Utah State Line (Baker) to Preston
The ADT in Nevada begins in Baker, a small community at the base of the Snake Range, which is the home of Great Basin National Park. The most prominent peak in the park is Wheeler Peak at 13,063 feet. Great Basin offers outstanding opportunities to hike in a variety of natural habitats ranging from sagebrush desert to alpine lakes. A bristlecone pine found here was determined to be the world’s oldest living thing: 4,950 years old. Tours are given daily into the limestone and marble world of Lehman Caves with its stalactites, stalagmites, columns, flowstones, and its rare and mysterious structures called shields.
The ADT skirts the northern part of the park following Weaver Creek and Osceola Mine road. The route offers a view of Spring Valley, the first of several wide sagebrush-covered valleys ahead of you, and the Schell Creek Range where the trail goes through Cooper Canyon to Cave Lake State Park. The 32-acre Cave Lake is noted for its brown trout. Ely, located 15 miles north via U.S. 93, is a major resupply point for trail travelers.
After crossing Steptoe Valley the route heads into the Egan Range, passing the Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Site where there are six massive beehive-shaped stone kilns built in 1876 to convert wood into charcoal for local mining smelters. The route across the Egan Range in Humboldt National Forest follows Water Canyon across the mountain into the White River Valley and the community of Preston. Here there are some supplies — a motel, gas station, and restaurant — outside of town on Nevada 318.
Preston to Duckwater
The White River Valley is wide and relatively flat, and, typical of nearly all of these valley crossings, the trail is on a seldom-traveled dirt road. The White Pine Range is crossed on an old stagecoach road along Ellison Creek. The climb to the Ellison Ranger Station takes you through a canyon with sheer rock walls and the stone wall remains of a former stagecoach stop. After reaching the pass, you enter Freeland Canyon and descend through Blackrock Canyon to Bull Spring before entering Railroad Valley.
The Duckwater Shoshone Reservation is located here and is private property that the ADT crosses with permission. ADT travelers should respect the residents’ privacy. This is the greenest valley you will see in Nevada. It is fed by many springs. The Pancake Range provides a rather gentle ascent and descent just south of Brown Summit.
Duckwater to Moores Station
Big Sand Springs Valley, like most of the land that is not national forest, is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The dirt roads through this valley live up to their name — big sand. The gradual ascent into the Squaw Hills and the Confusion Hills is on a jeep road through Jumbled Rock Gulch into Hot Creek Valley and Moores Station (private property) which is a former stagecoach stop. There are a number of tall buttes and rock formations at this location. Hot Creek Valley is quite narrow. You soon begin to climb into the Hot Creek Range toward Morey Peak (10,246 feet). The ADT enters the Monitor Range on the Toiyabe National Forest and the Morey Peak and Fandango wilderness study areas where only foot and horse travel is permitted.
Moores Station to Pine Creek Campground
From Moores Station the climb is steep into Morey Canyon to Sixmile Summit near Mahogany Peak. The trail then proceeds to Cold Spring to Little Fandango to Upper Fish Lake to Little Fish Lake Valley. From the Little Fish Lake Valley ascend into the Table Mountain Wilderness through Green Monster Canyon to Mosquito Creek which descends into Monitor Valley. Look for elk, which have been reintroduced on Table Mountain. Cross the sagebrush-covered valley to Pine Creek Campground.
Pine Creek Campground to South Twin Campground
After leaving the campground, begin a long ascent into the Alta Toquima Wilderness in the Toquima Range. The trail reaches the highest point of the ADT in Nevada near the south summit of Mount Jefferson at 11,941 feet and continues south to Jefferson Summit. From there it follows jeep roads past the historic site of Jefferson and into the Big Smoky Valley. Supplies are available in the town of Carvers. The route continues to South Twin Campground at the base of the Toiyabe Range.
South Twin Campground to Ione
The ADT follows the Toiyabe Crest National Recreation Trail across the mountain, south of Arc Dome, to the junction of Big Sawmill Creek and Little Sawmill Creek. Descend through Cow Canyon into the narrow and green Reese River Valley. The Yomba Shoshone Reservation is north of Grantsville Road where the ADT turns west, soon passing the ghost town of Grantsville. Several buildings in various stages of ruin remain as a reminder of better days when silver was mined here.
Nevada has preserved the ghost town of Berlin as a state park. Silver and gold were mined here from 1895 until 1911. Today, you can be guided through the town on regular weekend tours and learn about life as it used to be in Berlin. Berlin Ichthyosaur State Park preserves the fossil remains of the 50-foot “fish-lizard,” Ichthyosaur, which lived here 225 million years ago when all this land was under water as a Mesozoic ocean. In Ione, the town that refused to die (1994 population, seven), you can picnic in a shaded park, refuel your car, get a meal, and down a cold beer at the Ore House Saloon & Restaurant.
Ione to Middlegate
From Ione continue northwest on the dirt Ione Valley Road and cross Buffalo Summit in a pinyon and juniper forest. At Eastgate the road becomes paved and soon meets U.S. 50, “the loneliest road in America,” which you follow west for 25 miles. For most of the way along this highway the old road is still there and usable as a trail, switching back and forth on either side of the current highway. You are now also following the route of the Pony Express National Historic Trail. There is a U.S. Navy Air Base near here and low-flying aircraft are regularly seen and heard. There is a store at Middlegate.
Middlegate to Virginia City
The ADT continues on Highway 50 at Middlegate to Sand Springs (Sand Mountain) and then cuts straight across the dry desert. Take plenty of water. Head west across the desert for Simpson Pass, which is located between the Bunejug and Cocoon mountains. Continue across Wildcat Scarp south of the now dry Carson Lake (dry sink) and north of the White Throne Mountains. Pass the site of the Wildcat Freight Station on the Pony Express Trail. After crossing U.S. 95 where Fallon is 15 miles north, the route continues across the desert north of the Desert Mountains and south of the Dead Camel Mountains. These alkali flats are also called playa and should only be crossed when they are dry.
Fort Churchill was an important military garrison in the 1860s. The remains of the adobe buildings comprising the fort are a state historical park. The American Discovery Trail follows the Carson River from Fort Churchill to U.S. 50, where it leaves the Pony Express Trail. From there the route goes up Sixmile Canyon into Virginia City, home of the famous Comstock Lode and the liveliest ghost town in the west. Once an 1870s boomtown of 30,000 people and 110 saloons, today Virginia City has thousands of visitors and each September is host to the National Championship Camel Races. Mark Twain and Brett Hart honed their writing skills here as reporters for the Territorial Enterprise.
Virginia City to California Line
From Virginia City, the trail crosses Mount Davidson, through Washoe Lake State Park to the northern outskirts of Carson City, named in 1858 for Kit Carson. It was named the capital of Nevada when it became a state in 1864. From north of Carson City you begin a climb into the Sierra Nevada Mountains and to Tahoe Meadows. The ADT follows the Tahoe Rim Trail around the northern ridges that form the basin. The ADT continues in the Toiyabe National Forest north of Incline Village and into California.