Nevada is remote terrain with only 24.6 people per square mile. Mountain ranges loom in the distance, appearing craggy and dry, against an absolute blue sky, and flat basins stretch for miles with nothing but tumbleweeds and sagebrush. Anyone with an adventurous spirit can veer from the lonely highways that bisect the state to discover remote campgrounds where wild horses roam, red-tail hawks hunt and water flows. Vast tracks of public lands make such remote places accessible for desert camping, and a topographical app uploaded to your GPS makes them easier to find.
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A Bureau of Land Management campground, Tabor Creek (recreation.gov) is northwest of Wells, Nevada where immigrant wagon trains once stopped to water their oxen. From Wells, you head north on the mostly gravel Upper Metropolis Road for 30 miles and follow signs to Tabor Creek. At an elevation of 6,000 feet you’ll find ten well-spaced campsites with picnic tables, fire-rings and vault toilets. Trails follow the canyon where you can mountain bike, hike and fish. You’ll need to bring your own water and pay a $2.00 fee. The campground is open seasonally, mid-April through late November.
Battle Mountain is a hub for extreme outdoor activities because of its remoteness, including the BLM campground at Mill Creek (recreation.gov). In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps used this site as a work camp. You’ll find 11 tent campsites, picnic tables, grills, vault toilets and no drinking water. Camping is free and you can hike or bike Mill Creek Canyon and explore the nearby ghost town of Galena. Follow State Route 305 south of Battle Mountain 20 miles until you see a turnoff sign for Mill Creek Recreation Area. Follow the gravel road four miles to the campground.
The U.S. Forest Service campground at Pine Creek (publiclands.org) sits in the shadow of Mount Jefferson, which is 11,900 feet tall and regarded as a unique extreme environment. You can hike into the Alta Toquima Wilderness Area from Pine Creek campground which has trees, ten campsites, vault toilets and no water or fees. To get there from Tonapah, go east on U.S. 6 to the State Road 376 junction and turn left. Continue north for approximately 13 miles to State Road 82 junction towards Belmont. Remain on State Road 82 through Belmont until Forest Road 420. Turn left and continue on FR 420 to FR 009. Turn left and continue west into the campground.
Jarbidge Ranger District
You will discover that merely driving to historic Jarbidge -- Nevada's remotest town -- is an adventure. Along the Jarbidge River, another U.S. Forest Service campground named Pine Creek (publiclands.org), has five campsites, fire-rings, vault toilets, but no water. The campground is free and open from June 1 to October 31. Beyond the campground is the Jarbidge Wilderness Area which protects some of the remotest land in the nation. To get to this Pine Creek campground, head north out of Elko, Nevada on State Road 225 toward Mountain City 56 miles and turn right on Elko County Route 746 and continue for 24 miles until Elko County 748. Follow the road north to Forest Road 752 and turn left. This road is closed in winter.
Dispersed, primitive camping (blm.gov) prevails as the ultimate outpost, extending beyond gravel roads, vault toilets and grated fire-rings. The Bureau of Land Management public lands are open to camping, which is Nevada’s hallmark. You can create your own remote campground, following the principles of “leave no trace,” which means camp with the least amount of impact on an area. Set up your tent on durable surfaces at least 200 feet from creeks and lakes, pack out what you pack in and make sure your campfires are completely out before moving on.
Most of the roads that lead to remote campgrounds in Nevada are gravel, and some are 4WD trails, so drive a vehicle with good clearance. Fuel up when you have the chance, and bring along a fuel can of gasoline if you plan on exploring the back roads. Rain, although rare, can muddy or washout roads. Finally, carry a topographical map that displays the terrain because remote means you can’t stop and ask for directions should you take the wrong dirt road. You can purchase topo maps for your GPS device, request campground coordinates or order print copies from the Bureau of Land Management.