The Hot Springs Trail is a 2,421-mile journey to 100 wild or resort hot spring areas. Primarily a hiking trail, the HST is unique in that it's also a multi-sport adventure, with official mountain biking and whitewater rafting options. This trail spans from Santa Barbara, CA to the Canadian border in Idaho and has everything from roads, to trails, to trail-less ridge-running. This route has also been published to be used as a template for an official Hot Springs National Scenic Trail.
I hope you've enjoyed this journey across Nevada as much as I did. Between wildlife sightings, miles of ridge-running, and soaking in hot springs, there was never a boring moment. I look forward to returning to the NVT for another go-thru someday and to hearing about your own adventures on this trail.
Total time to complete the NVT: 30 days
Total time to complete the HST: 110 days
Until next time, thanks for supporting the Hot Springs National Scenic Trail proposal.
In 2012, I returned to the Lamoille Canyon Trailhead then hiked to Wells, retrieved my car, then rewound to Wells for the final leg of the NVT, which I had completed on my mountain bike. In 2016, when I reached Wells, I hitched back to the town of Elko and went to Walmart and purchased the cheapest, most comfortable bike I could find, a Schwinn Connection, then hitched back to Wells with it.
What I'm getting at, is from Wells, it's possible to ride the remaining miles of the NVT.
This section of trail crosses the Bishop Flats which are indeed flat.
12 miles beyond Wells, I visited a hot spring that I had been to many times before. Appropriately named 12 Mile Hot Spring, it's located on the banks of year-round Bishop Creek and shaded by sharp canyon walls.
Although the guidebook for this trail recommends bike-packing this section, the 4 people I know who have completed this trail each decided to hike it. Creeks are met every few miles during this section, Bishop and Tabor being the most reliable of them. Towards the end of this section, the bike-packing option continues towards O'Neil Basin on dirt roads, visiting Hot Creek Hot Spring and its lake, while the hike-thru option continues up Marys River, going thru the Jarbidge Wilderness area and the remote outpost of Jarbidge, which has a post office.
After so many days of hiking, it was a pleasure to pedal, although it's certainly not necessary to complete the journey. Personally, I love multi-sport adventuring and by riding, it gave me more time to enjoy the 4 hot spring areas which are in this section, and without having to carry much water to get between them.
The Nevada Trail ends at the starting point of the Idaho Centennial Trail, which is also open to biking.
Here's a link for the bike I used to ride from Wells, NV to Stanley, ID:
Hikers attempting to tackle Section 7 of the NVT have two choices. From Lamoille Canyon Trailhead, you can either hike along the road through the town of Lamoille, which has a post office but no grocery store, or continue along the crest of the Ruby Mountains, trail-less. On both of my NVT hikes, I opted for the XC route along the crest.
This section is a highlight of not just the NVT but the entire Hot Springs Trail. Dramatic views, unparalleled trail-less ridge-running, and loads of big game wildlife sightings were accompanied by alpine lakes, days without seeing anyone, and a real sense of adventuring into the unknown.
At Solider Creek, the options rejoin and the trail follows singletrack into the East Humboldt Wilderness. Between my two trips, I had learned about a small section of private land which altered the route, and in a lot of ways, improved it.
After a trail-less crossing of the East Humboldt Range, going from Boulder to Steele Lakes, the trail traverses below Hole in the Mountain Peak, one of the most imposing mountains on the entire trail.
Safely on the far end of the range, a rather uneventful road walk led me into the town of Wells, where another major decision needed to be made.
During Section 6 of the Nevada Trail, you'll have your greatest chance of seeing other hikers. This is because this section follows the Ruby Crest Trail in its entirety. Also a National Recreation Trail, the RCT is more popular and in so many ways wetter than the Toyiabe Crest Trail. Along this section there are not just creeks to cross, but lakes to swim in, and more snow to deal with than along the entire rest of this trail.
The Ruby Mountains are an echo of the High Sierra and some of the more rugged miles of the NVT, geologically speaking. Also home to mountain goats, this section has lots of opportunities for wildlife encounters.
Although the RCT is popular, by Nevada Trail standards, finding a campsite is never an issue. The trail is well marked and the views never dull. The Ruby Crest Trail ends at the Lamoille Canyon Trailhead.
Reaching the end of this section, in 2012, I learned the fourth lesson of the NVT. The snow was overwhelming and I opted to head home for a few weeks to give the northern Rubies time to melt off. In 2016, my timing was much better and I was able to continue into Section 7 without waiting, and without snow to deal with.
From Lamoille Canyon Trailhead, I hitched into the town of Elko to resupply. Getting a ride to town and back was relatively easy as this is a popular place for day hikes and weekend trips.
***In 2018, there was a fire that closed Lamoille Canyon to traffic and usage. It has since been reopened. To learn more about this fire, visit these links:
Initial Fire Report:
Fire Recovery Update:
Fire Closure Lifted Announcement:
Up until 2017, the main grocery store in Eureka, NV was located in the middle of downtown. Nowadays, it's located a mile out of town. This is inconvenient for a pre-hotel resupply, but fortunately, it's still passed on the way out of town.
To stock up on superfoods and lightweight camping foods, I had mailed a resupply box to Eureka and only needed to visit Raine's Market for fresh produce and bonus snacks. I also have to admit that the new store, which I explored during a recent road trip, is far better and more stocked than it's previous edition.
The town of Eureka also has a community swimming pool, which was the busiest of them yet.
In 2016, I left town reunited with Stacey, Bernie, and unexpectedly a bike-packer who upon hearing about our adventure decided to join us for the next summit. Located just above town, Diamond Peak is not only an impressive summit view, but the start of the longest and most adventurous trail-less segment of the NVT.
After spending the night just below the summit, we attained the top, watched the sunrise, then parted ways. I lingered on top longer while Stacey and Bernie went ahead.
This XC crossing of the Diamond Range is approximately 31.2 miles in length. Although labeled as XC, a fair amount of it is made following wild horse trails. On both ends of this crossing are springs. During the crossing itself, there may be snow to melt and if you're lucky, run-off to be captured without having to melt.
Safely on the far side of the range, the NVT joins the historic Pony Express Trail and follows it across the dry Newark Valley. Throughout this crossing, lookback views of the Diamond Range are enjoyed, along with occasional juniper trees which provide shade and soft resting places.
Leaving the Pony Express, a series of steep jeep roads and trail-less segments leads to another impressive summit, Pearl Peak. Here, I encountered mountain goats during both of my journeys. Approaching the summit, the strong Headwaters Creek is passed along with leftover cornices of snow. These are undoubtedly some of the most striking miles of the trail as they overlook the Ruby Lakes basin and the Ruby Mountains, which are traversed during the next section.
After a dramatic and unforgettable descent from Pearl Peak following the crest of the Dragon's Tail, the first traffic since leaving Eureka is likely met when you reach Harrison Pass. This well-traveled dirt road marks the end of Section 5 and the beginning of the Ruby Mountains.
Before beginning Section 4 of the NVT, there are several ways to access the town of Austin. While Stacey and Bernie had walked in, I had decided to wait until crossing an upcoming road, Hwy 396, where I hitched in.
After having breakfast with them at the International Café, I resupplied at the post office, visited the community pool, and a few hours later was back at the crossing, but now a half a day ahead of them.
Under afternoon cloud-shade, I made a swift crossing of Big Smoky Valley then reached the third hot spring area of the NVT, Spencer.
Spencer Hot Springs is undoubtedly one of the most scenic soaking spots on the entire HST and is no secret among the hot spring community. But for as many people who have been here, almost no one has ever walked to it.
After an evening of soaking and gazing at the Toyiabe Crest, I headed out the next morning for a trail-less crossing of the Toquima Range. This lead to another highlight of the trail, the geographic center of Nevada. After proper celebrations, I continued over the next few days, crossing the Monitor Range.
Once into the Antelope Valley, the first and only hot spring resort of the NVT is encountered. Before starting the trip, I had contacted the owner and secured permission to visit and was not disappointed. This spring truly has some of the best tasting water on the entire HST and is also a basecamp for yoga retreats and backcountry ski trips in the winter.
With enough water to reach the town of Eureka in my bottles, I headed out of Hot Springs Ranch feeling on top of the world.
Already in Nevada, I've had more encounters with wild horses than on any other hike I had done, and on this evening, I had a small herd sharing my camp with me.
On the afternoon of Day 7, I left the town of Tonopah and began Section 3 with enough food to get to Austin, 136 miles away. I also had enough water to go 44.6 miles to Peavine Canyon, well sort of. I actually only had enough to go 36.8 miles and was hoping that a water source 7.8 miles from town was good, which it was. Due to the nature of this area, I didn't want to count on Frazier Well for my entire supply, which was 2 gallons.
Topped off and still hydrated, I set up camp at the start of the first major cross-country section of the NVT, the San Antonio Range. This is a rocky but relatively straight-forward crossing that is both scenic and a highlight of the trail. On the far side, the remaining 20.5 miles to Peavine Canyon go rather quickly and are made on seldom-used jeep roads, judging by the looks of them.
Although I saw no traffic during this time, I did see some other hikers. For this XC crossing, I had teamed up with Stacy and Bernie, who began their journey in Santa Barbara as well but whom I had met for the first time in Tonopah. They are both Triple Crown hikers and were out doing the entire Hot Springs Trail as well.
Once into Peavine Canyon, the driest miles were behind me and water was no longer and issue. Before long we were on the Toyiabe Crest Trail, a National Recreation Trail that we followed across the mighty Toyiabe Range.
On the far end of the TCT is the option to continue along the crest of the range XC, which I did in 2012 and really enjoyed. In 2016 however, I established a lower route which utilized jeep roads and provides an official alternate for those wanting to avoid this trail-less segment, or for when weather is not favorable for traveling on top of the range.
Reaching Birch Creek signified the end of the Toyiabe Range crossing. This is where the third lesson of the NVT was learned - the importance of constant rehydration. With the luxury of creeks over the past few days, I had slacked on my topping off and now had a slight case of chapped lips, a sure sign of dehydration. Before leaving the shade and accessibility of Birch Creek, I made sure I was peeing clearly again.