Tom Willis, September 6, 2012—This trip takes us to eastern Nevada near Ely and the White Pine Mining District. The trail begins at U.S. Highway 50, 35 miles west of Ely or 41 miles east of Eureka. Watch for the highway sign that identifies the road to Hamilton. (There is also a historical marker nearby for Hamilton.)
Camping is available at Illipah Creek Reservoir on the south side of U.S. Highway 50. There is a small BLM campground on the north end of this small lake, with room for RVs but no facilities other than pit toilets and a dumpster for trash.
Most of this trail is within the Ely District of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. As of this writing, all of the trails covered here are open. Visit the Humboldt-Toiyabe NF website to obtain an up-to-date Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM).
A significant portion of the mining district is private lands, and the trails are not managed by the Forest Service. These are “open” trails, though not displayed on the MVUM. I use the BLM “ Mt.Hamilton” Surface Management map of the area along with the MVUM. Remember, when traveling over Forest Service lands, you must stay on the designated trails.
Ghost towns and old mill sites on the trip include Belmont Mill, Eberhardt, Hamilton, Shermantown, and Treasure City. Silver was discovered near Treasure City in 1865, and by 1869 there were approximately 25,000 people in the area. More than 10,000 mining claims were filed in the district by 1870. Most of the silver ore was mined out by the late 1880s, although mining continued on a small scale into the 1920s.
The route through these five sites is approximately 52 miles. Each of the access trails is designated as “open to all vehicles”. With most of the trails above 7,000 feet, the routes are usually open by mid- to late June. Part of the route travels over the Lincoln Highway, which is still a dirt road today. Along the way, you will find five towns and mill sites, with a large number of old mines and prospects throughout the area. Many of these mines and prospects are still accessible via miner’s roads.
Belmont Mill was built in 1925 to serve the Belmont Mine. Ore moved to the mill via a tramway. The mill and tramway are in very good shape considering their age. Be very careful if you try to explore the interior of the mill building. Areas of the wood structure cannot support your weight…This was the last major mining effort in the White Pine District.
Hamilton shows signs of recent occupants, with a large metal building at the site of the town. The structure, likely erected by a mining company, sets near remnants of the original town. You will find a fair-sized cemetery and a brick structure near the newer building. The brick building is purportedly part of the town’s hotel.
Remaining ruins at Shermantown and Treasure City are limited. Unfortunately, most of the Eberhardt ruins were eliminated by a wildfire in more recent years.
All things considered, this is a great trip, especially if you have an interest in old mining towns and mines!
Note: Tom Willis lives at northern Nevada. Tom has been involved in all aspects of Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) activities for the past 40 years. He has written and published three guidebooks, covering off-pavement travel and activities in the Nevada and California deserts. Over the last eight years alone, Tom Willis has traveled more than 10,000 miles off pavement. Much of that travel has been research for his popular books.
Tom notes that people have been exploring the Far West for almost 250 years, and virtually any place worth visiting has an established trail access! Dedicated to the principles of Tread Lightly, Tom Willis encourages folks to take plenty of pictures and leave only tire tracks on existing trails. When a destination does involve a short walk, Tom suggests that exercise will probably do us all some good!
Tom Willis’ contributions to this corner of the magazine are about places to see, trails to drive and developments that affect OHV recreation in the western United States. His trail-based articles are destination oriented or “loop” trips, and Tom often talks about things you should know to make your explorations more enjoyable!