U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Humboldt National Forest


Custom Search

Forest Information

The Humboldt National Forest (of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests) is located in several areas of Nevada that stretch from the north-central part of the state down to east-central Nevada. It is comprised of 2,478,902 acres and has 18 developed campgrounds of which eight meet the selection criteria.

Nevada is a flat land of scorching desert and bone dry alkali flats, with a splash of glitter from Las Vegas. At least that's what most people imagine at the mention of the state's name. Since the earliest explorers: men like Father Francisco Garces, a Franciscan priest; the trapper/explorer, Jedediah Smith; and Captain John C. Fremont, people seem to think Nevada is a place to pass through and not much for visiting. That is sad for there are some delightful surprises to be discovered in Humboldt National Forest in its topography, recreational, and camping locations.

The Humboldt National Forest has mountain ranges with names like Ruby, Horse, Grant, Independence, and Santa Rosa. Such names illustrate the state's history. First explored by the Spanish, later settled by Anglos after the War Between the States, mining and ranching is Nevada's economic mainstays then and now. What the names of these mountain ranges do not speak of are the hidden stands of shimmering Aspen, the wondrous surprise of a clear, cool mountain lake, or breathtaking vistas found from the lofty heights of these and sister mountains. These are just a few of the special delights to be discovered in the Humboldt National Forest.

In the eastern portion of the Humboldt is the Ely Ranger District. Only a five to six-hour drive from Salt Lake City, Utah or Twin Falls, Idaho, visitors to this part of the Forest find not only rolling sage and grass-covered hills but glacier carved peaks and timber-covered mountains. While the Ely unit offers a lot of undeveloped camping opportunities (called dispersed and not included in this campground review), it also has the developed Ward Mountain campground. This camping location offers a variety of recreation opportunities along with pleasant campsites for tent, car, recreational vehicle (RV) and motorhome camping enthusiasts with basic facilities, such as table, fire grilles, clean vault toilets, and good drinking water. A variety of terrain has been incorporated in the 20 miles of Ward Mountain's trail system, providing challenges and rewards to beginners and experienced out-of-door enthusiasts. (These hiking/mountain bike trails double as cross-country ski trails in winter when the campground is closed.) An interesting day trip from Ward Mountain campground is Garnet Hill. Here, visitors can hunt for blood red garnets. Be warned - it can be a very frustrating or extremely rewarding experience.

One should not miss a day trip from Ward Mountain campground to Great Basin National Park with its unique features. Regularly offered ranger guided tours of Lehman Cave will interest every member of the family. (It is cold down there, so bring a coat no matter the time of year.) A drive up scenic Wheeler Peak Road is both awe-inspiring and interesting. Several hikes from the end of this scenic drive provide access to a stand of ancient Bristlecone pines as well as the Wheeler Peak glacier, Nevada's only glacier. Again, don't forget a warm jacket. At 13,063 feet, Wheeler Peak's weather can be very different from what is experienced at the Park's entrance.

To the north and east of Elko, NV is a special place known as Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Hugging the eastern edge of the Ruby Mountains and the Humboldt National Forest, the Refuge offers outstanding wildlife viewing opportunities and, from mid- June through December, good fishing and boating opportunities. At about the Refuge's midpoint is the pleasant surprise of South Ruby campground. Convenient to the Refuge, the campground's terraced campsites offer panoramic views of the area between branches of Pinon pines. The campground also has one feature common to all of Humboldt's developed campgrounds: a delightful peacefulness. Part of this may be due to the distance most campgrounds are from population centers or perhaps it is just the natural quietness of the environment.

For those who prefer cooler temperatures and a few Aspen quaking nearby and still want a lake, there is Angel Lake campground. At the base of Greys Peak, next to Angel Lake, and surrounded by wind dwarfed, shoulder-high Aspen trees, this campground has the feel of alpine camping. If a lake isn't necessary but challenging hikes are required, Thomas Canyon campground is nearby and will fit the bill. The massive, sheer canyon walls provide breathtaking views and the nearby Ruby Mountains Wilderness has the trails to challenge any hiker.

Further west, near Mountain City, NV, is a campground to invoke images of Nevada's past. Wildhorse Crossing campground has nothing that suggests it was anything special but this must be Nevada the way it might have been in the 1880s: wild and untamed. It really isn't much of a campground with mainly car and tent camping sites, but stretching along the Owyhee River, tucked in among Willow bushes, Wildhorse Crossing is a good place for an overnight or long weekend stay. With easy-on/easy-off access from State Rt. 225 for overnight camping, the Owyhee River's riparian environment provides good Brown and Rainbow trout fishing and birdwatching opportunities to visitors. The sound of yipping coyotes under star-studded velvet nights and the smell of coffee brewing over a campfire, only add to Wildhorse Crossing campground's magic.

Roughly paralleling the Humboldt River (which was named by explorer John C. Fremont for his friend German naturalist Baron Alexander von Humboldt), the Humboldt National Forest is found in the northeastern part of Nevada. While the river provided pioneers a slightly easier route to California, it was often a great disappointment. Glimpses of its slow flowing, muddy water give even today's travelers a moment's pause. But there are few disappointments for visitors to the Humboldt National Forest. The assortment of terrain and environments found in this Forest add to the diversity and variety of recreational opportunities. Hiking, fishing, camping, mountain biking, wildlife viewing, rock hounding are but some of the things to do. The Humboldt National Forest holds many surprises for those who stop and visit for awhile.

SUPERVISOR OFFICE 1200 Franklin Way Sparks, Nevada 89431 775-355-5301 RANGER DISTRICT OFFICES Ely 825 Avenue E Ely, Nevada 89301 775-289-3031 Mountain City 2035 Last Chance Rd. Elko, Nevada 89801 775-738-5171 Ruby Mountains 140 Pacific Ave. P.O.B. 246 Wells, Nevada 89835 775-752-3357 Santa Rosa 1200 Winnemucca Blvd. Winnemucca, Nevada 89445 775-623-5025

Fred and Suzi Dow