Thursday, March 10, 2011

Success Loop Road Near Ely is Satisfying Drive

When it comes to scenic drives, few roads in the Silver State can compare to Success Loop Road, a little-known route near Ely that passes through the Schell Creek Range in Eastern Nevada.

The 65-mile drive is best accessed via Cave Lake State Park, which is located about 15 miles southeast of Ely via U.S. 93. After heading south of Ely for about eight miles, turn right on a marked, paved road (this is Success Loop Road) and continue for another seven miles to the park.

After turning onto Success Loop, you notice that it gradually begins to rise above the surrounding sagebrush carpeted landscape. Ahead are expressive limestone formations that stand like elegant sentinels at the entrance to the lake.

Continue through a narrow canyon that leads to the lake, which is actually a 32-acre reservoir. The dark emerald lake is situated in a scenic niche in the mountains, surrounded by forests of pinon and juniper.

Above the lake is a small yawning cave—the lake’s namesake—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 two developed campgrounds (Elk Flat Campground and Lake View Campground) offering 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 state record brown trout was caught in the lake several 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 backcountry experience, Success Loop Road continues above the lake and heads deeper into the mountain range. The road in not paved past the campground area but it is a seasonally maintained gravel road that is accessible by most high clearance vehicles. The route is best to travel in the summer and fall months.

Back in here, you will also find a number of undeveloped but usable campsites along several small creeks. The sites are part of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest so there is an overnight fee.

Continuing on the drive, you climb through forests of fir and pine trees as well as groves of white-barked quaking aspen. Above, you can see the marvelous carved, bowl-shaped cirques carved into the Schell Range.

In the spring and summer the surrounding mountains become filled with colorful wildflowers (mostly lupine and mule-ears) and, occasionally, your vehicle will disturb what appear to be clouds of butterflies that take flight as you pass by. The area is also home to herds of deer and elk, so keep your eyes open during the drive.

Success Loop continues for about another 30 miles, with the best part being the first 15 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 a few miles north of the tiny community of McGill or about 17 miles north of Ely.

For more information about Cave Lake and Success Loop Road contact the Nevada Division of State Parks, P.O. Box 761, Ely, NV 89301, 775-867-3001 or go to


Anonymous said...

Very nice writeup, but one correction that could avoid confusion for folks. When you drive out of Ely the turn on the road to Cave Lake park is on the left, not right.

Anonymous said...

Actually it is a loop... your would want to start headding north out of Ely on Hwy 93. The turn off is HWY 486 on the right just a few miles north of McGill.
The end of the loop would be on the left East of Ely out Hwy 6...

broomfield hardscape said...

Beautiful place! Our Nature is the best landscaper for me. Where can I get the right map to go there?