Great Basin National Park


The four-wheel-drive and high-clearance roads within the park and on adjacent Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands offer challenges for all skill levels of mountain bikers. Some of the park roads can be connected into loops with a little planning. Unfortunately, though, hiking trails in the NP are off limits to two-wheeled adventurers.

North of the park, however, bikers can explore adjoining Sacramento Pass Recreation Area, which is administered by the BLM. Some of the trails are two-track roads that are no longer in use, while some are still utilized for mining activity and livestock management. "There is actually some trout fishing in the small pond in the day use area," says Rick Waldrup, Outdoor Recreation Planner for the region's BLM office. "Plus good opportunities for wildlife viewing (primarily deer and elk), and early autumn pine nut picking." What follows is a description of one fun and feature-filled mountain biking trail, though Waldrup says there are many other possibilities.

Willow Patch Spring to Miller Basin
Length: 16 1/4 miles (round-trip)
Elevation: 6,623 ft. to 8,300 ft. (1,677 ft. elevation gain over 8.1 miles). Then you get to come back down.
Difficulty: Moderate
Surface: Roads, from well-maintained dirt to unmaintained two-track
Season of Use: Very unpredictable, depending on snow and rain. Early June through mid-October.
Riding Time: Approximately two to three hours, longer if you linger...
Special Features: Wildflowers! Miller Basin explodes with wildflowers between early June and the end of July. Also, spectacular views of Wheeler Peak, Mount Moriah, and the Schell Creek Range. The ride also takes you through the ghost town of Black Horse, a turn-of-the-century mining camp.
Logistics: There are numerous places to park to make the ride longer or shorter, but the ride description that follows will give you a breakdown of the mileage from where the dirt road intersects the highway almost directly across from the Willow Patch roadside park/picnic area.

The Ride

Mile 0 to 1.8: Follow a well-maintained dirt road north up an easy grade. Where the road starts to go steeper uphill and curve to the right, follow a less-traveled road that forks to the left toward Black Horse. A sign that points to Miller Basin and Black Horse should comfort you that you've made the correct turn. (The sign says it's only three miles to Miller Basin, but that's not exactly true.)

Mile 1.8 to 2.8: Approximately one mile of lightly maintained road takes you through the Black Horse ghost town, and through a narrow, not very deep canyon. There are open mine shafts and adits off the road as well as cement tent pads and perhaps some historic trash. Stay on the road to avoid the hazards associated with open shafts and the like. As you come out of the short canyon, there is a fork.

Mile 2.8 to 4.4: Follow the left fork going a little steeper up into the trees (mostly Juniper). The next 1/2 mile is a steady, slightly steeper uphill ride. Then it'll level out a little and become kind of rolly, but continue gradually uphill. Once you top out, just beyond the cattle guard, you'll have a short, fun, fast downhill for the last few hundred yards to the intersection with a crossroad in a wide drainage just above Miller Basin Wash. Enjoy the downhill... it's the last you'll see for a while.

Mile 4.4 to 8.1 (the end): Turn left at the crossroad and head uphill. Pace yourself... It's a long, steady (sometimes a little on the steep side) climb. But it's well worth it. Don't let the saddle after one mile fool you, you've got another 1/2 mile or so of pretty steady uphill before it lets up (at about mile 5.8). From the saddle, though, the views improve significantly, and the breeze will offer some relief if you're pedaling on a hot day. After nearly 1 1/2 miles of uphill, the road follows the contours of the mountainside in a rolling hill fashion for some really fun riding through some great scenery.

You'll eventually come to a meadow that feels like it must be the end. Follow the road through the meadow and take the last short, somewhat steep, and fun climb into the upper reaches of Miller Basin. The road forks, first left, then right, and continues over the other side. DON'T GO BACK DOWN THAT WAY! If you continue on, it's a very steep and dangerous drop into Dry Canyon, and eventually winds up running through private property with prominently posted No Trespassing signs. (You may want to take the short spur that forks right to get a good view of the canyon below.) Turn around and retrace your ride back out. Although returning the same way may sound redundant, the views are very different and the ride is fast and fun. Once you've turned around, you're about 85 percent finished because it's all downhill from here.... well almost.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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