Day Trip; Seven Troughs Range and Ghost Towns

…and the adventure begins. Toulon exit off I-80

Nevadans love to explore remote hard-to-get-to areas of their beloved state. A combination of a pioneering spirit, an abundance of accessible public land, and the potential for natural and cultural historical discovery is the perfect recipe for getting outside to explore your state. The Seven Troughs Range falls into the category of being in the middle of nowhere and full of natural/cultural historical richness. When exploring the notion of getting there and back in a day I realized it is about at the limits of what I can do on my bike. Perfect!

From my ride through the Lava Beds, approaching Seven Troughs from the west

I had the Seven Troughs in my sight when visiting Blue Wing Flat and the Lava Beds, two very distinct trips. This trip is the result of how what you see on the horizon of one trip becomes the destination of the next. The spirit of personal discovery expands the edges of your cognitive map, where dragons lie.

The warm-up climb, morning light on the Humbolt Sink
Looking north west over Granite Springs Valley

The route I chose was to come up from the Interstate exit, Toulon. It’s an easy drive with fantastic access to dirt roads right off the freeway. Ragged Top Road connects ranchers to their stock and utility workers to a power line and pipeline. The road has connected me to hundreds of miles of adventure, visiting Blue Wing Flat, looping to the emigrant trails, and the ghost town Jessup. While the road is excellent for gravel bikes the grades test my mettle with the higher gears over what is available on a mountain bike.

Enticing gravel roads

After 14 miles of great roads I was beginning to wonder if the gravel bike wouldn’t have been a better choice. But the next 30+ miles to Vernon ghost town confirmed the the Falconer B+ was the right tool for the job. Its 27.5×2.8 tires carried me through miles of sand with barely a fishtail and comfortably over rock and rough arroyos. The “plus sized” tires are the best compromise for a go-anywhere adventure bike.


I passed along the east length of Blue Wing Flat on sandy roads. I had views of the Sahwave Mountains dipping down to the Blue Wing Mountains highlighting Juniper Pass, a little dirt road that has been on my radar as long as this trip has been. Travelers have noticed the oddly radial roads in the Copper and Granite Springs Valleys which have generated some interesting forum chatter at least. Granite Springs Valley is dominated by cattle, burrows and antelope. Spring is upon us and I saw a variety of butterflies and beetles flitting about.

From sand to rock, Seven Troughs Range in Sage Valley

At the southern tip of the Seven Troughs Range I made a zig zag to the east and continued north into Sage Valley. The roads changed from sand to rock and I was dipping in and out of rocky eroded arroyos. With less than 500 miles on my Falconer B+ and the maiden voyage of the bags from Nuclear Sunrise Stichworks I welcomed the rough terrain as a test of mettle. Everything performed beyond my expectations. The new handlebar harness is fantastic. After hours of rocky terrain my tent, sleeping quilt, and sleeping pad hadn’t shifted from their original position. I have tried 4 other handlebar bags without such glowing results.

Nevada’s skyline

Sage Valley had surreal views of the Seven Troughs Range. The brown rocky edge of the crest against the perfectly blue sky gave everything a “movie set” quality, just too perfect. I was struck by the same notion one set of mountains to the west riding through the Lava Beds. I am sure there is an explanation for this magic, but I am content with magic. To the north snow capped peaks seemed out of place, where dragons lie.

Bach Well, the community watering hole

I teed into Seven Troughs Road close to the Bach Well windmill. By this point I had seen dozens of burros and antelope. At the watering holes they co-mingle seemingly just fine. While they may be accustomed to autos they are very cautious of bike riders. As I got closer to Vernon, the once hub of the Seven Troughs mining district, I was getting excited to see what these ghost towns had to offer.

I had planned a short fork to the north of Vernon to poke into a couple of canyons. I had not done extensive research on this area, with hind sight I may have had a better plan to visit particular ghost towns but what I did explore was a great combination of so many outings I have had. I spent most of my time in Tunnel Camp. I was impressed by the dozen or so buildings there. The wood, stone, brick, and concrete remains would make for a great architectural study. I was surprised to see a stamp mill. I assume that signifies the productivity of the area.

Choices, with a trickle of surface water

After a cursory poking around I continued to Seven Troughs Canyon. Climbing the canyon I was reaching the 5:45 mark in my adventure and was pushing my arbitrary turn around time. But like a climber’s summit fever I wanted to keep going. If I turned around now I would regret it, my planned route had me climbing the canyon just a bit farther. What is up there? I didn’t want to cut my ride short. So I kept going. I came to a fork in the road. Following my planned route I went left, though now with hindsight to the right would have taken me to the Seven Troughs site. Not succumbing to summit fever there will be a next time.

At peace, Tunnel Camp

Popping out of Seven Troughs I started my ride back. I came across the cemetery below Tunnel Camp. What was the end of life like out here? The solitude of long days in the desert allows one to ponder all sorts of topics. I find myself contemplating the Tibetan Sky burial. My current conclusion is I want to be buried under the last cattle guard and I hope the coyotes can get to my body. Of course I hope that last cattle guard is a long long way off as there is so much more to explore.

A welcomed sight

My ride back was assisted with a bit of a tailwind. Passing the playa I could see dancing dust devils. The temps were warming up and this brought out the lizards. I saw blue-bellies, horny toads, and zebra-tails. Curiously, no snakes. But no sooner than thinking this I came across a small striped gopher snake. Although I was pushing my own limits of endurance I credit my success to my Falconer B+. The frame and fork are light, designed for the task at hand, and make for a fun nimble ride. I surprised myself with the last climb of the day.

Back to the Humbolt Sink view, evening light

By the numbers the out and back was 94.6 miles with 5,500′ of climbing. I was out for 11 hours and saw no one else. From Lovelock one could shorten the route by 20-ish miles. A multi-day loop around the Seven Troughs Range including poking into the dozen or so named and unnamed canyons could be a fun trip.

I was told I needed to take more selfies. Tunnel Camp

3 thoughts on “Day Trip; Seven Troughs Range and Ghost Towns

  1. Jim Berryman-Shafer

    Love reading about your adventures. Is there water at any of these sites for a possible camping trip. What cycling computer would you suggest?

    1. Hi Jim,
      I am always tickled that folks are reading about my adventures. Thank you for the motivation. I am always surprised at how much water we have in the northern Nevada desert. I try to take pictures of it when I see it. The USGS maps will point out springs, wells, and windmills from time to time. Ranchers provide water for their stock but ultimately I plan my rides as if there is no water unless I know otherwise for sure. I should be more consistent with my maps, adding water icons where I saw it.
      On the Seven Troughs ride I passed three livestock watering troughs but did not need them. My turn around point in Seven Troughs Cyn had a short, 25 yard trickle in it. I carry as much as 8.5 L of water when I need it. I also have a hydration bladder with an in-line water filter for when the need arises.
      Soon it will be too hot in the lower elevations so I will be riding in the high country. This winter has left us with near record snow pack so I imagine there will be wild flowers and small streams through September.
      For the last 5+ years I have been using the Garmin Edge Touring computer. I have had one other Garmin and the Timex Cycle Trainer 2.0 over the years as a bike racer. I use Garmin Connect, Strava, and Ride with GPS for planning or analyzing my rides. I am currently toying with the idea of using my Ipod Touch with Ride with GPS as my primary cycling computer but it is hard to leave the familiarity of Garmin behind. I would be interested in hearing what technology you use.
      Thank you for your interest,

  2. Pingback: Bicycling Nevada – May 2019 | NevadaGram from the Nevada Travel Network

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