Little Known Shoshone Mountains

Along the Shoshone Mountains

From the Desatoyas and the Toiyabes I could look across the high valleys at the Shoshone Mountains. But I never heard much chatter about their splendor. Last September I visited Berlin-Icthyosaur State Park as a part of Adventure Cycling’s Bike Your Park Day nestled in the southern portion of the mountains. On my return I rode past the near-ghost town of Ione and noted that I must come back to ride through the Shoshone and give Ione a visit. My friend Pete Rissler suggested we do a multi-day trip in the Toiyabes and Shoshones. I hope that is still on the calendar. But for this return to the Shoshone Mountains I planned a loop around the southern end of the mountains and through Ione from Reese River Valley to Ione Valley. This is a surprisingly long mountain range 150+ miles from Battle Mountain to about 30 miles south of where I rode. As the temperatures were on the rise my plan was to poke into the mountains then descend to the valley and repeat as opportunities arose. The strategy to climb and descend seemed to work for these moderately warm temperatures.

Strange to see fog in Smith Creek Valley

I parked off SR 722, Carroll Summit Road, where I planned the end of my loop. I rode on pavement to Elkhorn Road to cross over the Shoshones into Reese River Valley. I passed a few forest service roads that deserve some exploration of their own. I passed Devil’s Gate Canyon, now also on the list for the next trip. I turned up Underdown Canyon that took me through varied terrain to alpine bowls at 8,200′. The rims of the bowl peaked at 9,500′ and North Shoshone Pk stood out at 10,300′. These aren’t your average dry dusty desert mountains. I was following creeks running through juniper-pinon forests and climbing through alpine meadows in full bloom. Low in my climb I passed a group camping and other than a few cows I was otherwise alone the entire day. It was a fun descent hearding cows (they eventually turned off into the trees) down Riley Canyon to Reese River Valley.

Climbing Underdown Canyon, very quickly I realized this wasn’t your typical dry desert mountain
Alpine flowers above 8,000′
A high point cross roads, the range crest is above 10,000′
Descending Riley Canyon had multiple creek crossings. I am always captivated by water in the desert.

My next rise into the mountains was following the South Fork of Barrette Canyon. I made the decision to turn around at 7,400′. I absolutely must return to cross the Shoshone on this trail peaking out at 8,500′. But I wanted to ride through Ione and had my sights on a few more roads. Barrett Canyon had flowing water and would make a great overnight spot. The broad shoulder of the Shoshone built by millennia of erosion made for a fun descent in a juniper pygmy forest. These valleys always remind me of John McPhee’s quoted factoid that some of these valleys are 10,000′ deep of eroded rock. Sometimes I curse that fact when I am barely plowing through loose sand but mostly I’m in awe in the forces of geology.

Climbing Barrette Canyon
Pinyon-Juniper forest above 7,000′
A sea of sagebrush on the broad shoulders of the Shoshone and Toiyabe Ranges creates the Reese River Valley

Once I was back on Reese River Rd I started passing ranches and cabins for rent. Then I entered the Yomba Indian Reservation. Passing through town I came to the turn off for Ione. The Reese River Valley has some of the best signage I have encountered in Nevada. The Reservation serves as a major crossroads for destinations on the west shoulder of the southern Toiyabes. The climb over the Shoshones to Ione was moderate.

Crossroads on the Yomba Indian Reservation, Reese River Valley
My route to Ione

The community of Ione is nestled in sparse juniper-pinyon forest among old and new buildings. It is almost a ghost town? I didn’t spend too much time passing through. I always have a sense of urgency that I must overcome to better enjoy these destinations. Once I was in the Ione Valley I was on familiar roads heading to the crossroads near Burnt Cabin Summit. I followed long straight roads through Smith Creek Valley back to my vehicle.

One horrible picture in Ione, I must return
Roads not taken from the Ione Valley back into the Shoshones

By the numbers this ride was 90 miles of mostly quality gravel roads with 5,800′ of climbing. Some of the jeep road climbs were better suited to wider tires and lower gears. The ride felt as if it had two distinct parts, climbing and exploring the east side of the Shoshone mountains, then crossing the Ione and Smith Creek Valleys. I have an idea for a loop with the same starting point with more excursions into the mountains on the east and west sides as well as crossing the mountains via the Barrette Canyon Trail.

The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest is the pride of Nevada

In my mind the Shoshone Ranged is eclipsed by the Toiyabes. Yet I could see spending the time to explore the length of the range over a dozen trips. That could be monthly over the course of a year, hmm… a plan in the making.

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