High Roads Project Part 1; Mt Callaghan

Every summer as the temperatures rise I seek higher ground and the shade of trees. This year I did a search on the highest roads in Nevada expecting to find a list of mountain passes cataloged by the Nevada Department of Transportation. But instead I came across an entry for the highest roads in Nevada by the World’s Most Dangerous Roads. What a great list! Pick one in any part of the state you want to visit and escape the heat.

Climbing along Boone Creek through the pinyon is Mt Callaghan

My first choice was Mt Callaghan in the Toiyabe Range just north of Austin. This was a portion of the Toiyabe Range I was super curious about. It lies outside of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National forest and surrounded by ranches. Now I had a specific goal in mind for this area. Mt Callaghan is about 18 miles off highway 305 at Silver Creek Road. And so my adventure begins!

Looking north to Boone Creek Ranch

The first few miles out of the Reese River Valley are a gradual climb to the Silver Creek School site then the climbing begins in earnest. I came to a closed road in Bernd Cyn. but found and alternate just above it much to my relief. I was worried I may not find access so easily. Now I was climbing in the trees. The steeper the road got, the rougher it got.

A quick little descent in an otherwise long climb, potential ridgeline road on horizon
Breccia lined hills in along Boone Creek

There was one short descent in the overall climb that drops into Boone Creek and its ruggedly exposed canyon. This area is riddled with mines for those who like to explore or rockhound. The road here loops around to Boone Creek Ranch but a pair of right turns keeps you going up to the peak.

Great wildflower viewing in late July
Snow fed stream crossings
Inspired to snap a photo

Between 8 and 9 thousand feet the trees become sparse and there are still a few patches of snow. One thing the upper elevations have to offer as a result of these persistent snow patches are refugium for wild flowers, polinators, and year round skiers. I have met ecologists and skiers alike who know some of these high mountain roads.

Approaching 10,000′
Obligatory summit shot, Grass Valley dry lake bed to the right

It was a blast getting to top of this mountain peak. The ride from sagebrush valley floor, through pinyon-juniper forest, crossing otherwise hidden creeks, and climbing above the treeline to a lichen covered moonscape offered a concentration of landscapes like no other ride. And you got the added bonus of beating the heat.

A long descent on good roads

While I remind riding partners to be sure their low gears are shifting smoothly for these rides the converse holds true for the descent, make sure your brakes are in good shape. Make sure your brake levers are in the most comfortable position for extended braking. I don’t normally give words of caution, but take care on the downhills. While the roads are in relatively great shape don’t get catch an edge on a rut or go too hot into a loose corner.

At the benchmark

I did this ride as an out-and-back but looking around there were some opportunities for loops provided those roads do not run into private property along the handful of ranches in the area. The return had the feeling of descending into the heat but at the same time I was watching building thunderheads knowing I could get pelted by rain and hail. Such is the weather this time of year (late July).

Summer thunderstorms kept me moving

Looking around this area I am curious about the abandoned narrow gauge railroad bed of the Nevada Central Railway servicing the riches of Austin to Battle Mountain through the Reese River Valley. As a potential 93 mile mile route, it will provide countless opportunities to ride into the Shoshone Range, Fish Creek Mountains, and Toiyabe Range.

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