor is what makes this establishment memorable: the big game taxidermy on display around every corner! Lamoille also is home to historic Red’s Ranch, which can be reserved for conference, special events or even family gatherings. During the winter months, take advantage of one of the only heli-skiing operations in the United States at Ruby Mountain Heli. For a real adventure, stay in their yurt, positioned at 10k feet, open year round.
CATCH SOME zzz'S
TAKE ME THERE
California Trail Historic Interpretive Center
Western Folklife Center
National Cowboy Poetry Gathering
J.M. Capriola Co. and Garcia Bit & Spur Co.
Ruby Mountain Heli Experience
DAY 2: ELKO TO ANGEL LAKE, WITH SIDE TRIPS TO RUBY MOUNTAIN BREWING CO.,12 MILE HOT SPRINGS, 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. Using water from Angel Lake in their award-winning recipes, a visit to Ruby Mountain Brewing Company will make your trip to Angel Lake an immersive experience.
Once you’re back in downtown Wells refuel with the tastiest breakfast around at the legendary Bella's, then head 12 miles north to one of the best hot springs in Nevada: Bishop Creek/12 Mile Hot Spring. The road is fairly well maintained but does become extremely rutted on the last three miles. A high clearance, four-wheel drive vehicle is ideal, but you can always park your car off the side of the road and walk the last couple of miles to the source.
If you’re interested in additional side trips from Wells, head north to the living ghost town of Jarbidge, home of one of the last gold rushes as well as last stagecoach robberies in the American West. Here, visitors can relish unbelievably lush mountain scenery in this off-grid paradise, peruse the historic [and free!] Jarbidge Jail, and even try your luck at catching and releasing a highly coveted bull trout.
If you have your heart set on wildlife spotting opportunities, another side trip out of Wells lies to the south at the Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Hunting and fishing are allowed in particular areas during specific seasons on the Marsh, so be sure to check with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services prior to your visit. Also, another hot spring lies just to the north of the Marsh, Ruby Valley Hot Springs—perfect for summertime visits.
CATCH SOME zzz'S
- 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.]
TAKE ME THERE
Ruby Mountain Brewing Company
Bishop Creek/12 Mile Hot Spring
Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Ruby Valley Hot Springs