Ragged Top Rd. and Emigrant Trail Loop

Heading north from Nightingale Hot Springs exit from I-80 

Dean and I had ridden a few miles of Ragged Top Road when we visited the mining ghost town of Jessup. My memory was of a gravel road in pretty good shape that extended long and straight from the Truckee Range across the Granite Springs Valley to the Trinity Range. Its namesake, Ragged Top, comes from the unmistakable peak on the range, Ragged Top Mountain. The route started off Interstate 80, at Nightingale Hot Springs, about 50 miles east of Reno. I plotted the route to Toulon on the other side of the Trinity Range then had Garmin suggest the return route to create a loop.

Ragged Top Mountain in the distance

The first 10 miles of gravel road ranged from packed dirt road to rocky Nevada cobble to freshly graded road that headed for a prominent mine. The road climbed increasing until I left Hot Springs Flat and descended into Sage Hen Wash. From here I picked up Ragged Top Rd. and could see Ragged Top Mtn. in the distance.

The length of the Trinity Range

One of the great appeals of exploring backroads by bike is the lack of traffic. I saw one pickup near the mine at the beginning of my ride and that was it. I was on a paved road for a short section much later in the ride that had some gravel hauling traffic but other than that much of the road I traveled barely showed tracks from the last passersby. Nevada contains wonderful solitude for those who seek it.

Living off the grid

There were two homes along the road. One hidden by a hill but vividly marked with no trespassing signs. The next homestead was strikingly different. I thought I was approaching a hunter’s camp. It looked like several RV’s and maybe a cabin tent rounded off with a portable water tank and outhouse. But it turned out to be a homestead of “acquired dwellings” to put it kindly. At this point I was leaving Copper Valley and entering Granite Springs Valley. To the eye though it looks like one big valley.

Granite Springs Valley

At some point I was half way along Ragged Top Rd. but with such perspective the distances are deceiving. I was afraid at any moment the road would turn to sand and I could be hiking indefinitely. It did get soft but only for a few hundred yards. Eventually I started climbing out of Granite Springs Valley and into the Trinity Range. On the ground exploration pointed out several quality roads crossing the valley to the north. As the wheels were turning my plans to return were in the making.


These two photos capture Granite Springs Valley
Another high quality gravel road off Ragged Top Rd. baiting my return

Cresting the pass, my view of Granite Springs Valley was obscured by the mountains but the valley ahead of me was stunning. Ahead of me were the Humbolt and Stillwater Ranges. The steep descent took me through a ragged canyon with side roads that would be worthy of fat bike exploration.


From the summit on Ragged Top Rd. looking to the southeast.
A change in the road side geology as I descended into Toulon

Approaching I-80, at Toulon, the road turned paved for a few yards but soon I was back on a gravel frontage road between the freeway and the railroad tracks. This return route was expected to be boring yet proved to be an adventure as well.


The pavement did not last long at the mill site in Toulon

The highlight was coming across the emigrant trail marker and Nevada historical marker. One plan I have for 2017 is to get the route maps of the emigrant trails to explore by bike.

This was the maiden voyage of my KHS Grit 440 gravel bike. It is a carbon disc brake road bike equipped with Shimano 105 11 speed drive train and 700 x 35 WTB Cross Boss tires. I was impressed by the comfortable ride and smooth shifting. I added the Revelate Designs Tangle, Pika, Gas Tank and Mountain Feed bags to carry my kit. I ride clipped in to Look S-Track pedals.

Nevada, Don’t Fence Me In
Roads connecting mining sites welcome my next explorations in this area

My route from Garmin Connect is here.

8 thoughts on “Ragged Top Rd. and Emigrant Trail Loop

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