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

Overview

Alamo Road North, so named because it once connected 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. The 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.

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.

Alamo Road North provides access to wild and rugged country, including Desert Dry Lake, sand dunes, and historic ranching sites.

Link to map.

Alamo Road North
Signs at start of Alamo Road North (closure sign is gone)

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.

At the southeast edge of Desert Dry Lake, signs 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 conditions, so the refuge closed the section of road that crosses the playa. Drivers who ignore the signs risk fines, not to mention the towing bill. Refuge personnel say the road will be fixed, but it has been closed for years.

Alamo Road NorthHistoric stone cabin (mile 0.73; view N)

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 North
(mile 3.07; view S)

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 North
(mile 4.97; view SW)

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 Headquarters Entrance Road (Table 1, Site 0486). Turn here; this is the roadhead.

Alamo Road North
(mile 6.25; view SW)

The Road

From the pavement (Site 0486), drive west on Pahranagat Headquarters Entrance Road 0.4 miles to a fork in the road. Here, Headquarters Road stays left into the refuge headquarters and maintenance area, while Alamo Road North stays right.

Signs state that the road is closed at Desert Dry Lake, that travel beyond the sand dunes is prohibited, and that Desert Dry Lake is 20 miles ahead. This is somewhat confusing. The "road closed" signs are at the far end of Desert Dry Lake, 27 miles out, and driving past these signs would be driving past the second, smaller set of sand dunes.

At any rate, Alamo Road North turns more or less south to run along the base of the hills, and at Mile 0.73 passes an historic stone building, that at Mile 1.21 passes over a cattle guard.

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

Alamo Road North
(mile 8.44; view S)

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

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

Continuing up the canyon, the road finally runs over a low saddle with nice views to the west and starts down into the next valley; there is a campsite on the knoll adjacent to the road.

At the wash at the bottom of hillside, Alamo Road North 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 a 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 North begins climbing due south into a narrower canyon and runs past some rocky fins. Taking the right turn connects with Badger Mountain Road.

Alamo Road North
(mile 9.17; view W)

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

Running southwest, the road eventually bends to run southeast, then drops through a canyon and swings again to the southwest, and 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 closed, and Alamo Road North bends right to run directly south.

At about 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.

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 reaches Dunes North Access Road (Site 0735) on the left. This short road (0.7 miles) runs east to the edge of the dune field.

Alamo Road North
(mile 10.22; view S)

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

Continuing south along the lake edge, Alamo Road North passes a faint old side road (Mile 23.20) 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 (Mile 26.60) to the right. This side road runs out to another dugout and some old ranching machinery. Also at this point, the second dune field is 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.


(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 sand dunes (mile 20.36; view S)
Alamo Road North
First set of sand dunes (mile 21.88; view E from road)
Alamo Road North
Top of the dunes (view NW towards Dunes Access Road)
Alamo Road North
(mile 21.88; view S)
Alamo Road North
Second set of sand 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)

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) Verified
0486 Hwy 93 at Pahranagat HQ Rd 667045 4126892 37.27547 115.11591 3,335 Yes
0489 Alamo Rd at South Closure 657093 4088514 36.93141 115.23614 3,231 Yes
0491 Pahranagat NWR HQ 666693 4126123 37.26860 115.12005 3,304 Yes
0492 Pahranagat Rd at Alamo Rd 667067 4123522 37.24510 115.11641 3,282 Yes
0493 Alamo Rd Jct 661202 4115981 37.17820 115.18413 4,123 Yes
0542 Alamo Rd Jct 659672 4106391 37.09205 115.20341 3,653 Yes
0543 Alamo Rd at North Former Closure 659762 4089935 36.94377 115.20589 3,221 Yes
0735 Alamo Rd at Sand Dune Rd N 659840 4098880 37.02435 115.20312 3,255 Yes
0736 Alamo Rd at Sand Dune Rd S 660491 4096942 37.00678 115.19621 3,238 Yes
0943 Pahranagat Rd at HQ Rd 666681 4126297 37.27017 115.12014 3,322 Yes
1541 Alamo Rd N at Service Road 662562 4115851 37.17679 115.16885 4,006 Yes

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 151113

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