Gold Point

For a ghost town, Gold Point is surprisingly alive. This tiny town in Esmeralda County only boasts about nine year-round residents, but it sees about 12,000 visitors each year! Gold Point is one of many mining towns that came and went the boom and bust cycle of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Nevada. But unlike some of those other camps and towns, Gold Point never quite disappeared. It has always kept a small, but devoted population.

Today, a lot of visitors come to Gold Point to walk its dusty streets and see the well-preserved buildings. Others visit because Gold Point makes for a unique basecamp from which to access public land. But the town hasn’t been discovered by equestrians… yet. I spent a weekend in Gold Point to see what this off-the-beaten-track ghost town has to offer for a horse and rider.

The original townsite and telephone office, turned saloon.

Lodging and Accommodations

Gold Point isn’t even a one-horse town, so there are no corrals available. However, the folks that live there are very open to equestrian visitors. They will let you set up your own portable corral on one of the empty lots right in town and there is plenty of parking for a rig. I was offered a nice lot behind the saloon, with room for my truck and trailer, corral, and tent – and it even had a fire ring.

If you don’t have a trailer with living quarters and you don’t want to tent camp, there are several rustic options for rent, depending on your comfort level. The miners’ cabins are sparse – a single room with a bed and a table, no running water, but they do come with a camp toilet. Or you can rent one of the houses. Each one has two bedrooms, a living room, dining room, bathroom, refrigerator, microwave, and sink. The cabins and houses are original to the town! Rentals start at $120 a night.

There’s no official restaurant in Gold Point, but for an extra fee you can get a home cooked breakfast and dinner, and eat family-style with some of the residents and other visitors. The saloon is fully stocked and is opened for visitors to have a drink. There are no services in Gold Point such as stores or gas stations, so you’ll want to come prepared and as self-sufficient as possible so as not to impose on the residents.

Some of Gold Point’s preserved wood buildings that line the streets.

Why it’s Worth a Visit

Gold Point is remarkably well-preserved for a town whose heyday has long since passed. About 50 buildings are still standing, including the post office and telephone office. Over the years residents have lovingly restored many of the buildings, but the weathered exteriors are all original. You’ll truly feel as though you’ve traveled back in time as you ride down the handful of dirt roads that make up the core part of the town. There are also old cars, wagons, and “desert art” strewn through town giving it a distinct Nevada feel.

Equestrians will love Gold Point because of the nice country for riding. Ride right out of town and choose from countless roads and trails that weave through the desert, or just ride cross-country or in one of the many washes. There are great views of mesas and mountains, rolling hills, interesting rock formations, nice footing, and lots of options for riding. I spent several days riding around the area and never took the same trail twice.

There’s a lot of history to see outside of town too. You’ll find dozens and dozens of mine shafts, headframes, mills, cabins, and ruins of other camps all along the trails surrounding Gold Point. There’s a quiet stillness when you ride through today, but it’s easy to imagine the hustle and bustle of the mining district at the peak of its operation. Of course, you don’t want to ride too close to any of the mining ruins – in addition to unsafe shafts, there is a lot of debris strewn on the ground.

The terrain around Gold Point has that wonderful southwestern vibe where sagebrush has given way to Joshua Tree forests, cholla, and beavertail cactus. (A word of caution for northern Nevada readers: You’ll want to give cholla a very wide berth. My northern NV dogs immediately ran right into cholla and I spent the first day picking barbs out of their skin.) Wild horses and burros can be found in this region, though I didn’t see any sign of them during my visit.

I didn’t find any water during my riding, but I wasn’t really looking for any. Topo maps do show quite a few springs in the area, but you’ll want to pack plenty of water anyway. I’m also told there are petroglyphs, fossils, and petrified wood to see in the area. Temps were in the low 70s when I visited mid-April, and summer highs can reach the upper 80s.
I only explored a small fraction of the trails around Gold Point, but I thoroughly enjoyed riding there. The preserved history, the desert scenery, and solitude on the trails make this a worthy destination. I could see this becoming a popular riding spot, especially for endurance riders.

If You Go

Advance reservations are a must, especially if you are coming with horses. Weekends can be surprisingly busy with groups and campers so be sure to call ahead and find out who else is booked. (OHV groups love Gold Point!) Well-behaved dogs are welcome but know that there are some free-roaming town dogs who will come visit you. Cell service is spotty at best in Gold Point, so just plan on being off the grid during your stay.

Getting There

Gold Point is located about 284 miles south of Reno and 184 miles north of Las Vegas. It is about 10 miles from the California border, about 30 miles south of Goldfield. It sits at 5,700 feet on the south side of Lida Valley. Once you turn off Highway 95, the road is paved or gravel the whole way into town, making it very easy to get in with a horse trailer.

Learn More: www.goldpointghosttown.com


Story and Photos by Samantha Szesciorka

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Story and Photos by Samantha Szesciorka

Bonnie Springs Ranch

Editor’s Note: Bonnie Springs is permanently closed as of March 17, 2019.


Just 35 minutes west of downtown Las Vegas, nestled in the majestic Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, is a must-visit destination for equestrians. Bonnie Springs Ranch is an all-in-one operation, offering lodging, a restaurant and saloon, old west town, petting zoo, shows, miniature train rides, helicopter tours, and a riding stable. With so much to see and do, Bonnie Springs is the perfect place for a friends getaway, a couples retreat, or a family vacation.

This spot in the Mojave Desert was originally a stopover for wagon trains on the Old Spanish Trail. In the early 1950s Bonnie Springs Ranch was just a bar, but over the next few decades became the tourist attraction it is today. The 100+ acre ranch is open year-round and welcomes over 500,000 visitors a year! I took a trip down to Bonnie Springs Ranch to learn why it’s called the “best-kept secret in Red Rock.”

man on horse riding through desert and pointing
Wrangler Steve points out the sights along our guided trail ride.

Riding Stable

The thing that makes Bonnie Springs an equestrian’s destination is its Red Rock Stables. Bring your own horse and board in their mare motel for only $20 a night. You can ride right off the property onto almost endless trails that wind along the foothills of the Spring Mountain Range. The stable also features round pens and an arena for use as well. You’ll want to bring proof of Coggins test and a health certificate if you bring your own horse.

If you don’t want to bring your horse, Red Rock Stables also offers guided rides with their own herd. The wranglers lead 6-8 rides a day, depending on the season. Most rides are an hour, but they do offer a few hour and a half rides too. There are also specialty rides that include breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Since I visited sans-horse, I opted for a guided hour-long trail ride.

My wrangler – Cowboy Steve – was extremely friendly and knowledgeable about the area’s flora and fauna. He led me along a nice well-worn sandy trail that provided good views of the mountains and the surprisingly lush plant-life of the region. The guided ride is perfect for beginners or those visitors who just want to get a little time in the saddle.

Red Rock is a pretty spectacular place to ride with its dramatic peaks and sandstone cliffs in vivid shades of red, orange, and brown. The Mojave Desert terrain is filled with yucca, Joshua trees, cholla, and barrel cactus. Wild horses and burros roam the area, along with the usual Nevada wildlife – mule deer, bighorn sheep, and coyotes. And keep your eye open for Gila monsters, the only venomous lizard in the United States!

mountain range and desert
The view from Bonnie Springs at the base of the Spring Mountains.

Old Town Nevada

This recreated town is a homage to the Nevada of old. The staff told me that when the owners were building the town in the 1970s they scavenged building materials from other Nevada ghost towns and sites. What they built is a fun imaging of a late 1800s mining town. There are no false fronts here – all the buildings are complete. The main street is lined with a stamp mill, marshal’s office, a walk-through mine, opera house, saloon, blacksmith’s shop, a wax museum with figures from frontier history, several gift shops, a photo shop (where you can take souvenir photos in costumes) exhibits of old west artifacts, and much more. There’s even a Boot Hill Cemetery complete with funny epitaphs on the graves. (My personal favorite: “Berry M. Deep –  Victim of Fast Women and Slow Horses)

Actors in dusters, sheriff badges, and fake guns roam the town interacting with visitors. They also perform simulated gunfights, hangings, and skits throughout the day. There’s some sly adult humor thrown into the skits, but they’re all perfectly family friendly. It’s hard not have a smile on your face watching the actors, who seem to be genuinely having fun in character – even when they think no one is watching.

With boarded sidewalks that creak under your feet, wagon wheels leaning up against buildings, and wanted posters on the walls, Old Town Nevada is a delightful journey back in time. Admittedly, some of the dioramas and exhibits in town are showing their age – but the vintage feel is part of the charm of Bonnie Springs. It’s obvious that Old Town Nevada was – and continues to be – a labor of love.

Petting Zoo

Visitors of all ages will get a kick out of the petting zoo at Bonnie Springs. There are a variety of barnyard animals roaming around, including goats, sheep, burros, chickens, and peacocks. There are also several very sweet deer who will come up and nibble on your coat or camera strap or whatever else they think looks edible. (There are coin operated treat dispensers throughout the zoo because who can resist deer begging.) The zoo also includes pens with more exotic non-pettable animals like emus, pigs, bunnies, prairie dogs, a serval, and even a wolf!

Lodging

Stay onsite at Bonnie Springs in their motel, which fits right into the scene with its old west inspired architecture. There are 50 rooms of various size, including western themed rooms with fireplaces, a hot tub room, and rooms with kitchenettes. All the motel rooms feature a private patio with views into the inner courtyard, where guests can also access the pool (weather permitting). Room rates start at $85 per night.

If you come with a rig there’s dry camping available for $20 per night.

Stay at the Bonnie Springs motel for easy access to all the fun.

Restaurant & Bar

The restaurant in Bonnie Springs has a rustic ambiance – big exposed timber frames, a bison head mounted on the wall, miners’ lanterns hanging from the rafters, and cow print curtains on the windows, which overlook a pond filled with ducks and turtles. There’s a robust menu with a plethora of hearty options, and prices are reasonable. I’m told their half-pound bison burger is a visitor favorite, along with their chuckwagon steaks. I tried a variety of dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and everything was delicious!

In the evening, visitors can enjoy an after-dinner drink at the bar or alongside their indoor fire pit. The bar has a sizeable menu of its own, including their own signature cocktails and hot drinks. I recommend the Calamity Jane – cinnamon sugar vodka in hot apple cider.

Special Events

Bonnie Springs is a popular destination for movie filming, corporate parties, and other specialty events. You can even get married at Bonnie Springs! But, perhaps the biggest event here is Bonnie Screams which runs the whole month of October. All of Old Town Nevada is transformed into a haunted ghost town with creepy Halloween decorations. The town stays open late into the evening when the costumed actors aim for screams instead of laughs. Bonnie Springs most unique Halloween event has visitors board a bus and shoot zombies (real actors!) with paintball guns out in the desert!

Learn More: www.bonniesprings.com

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Story and Photos by Samantha Szesciorka

Delta Camp

Delta Camp is located within the Lahontan State Recreation Area in Silver Springs (Lyon County) and is managed by Nevada State Parks. From the equestrian campground, enjoy miles of sandy trails that weave through cottonwoods, willows, and sand dunes that follow the Carson River to Lahontan Reservoir.

wooden corrals
Six well-built stalls are available for equines on a first-come, first-serve basis.
campsite with picnic bench, grill, and fire ring.
Campsites can accommodate tent camping or an RV, and are large enough for a truck and trailer.

Wild horses, bobcats, fox, and deer share the park – but this area is renowned for its birds. Keep an eye open for pelicans, herons, egrets, hawks, and a variety of other species. Lahontan is also a nesting site for bald eagles which can be seen perched high in the trees that dot the reservoir’s shoreline.

bald eagle perched in tree.
Keep your eyes open and your camera ready for bald eagles.

Amenities: Six horse stalls, pit toilet, numerous campsites with fire rings and grills. A large parking area with long, wide lanes – perfect for pulling a large rig through. There is no potable water on-site, but easy access to the Carson River will provide unlimited water for your horse. No reservations required.

Weed Free Hay Required: No
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Cost: Day use entrance fee – $5.00 per vehicle. Camping – $15.00 per night.

More Info: parks.nv.gov

View between horse ears of water and beach with hills in the distance.
Enjoy scenic views of water, mountains, and desert vegetation.

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Story and Photos by Samantha Szesciorka