If you are willing to travel off the beaten path, you might be surprised at what you’ll find hidden in Nevada. Tucked in the northwest corner of the state you’ll find the tiny town of Vya. Once a trading post on the busy Applegate-Lassen emigrant trail, today Vya is little more than a crossroads in the desert. The town essentially died out in the 1920s, and though a handful of ranchers still call it home, Vya is considered a ghost town.

But, if you venture out to this part of northern Washoe County, you’ll also find Old Yella Dog Ranch – an equestrian getaway that promises seclusion, comfort, and scenic views. Shauntel Stark and Roger Hartzo, a young couple from California, took over the historic ranch about two years ago and now invite guests to come experience life in remote Nevada. With cozy accommodations and beautiful scenery, Old Yella Dog Ranch is the perfect place to escape to the desert with your horse without roughing it too much.

Old Yella Dog Ranch guest cabin
A spacious cabin awaits you at Old Yella Dog Ranch.

Lodging and Accommodations

Old Yella Dog Ranch offers a charming and modern cabin for visitors. With two bedrooms downstairs and three beds in the upstairs loft, it can accommodate small or large groups. The 1,500 square foot cabin features a covered front porch with a swing, living room, fully stocked kitchen, bathroom, and laundry facilities. Guests need only bring their own food and drinks to feel right at home. Western decor covers the walls giving the cabin a rustic feel. There is a television, along with books, board games, and other diversions. But, be prepared to be off the grid – there is no internet or cell service here.

Guests will love having breakfast on the big front porch or watching the sunset over the desert in the evening. The cabin is private and makes for the perfect place to get away from it all. Enjoy stunning 365-degree views of the surrounding desert and plenty of quiet. Only by the occasional sound of cattle lowing in the distance, coyotes yipping, and birds chirping will interrupt your solitude.  

For equine visitors, there is a large secure pen with a covered shelter just next to the cabin. You can easily keep an eye on your horse from the cabin windows. If you need more space, there are additional panels to create more pens. Clean water feeds directly from the spring in the hills above the cabin, so you need only bring hay.

Woman on a horse with two dogs
Old Yella Dog Ranch owner Shauntel Stark leads the way on the trail.


You can ride right out from the cabin onto the ranch’s 800+ acres or head out into thousands of acres of BLM land adjacent to the property. The ranch sits at the base of the foothills of the Fortynine Mountain Range just a few miles from the Nevada-California border. Choose from a variety of nice roads that will take you up into the pinyon and juniper hills that offer amazing views of the valley to the east and California to the west. The hills are also dotted with impressive rock formations of compressed volcanic ash.

In the spring, a variety of colorful wildflowers fill the hills. Keep your eyes open for deer, wild horses, and other usual desert wildlife. Stock ponds, reservoirs, and springs offer access to water, though not all are year-round. The terrain is interesting and diverse, with enough to warrant several days of exploration! Vya is a great jumping off point to ride other nearby historic areas too. If you want to haul out, Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge is to the north and the Black Rock Desert (Steven’s Camp) is to the east.

The hills above the ranch give dramatic views of Long Valley below.

Other Things to Know

Old Yella Dog Ranch is pet-friendly. Well-behaved dogs are welcome and there is a small fenced back yard for those who cannot roam freely. Dogs are an additional $5 per night, with a limit of three. Horses are an additional $10 per night, with a limit of four. A Coggins test is required.

The ranch is in a great spot for non-riding activities too. Mountain bikers will find the trails fun. There is a nearby pond for fishing. And hunting is popular in the region. Or, just take a hike around the area and explore some of the old ruins and outbuildings.

The ranch is technically open year-round, but use caution for winter visits. This remote part of the state is known for its tough winters making travel difficult. Spring and fall are the ideal times of year to visit. No matter when you go, make sure to have a full tank of gas. There are no services in Vya. Cedarville, California (22 miles west) is the closest place to get basic supplies.

If You Go

Vya is about four hours north of Reno. It is easy to get to from Highway 395 through Alturas and Cedarville, then back over into Nevada. You can also get there on Country Road 447 through Gerlach.

Old Yella Dog Ranch is definitely worth a visit. You’ll find the cabin extremely comfortable and the riding very enjoyable. If you’re anything like us, you won’t want to leave!

Learn more: http://www.oldyelladogranch.com/