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Another trip to the state’s scenic back roads

The majestic Spring Mountains and Red Rock Canyon are among the beautiful places that can be seen on the Bureau of Land Management’s Back Country Byways in southern Nevada.
PHOTO BY RICH MORENO |

Last week I wrote about the Bureau of Land Management’s Back Country Byways in Northern Nevada so this week I’ll take a look at the program’s scenic back roads found in the rest of the state.

Nevada has a total of eight National Back Country Byways, which are roads off the beaten track that have been selected by the BLM for their scenic beauty and natural attractions. Most of these routes are not paved so a high clearance, four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended.

In addition to the five I previously mentioned (California Trail Byway, Lovelock Cave Byway, Fort Churchill to Wellington Byway, Mountain Wilson Byway, and Lunar Crater Byway), the others include:

• Bitter Springs Trail Back Country Byway—This scenic drive begins at Valley of Fire State Park and winds 28 miles along the foothills of the Muddy Mountains, through several dry washes, past a handful of abandoned mining operations and ends on North Shore Drive in Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The byway intersects with the Old Spanish Trail, a pioneer route traveled by Spanish explorers as early as the 1770s. For more information, contact the BLM Las Vegas office, 702-647-5000.

• Gold Butte Back Country Byway—This 62-mile ride begins about 90 miles northeast of Las Vegas and five miles south of Mesquite. The road offers magnificent views of red and white sandstone cliffs and rock formations as well as plenty of desert wildlife. If you stop along the way, you can find petroglyph sites, sinkholes and the ruins of the historic mining camp of Gold Butte, established in 1908. For more information, contact the BLM Las Vegas office.

• Red Rock Canyon Back Country Byway—This 15-mile loop actually winds through the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, which is about a half-hour west of Las Vegas. One of the few paved byways, the one-way road offers self-guided trails with interpretive signs, picnic areas, and scenic vista pullouts. The Red Rock Visitor Center offers guided tours and programs. There is a $5 charge per vehicle. For more information, contact the BLM Las Vegas office.

Two final Back Country Byways worth mentioning that aren’t in Nevada but skirt the border between Nevada and California are located in the state’s Northwestern corner. They include:

• Surprise Valley/Barrel Springs Back Country Byway—This 93-mile road begins and ends in Cedarville, California, which is about 23 miles east of Alturas (northwest of Reno). This lengthy journey passes through historic communities, like Lake City and Fort Bidwell, and crosses into Nevada’s wide-open Great Basin country. For more information, contact the BLM Cedarville office, 530-279-6707.

• Buckhorn Back Country Byway—This rustic byway begins on Nevada State Route 447 on the edge of Duck Flat, about 40 miles northeast of Gerlach. The single-lane gravel road climbs to a high plateau of sagebrush and pinon-covered hills and passes several small lakes. It ends at Ravendale on U.S. 395, between Susanville and Alturas. For more information, contact the BLM Cedarville office, 530-279-6707.

Rich Moreno covers the places and people that make Nevada special.