Thursday, January 01, 2009
Picturesque and Peaceful Cave Lake
While many people are familiar with the wonder of the Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada, few know there are other beautiful recreation areas in White Pine County.
For instance, one spot that combines impressive mountain scenery, camping opportunities and some of the best fishing in the state is Cave Lake State Recreation Area, located about 15 miles southeast of Ely.
To reach Cave Lake, head south of Ely on Highway 93 for about eight miles. Turn right on a marked, paved road and continue for seven miles to the recreation area. Cave Lake is located in the Schell Creek mountain range, the wall of rock that is directly east of Ely.
The road to the lake, called Success Loop Road, offers a hint of what's ahead. As you rise above the sagebrush carpet, you notice expressive limestone formations that stand like elegant sentinels at the entrance to the lake.
You continue through a narrow canyon that leads to the lake, actually a 32-acre reservoir. The dark emerald lake is situated in a scenic niche in the mountains, surrounded by forests of pinyon and juniper.
Above the lake is a small yawning cave—the namesake of the lake—and ridges of rough, crumbling granite peaks weathered by countless centuries of icy winters and hot summers.
The recreation area offers a variety of activities with 20 developed campsites, showers, restrooms, a dump station, picnic areas and a dock for small fishing boats.
The lake is extremely popular for fishing and regularly stocked with brown and rainbow trout—the locals point out that the state record brown trout was caught in the lake a few years ago.
A five-mile hiking trail begins near the entrance to the recreation area and affords a pleasant opportunity to wander through the trees, enjoying the beautiful scenery and peaceful surroundings.
For those wanting a more back country experience, Success Loop Road continues above the lake, deeper into the mountain range. While unpaved past this point, it is a maintained gravel road that is accessible by most cars.
Back in here, you find a number of undeveloped but usable campsites amidst some of the prettiest scenery in this part of Nevada. You pass small groves of white-barked quaking aspen and drive parallel to a small but picturesque stream.
Above the road is some genuinely breathtaking mountain scenery, including carved, bowl-shaped peaks that look like glacial cirques. As I admired the view, I couldn't help but think that someday the area would be part of some kind of larger state park or wilderness area.
Success Loop continues for about another 30 miles, with the best part being the first ten miles or so. If you follow it all the way, the road winds through the mountains and across a few hidden valleys before dropping back to U.S. Highway 93 near the tiny community of McGill.
For more information about Cave Lake contact the Nevada Division of State Parks, P.O. Box 761, Ely, NV 89301, 775-728-4467.