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Alamo Road -- North End
Pahranagat NWR to Desert Dry Lake: the northern 27 miles
Backroads Around Las Vegas, Desert National Wildlife Refuge
Alamo Road - North
Alamo Road
Highway 93 at Pahranagat Visitor Center Road (view N)

Overview

Alamo Road, so named because it connects Corn Creek Field Station in the south with the town of Alamo in the north, is a bumpy, 70-mile dirt road that runs north along the west side of the Sheep Range until crossing over near the northern terminus. Perhaps not surprisingly, this road is also called Old Corn Creek Road because, from the northern perspective, it connected Alamo with Corn Creek.

Alamo road was closed some 40 miles out because of road conditions, so to to visit the north end, drivers had to drive north on Highway 93 almost to Alamo, and then drive back south from there. However, the road is now open all the way from Highway 93 to Highway 95.

Described here is the former "northern section," hence Alamo Road North, which differentiates this section from the southern section: Alamo Road South. Alamo Road North provides access to wild and rugged country, including Desert Dry Lake, sand dunes (northern and southern), and historic ranching sites (corral and well).

Link to map.

Alamo Road
Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge entrance sign (view W)

There are a number of primitive campsites along Alamo Road North. Camping is unrestricted, so campers can stop anywhere, but be kind to the land and choose an existing campsite; don't drive off-road into the bushes to camp and be sure to practice Leave No Trace techniques in these undeveloped campsites.

The road usually is suitable for 2WD-HC vehicles, but it can also be rough and washed out. Drivers should stop at the visitor center and inquire about current road conditions. This road runs into wild and remote country where one storm can change to road conditions to 4WD only or worse.

At the southeast edge of Desert Dry Lake, signs used to prohibit crossing the playa and connecting with the remaining 40 miles of road to Corn Creek Field Station. Deeply rutted roads and extremely deep playa dust, which is surprisingly difficult to drive through even in 4WD, resulted in too many people getting stuck and stranded on the playa in life-threatening summer conditions, so the refuge closed the section of road that crosses the playa. It is open now, but drive carefully on the playa.

Alamo Road
Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge entrance sign (view W)

Alamo Road North traverses typical middle-elevation Mojave Desert Scrub habitat with species such as Creosote Bush, White Bursage, and scattered Joshua Trees. The road often follows washes, so Cheesebush and Mojave Rabbitbrush can be common too. During spring, there can be many flowers along the road, including Bigelow's Monkeyflower, Desert Woollystar, and Golden Evening-Primrose.

Typical mammal species along Alamo Road North include Black-tailed Jackrabbit, Desert Cottontail, White-tailed Antelope Squirrel, Mule Deer, and even Desert Bighorn Sheep. At night, Desert Woodrats can be found in rocky areas, Merriam's Kangaroo Rats are widespread, and Desert Kangaroo Rats live in the sand dunes.

Alamo Road

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about being in the desert ... Alamo Road North generally is a good dirt road, but it runs out into wild and remote country. There are no services (no fuel) or developments of any kind. Cell phones don't work. Bring water and food, a spare tire, a shovel, tools, a tow rope, bailing wire (I learned the hard way), and anything else needed to survive a night or two stuck in the desert. Close in, the road is graded occasionally, but farther out the road has rocky spots and washouts that tend to sneak up in a way that could break an axle. The speed limit is 25 mph, and sticking to the speed limit will help prevent breaking axles on unseen rills across the road.

While out, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, this road leads into remote country, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials. This is a wildlife refuge, so pay extra attention to respecting the land.

Alamo Road
Pahranagat HQ Road at Alamo Road North (mile 0.44; view W)

Location

Alamo Road North is located on the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, but it starts up near Alamo, about 1-1/4 hours northeast of Las Vegas.

From town, drive north on Interstate-15 for 21 miles to Exit 64. Exit onto Highway 93 northbound. Consider topping off the gas tank at the truck stop, as this is the last of the gas except for going out of the way to Alamo to get gas.

Drive north on Highway 93. At about 58 miles out, the road enters Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, and at 63 miles out, there is a primitive roadside rest area on the right.

At 66.5 miles out, turn left onto Pahranagat Visitor Center Road (Table 1, Site 0486). Turn here; this is the roadhead.

Alamo Road North
Historic signs at start of Alamo Road North (view SW)

The Road

From the pavement (Site 0486), the road runs west on Pahranagat Visitor Center Road 0.4 miles to a 3-way fork. Here, the visitor center is to the left, the headquarters-maintenance area is down the center road, while Alamo Road stays right.

Alamo Road bends south to run between the lake and the base of the hills, and at Mile 0.73 passes an historic stone building, then at Mile 1.21 crosses a cattle guard.

The road runs south, and at about Mile 2.26 reaches a fork (Site 0492). Here, Alamo Road bends right and starts angling away from the riparian woodlands that border the marsh and lakes.

The road cuts up and across the bajada, then runs up into an open canyon. At Mile 5.29, the road passes a primitive campsite that is easier seen when coming down the road.

Alamo RoadCurrent sign at start of Alamo Road North (view SW)

At Mile 6.25, the road crosses a cattle guard where signs announce entry into Desert National Wildlife Refuge. Expansion of the refuge some years ago pushed the border all the way to the edge of Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, but the sign remains.

Continuing up the canyon, the road runs over a low saddle (nice views west) and starts down into the next valley. There is a campsite on the knoll adjacent to the saddle.

In the wash at the bottom of hillside, Alamo Road does a big hairpin turn and passes a service road (Mile 8.60; Site 1541) to the right that runs out to a guzzler.

Running up the broad valley, the road curves to the left and reaches a road intersection (Mile 9.62; Site 0493), but this is just one point on a very large triangular intersection. Staying left at the first and second points, Alamo Road climbs south into a narrower canyon and runs past some rocky fins. Taking the right turn back at the triangle intersection connects with Badger Mountain Road, which leads to Tikaboo Peak.

Alamo Road
Passing Pahranagat staff housing area

Climbing onto a high saddle, the highest point on the road (4,260 ft), Alamo Road descends past a rocky cliff on the left and into a broad open desert flats.

Running southwest, the road eventually bends to run southerly, then drops through a canyon and swings again to the southwest. In this area, Desert Dry Lake, in the far distance, comes into view.

Running more-or-less straight southwest, the road forks (Mile 16.56; Site 0542). Here, the right fork is a closed service road, and Alamo Road bends left to run directly south.

At Mile 17.23, the road passes a desert pavement area with a low-impact campsite, and again at Mile 17.9 a campsite with a fire ring.

Alamo Road
Historic wooden cabin under cottonwood trees

The road runs more-or-less straight and more-or-less due south across the broad open valley with the first set of sand dunes looming ever closer. Finally, at Mile 21.30, drivers reach North Dunes Road (Site 0735) on the left. This short road (0.7 miles) runs east to the west edge of North Dunes.

Continuing south, just south of North Dunes Road, there is an area with nasty mud when it is wet. It might be wise to stop at the road intersection during wet weather.

Alamo Road runs south another 1-1/2 miles to South Dunes Road (Mile 22.72; Site 0736) on the left. This short road (0.5 miles) runs northeast to the south edge of North Dunes.

Alamo Road
Historic stone cabin and information sign (view NW)

Continuing south along the playa edge, Alamo Road passes a faint old side road (Mile 23.20; Site 1788) to the right that runs out onto the lake bed to an old coral and a dugout water catch-basin.

Still continuing south along the lake edge, the road passes another faint old side road (Old Windmill Spur; Mile 26.60) to the right. This spur road runs out to the historic site of a windmill, another dugout cattle tank, and some old ranching machinery, but the windmill is gone. Also at this point, the South Dune are apparent on the left.

Continuing southwest a short ways farther, Alamo Road North used to end (Mile 27.40; Site 0543) at the southeast corner of Desert Dry Lake because of bad road conditions on the playa, but now drivers can cross the dry lake bed (2.2 miles) and connect with Alamo Road South. Be careful in the deep playa dust because it can suck a jeep into the earth even when dry.

Alamo Road
Historic stone cabin (mile 0.73; view N)
Alamo RoadInformation sigh at the cabin
Alamo Road North
Historic stone cabin before restoration (view N)
Alamo Road North
(mile 3.07; view S)
Alamo Road North
(mile 4.97; view SW)
Alamo Road North
(mile 6.25; view SW)
Alamo Road North
(mile 8.44; view S)
Alamo Road North
(mile 9.17; view W)
Alamo Road North
(mile 10.22; view S)
Alamo Road North
(mile 10.95; view SW)
Alamo Road North
(mile 13.40; view SE)
Alamo Road North
(mile 14.72; view SW)
Alamo Road North
(mile 17.08; view S)
Alamo Road North
Low-impact campsite (mile 17.90; view S)
Alamo Road North
Approaching North Dunes (mile 20.36; view S)
Alamo Road North
North Dunes (mile 21.88; view E from road)
Alamo Road North
Top of North Dunes (view NW towards Dunes Access Road)
Alamo Road North
(mile 21.88; view S)
Alamo Road North
South Dunes (mile 27.40; view SW)
Alamo Road North
Alamo Road North used to end here (mile 27.40; view SW)
Alamo Road North
Historic signs now gone (mile 27.40; view SW)
more to come ...
more to come ...

Table 1. Highway Distances Based on GPS Data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Highway GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Site Location UTM Easting UTM Northing Latitude (N) Longitude (W) Elevation (ft)
0486 Hwy 93 at Pahranagat HQ Rd 667045 4126892 37.27547 115.11591 3,335
0489 Alamo Rd at South Closure 657093 4088514 36.93141 115.23614 3,231
0491 Pahranagat NWR HQ 666693 4126123 37.26860 115.12005 3,304
0492 Pahranagat Rd at Alamo Rd 667067 4123522 37.24510 115.11641 3,282
0493 Alamo Rd Jct 661202 4115981 37.17820 115.18413 4,123
0542 Alamo Rd Jct 659672 4106391 37.09205 115.20341 3,653
0543 Alamo Rd at North Former Closure 659762 4089935 36.94377 115.20589 3,221
0735 Alamo Rd at Sand Dune Rd N 659840 4098880 37.02435 115.20312 3,255
0736 Alamo Rd at Sand Dune Rd S 660491 4096942 37.00678 115.19621 3,238
0943 Pahranagat Rd at HQ Rd 666681 4126297 37.27017 115.12014 3,322
1541 Alamo Rd N at Service Road 662562 4115851 37.17679 115.16885 4,006
1788 Alamo Road at Dry Lake Corral Road 660570 4,096,188 36.999971 115.195486 3,206

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 170821

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