One of the many things that makes Nevada unique is its abundance of ghost towns. From the 1860s to the 1910s, hundreds of camps and towns sprung up to accommodate the influx of people hoping to strike it rich in mining. Some settlements boomed up seemingly overnight only to go bust and disappear just as quickly. Remnants of many of those towns can still be seen by those who travel off the beaten path. If you want to add a little history to your riding adventures, why not try exploring a ghost town on horseback!

Many of the state’s ghost towns are accessible to equestrians. This year, we’ll highlight a few, starting with Pine Grove, a ghost town tucked in the mountains south of Yerington in Lyon County. Pine Grove boomed in the late 1860s with gold and silver mining. At its peak, the town was home to 600 residents, saloons, hotels, stores, several newspapers, a stage line, and much more. But, by the 1930s all the residents were gone and today only a few structures remain.

Pine Grove may be a shadow of its former glory, but still has enough to make for an interesting destination. Pine Grove sits at about 6,700 feet in Pine Grove Canyon on the east side of the Pine Grove Hills. The townsite is nestled among Pinyon and Juniper trees, craggy cliffs, and scenic vistas. A few well-preserved wood buildings survive, along with partial walls, stone foundations, a stamp mill, and a cemetery. Dozens of old mines dot the hills surrounding Pine Grove.

Take only photos and leave only hoof prints.

Riding

What should make this area especially appealing to riders are the many numbered Forest Service roads that run through the range. Pine Grove is just the first of many places to explore. The range is dotted with ruins, mines, and beautiful mountain views. Some of the Forest Service roads are washed out, making them impassable to most vehicles, but riders won’t have much trouble with them.

There is so much to explore in this area that it warrants more than one day. Rockland, a neighboring townsite south of Pine Grove, has a few structures and mining remnants to see. There are many canyons to traverse with dramatic rock walls and breathtaking views. With so many potential routes to choose from, it’s easy to make loops through the range if you are prepared for 15+ mile rides or more.

Pine Grove and the surrounding mountains are best explored when the snow is almost gone. Some of the roads climb to well over 8,000 feet, making it a great destination in summer and fall, but a little dicey in spring, and unrideable in winter. The hills in the area are quite rocky and some roads can be as well, so horseshoes or boots are recommended. There is a lot of elevation gain and loss, so you and your horse should be conditioned for mountain riding.

Follow Forest Service rules for dispersed camping on public lands.

Camping  

There are no official campgrounds near Pine Grove. Be prepared to primitive camp if you want to do more than a day ride. Pine Grove sits in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest so normal Forest Service dispersed camping rules apply. You need to be self-contained. No amenities are provided, such as water, restrooms, or trash cans. You may stay in a dispersed camping site for up to 14 days.

You won’t be able to get a rig all the way up to Pine Grove so you’ll need to set up your basecamp in the valley floor. There are several turnouts with fire rings in the valley and on the Forest Service road up to Pine Grove. We recommend the large turnout where FS Road 059 meets 193. There are no trees so don’t plan on highlining. You’ll need a portable pen, electric corral, or some other type of containment system for your horse. The Forest Service requires all hay used on Forest Service lands to be certified as weed-free.

As always when dispersed camping, be sure to leave no trace. That means pack out all trash and dig catholes at least six inches deep. Given its close access to the city of Yerington, this is a moderately popular area for recreation. You may see OHVs on some roads, especially on weekends. Cows are grazed in the area and there are several spring-fed stock ponds in the valley. Be sure to study maps before you set out. Cell service is spotty at best.

Interesting terrain and dramatic views make this a worthwhile destination.

Getting There

Pine Grove is located about 25 miles south of Yerington and 32 miles northeast of Bridgeport, California (as the crow flies). Pine Grove Road (Sometimes called East Walker Road) is not paved, but is a well-maintained road so you should have no problem hauling a trailer on it. Forest Service Road 059 unmarked so be sure to use a GPS or your odometer. The Forest Service road is less maintained, but at the time of this writing was in good condition to drive one mile to a turnout. We do not recommend hauling beyond that point.

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