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Alamo Road - South 40 Miles
Corn Creek to Desert Dry Lake: the southern 40 miles
Backroads Around Las Vegas, Desert National Wildlife Refuge
Alamo Road
Alamo Road
Sign at the intersection of Corn Creek Road, Alamo Road,
and Mormon Well Road (view E)

Note (November, 2015): Alamo Road is open all the way to Pahranagat NWR. However, the Dry Lake area remains a problem especially when wet. (Dec 2016) Ben writes: there were deep wet ruts by Desert Dry Lake, and when my tires slipped off the high areas I thought I was going to turtle for sure, I had just enough momentum to carry me through.

Overview

Alamo Road, so named because it once connected Corn Creek Field Station in the south with the town of Alamo in the north, is a bumpy, 40-mile dirt road that runs north along the west side of the Sheep Range to Desert Dry Lake. From Corn Creek to Hidden Forest Road, the road usually is suitable for 2WD-HC vehicles, but it can also be rough and washed out, and the road gets rougher farther out. Drivers should stop at the visitor center and inquire about current road conditions.

In a 2WD-HC vehicle, this road makes for a nice day-trip or an easy way to get away from town to camp in the desert (at least as far as Sheep Pass), but it is wild and remote country where one storm can change to road conditions to 4WD only or worse.

Link to map.

Alamo Road
Corn Creek Campsite along Alamo Road (view NNW)

At the south edge of Desert Dry Lake, signs prohibit crossing the playa and connecting with the remaining 30 miles of road to Alamo. 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 what could be life-threatening conditions, so the refuge closed the section of road that crosses the playa. The north end of Alamo Road is open, and tracks in the dust show that some drivers ignore the signs, but they risk fines for doing so, not to mention the towing bill. Refuge personnel say the road will be fixed, but it has been closed for years.

With the exception of Sheep Pass, Alamo Road traverses middle-elevation Mojave Desert Scrub habitat. Along the south end of the road, the landscape is very dry and even the creosote bush is stunted and widely spaced. In the north, the vegetation is more robust and more typical of Mojave Desert Scrub. At Sheep Pass, the road climbs into the Blackbrush Zone where blackbrush is the dominant species, and Joshua Trees, yuccas, and many other low growing shrubs are common. During spring, there can be many flowers along the road, and when the temperatures begin to warm, this is a great place to see cactus flowers.

Alamo Road
Corn Creek Campsite before the fence (view NNW)

There are a number of undeveloped campsites along Alamo Road. 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 or even to get off the road.

Corn Creek Campsite (Site 1517; 0.3 miles), Wellhead Campsite (Site 1336; 7.5 miles), Cow Camp Junction Campsite (Site 0992; 8.7 miles), White Dirt Campsite (Site 0738; 21.9 miles), Sheep Pass Campsite (Site 0553; 29.5 miles), and Dry Lake Campsite (Site 0593; 38.4 miles) each are nice in their unique ways. There are many other places to pull off the road and just camp, but be sure to practice Leave No Trace techniques in these undeveloped campsites.

Alamo Road
Runs through mesquite-sand dune habitat (view NNW)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about being in the desert ... Alamo Road 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 work along the south end of the road, but don't count on calling from farther out. 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 out past Hidden Forest Road 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 broken axles on unseen rills across the road.

In the big picture, Alamo Road runs north up a valley between the Desert Range on the left and the Sheep and East Desert ranges on the right. It is important to note that the Desert (Mountain) Range is on the U.S. Air Force Nellis Bombing Range (now the Nevada Test and Training Range), so visitors need to stay out of the Desert Range! It would be safest to just stay on the east side of Alamo Road.

Alamo Road
Minor washout (Sep 2012; view NNW)

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.

Location

Alamo Road is located on the Desert National Wildlife Refuge and starts about 30 minutes northwest of Las Vegas.

From town, drive out to Corn Creek Field Station and continue east another 50 yards to a T-intersection with a large sign giving mileages to 19 destinations. Alamo Road starts here and runs north (left), while Mormon Well Road starts here and runs south (right).

Alamo Road
Minor washout (Sep 2012; view NNW)

The Road

From the T-intersection (Site 1265; mile 0.0), Alamo Road runs slightly west of north, climbing over a low ridge and running out into the desert. Shortly, the road passes Corn Creek Campsite (Site 1517; mile 0.3), a fenced parking area on the left. This is the best campsite close to Corn Creek.

Continuing northward, the road runs straight and nearly level. During the first mile, the road passes through an area of sand dunes grown over by Honey Mesquite trees. These stabilized dunes provide habitat for migrating and resident birds, plus several species of mammals and reptiles. Before the Las Vegas Valley was developed, much of it was covered by similar mesquite-dune habitat.

The road continues straight for most of 4 miles as it cuts across and gently up the bajada. There are no culverts, so each of the dozens of tiny washes flow across the road. In recent years, the road condition has deteriorated, but still is suitable for 2WD-HC vehicles.

Alamo Road
Approaching Joe May Road (view NNW)

Shortly before the road makes its first bend, Alamo Road passes Joe May Road (Site 0780; 3.1 miles) on the right. Joe May Road normally is a fine 2WD-HC road that runs up the bajada for about 4 miles to undeveloped campsites and hikes in Joe May Canyon and Black Gate Canyon.

About 1/2 miles past Joe May Road, Alamo Road begins a gradual curve to the left. The road now contours across the bajada at a gradual incline for about 3 miles. The rills and washouts are a bit more frequent and deeper than before, and towards the end of this section, the road bounds across several deep gullies.

At about 7 miles out, the road curves right to begin climbing the bajada more steeply while now heading north-northeast. Approaching a low hill on the right, Alamo Road passes Wellhead Camp Road (Site 1336; 7.5 miles), on the right. Wellhead Camp Road runs east about 80 yards to Wellhead Campsite (Site 1337). Here, campers are welcome to walk through the the post-and-cable fence and camp near the old well casing.

Alamo Road
Joe May Road (view NE from Alamo Road)

Continuing north, Alamo Road arrives at Cow Camp Road (Site 0992; 8.7 miles). Cow Camp Road is a good, 2WD-HC road that leads up through an interesting canyon (can be sandy) through the Black Hills to the Sheep Range. This road leads to hikes (e.g., Cow Camp Spring) and undeveloped campsites.

Continuing, Alamo Road makes a slight curve to the right at about 10 miles out, and here the road runs along the base of the Desert (Mountain) Range. From here until Alamo Road curves east at Desert Dry Lake, the road runs near the boundary of the Nellis Bombing Range. In places, boundary and warning signs can be seen in the hills, but in general, hikers should not stray too far off the west side of the road. I've seen the boundary marked differently on various official maps, so I don't know exactly where the "shoot first and ask questions later" boundary is located, so I focus my attention east of Alamo Road.

Alamo Road
Minor washout (Sep 2012; view NW)

Following the base of the Desert Range, Alamo Road runs NNE to Hidden Forest Road (Site 0882; 14.8 miles), on the right. Hidden Forest Road is a fine 2WD-HC road that runs east about 4 miles to the mouth of Deadman Canyon and undeveloped campsites at the end of the road. From the trailhead, hikes lead to Hidden Forest, Wiregrass Spring, the old Warden's Cabin, Hayford Peak, and the summit of Sheep Peak.

Continuing north, Alamo Road bends left (more due-north) as it runs out across a broad, nearly flat valley. Alamo Road passes Pine Canyon Road (Site 1226; 15.9 miles; open to foot traffic only) to the east and then Slate Mine Road (Site 1227; 16.9 miles; service road only) to the west. Throughout this area, the wildflowers can be spectacular during good years. At the bottom of the valley, Alamo Road passes White Sage Road (Site 1228; 19.7 miles; service road only) to the west. White Sage Road runs out onto a playa at the base of the Desert Range to the west.

Alamo RoadAlamo Road heading towards Desert Range (view NW)

Continuing across the bottom of the valley, Alamo Road passes White Rock Road (Site 0455; 20.6 miles), on the right. White Rock Road is a rough 2WD-HC road that runs up the bajada for 3.0 miles to the mouth of White Rock Canyon at the edge of the Sheep Range. Rocks in that area appear to be formed from volcanic ash, hence the white rocks. There is an undeveloped campsite at the end of the road.

As Alamo Road passes White Sage Flats on the left, it passes the toe of a ridge. Just before the rocky outcrop, Alamo Road passes White Dirt Camp Road (Site 0738; 21.9 miles), which runs a few yards west to White Dirt Camp (Site 0494). This is an undeveloped campsite tucked against the hillside with nice morning sun.

Alamo Road
Past the big bend (view NE; Desert Range on the left)

Continuing past the rocky ridge, Alamo Road continues north across a gentle bajada to Deadhorse Road (Site 0552; 23.6 miles), on the right. Deadhorse Road is a 4WD road that runs for 9.2 miles up into the Sheep Range. In several places, the road runs in a wash with deep, soft gravel. One time when I was several miles out, a soft bit of gravel at a narrow spot in the wash swallowed my Suzuki Samurai; I shifted into 4WD and drove out, but that would have been a bad spot in a 2WD. The road runs east 8.5 miles to a broad area with a big campsite and two trails (old roads). The road turns north and continues down a canyon for another 0.8 miles to a small campsite on the edge of a wash.

Continuing across the valley, Alamo Road runs north to pass the east edge of another mountain. The road wraps around the base of the hillside to the west, then turns north again and starts climbing the bajada towards a major canyon in the distance.

Alamo Road
Wellhead Campsite (view E from Alamo Road)

Alamo Road runs up into the broad canyon, which technically separates the Desert Range on the left from the East Desert Range on the right. At the top of the canyon, Alamo Road crosses Sheep Pass (Site 0553; 29.5 miles). The pass is unremarkable, but there is one undeveloped campsite, and this is the highest point on Alamo Road.

Descending about 0.6 miles past Sheep Pass, Alamo Road starts down into a narrow, sometimes sandy canyon. The road curves right, then wraps around to the left, and then finally straightens to the right heading north again. Although short and sweet, this is the only canyon narrows along Alamo Road where the road runs right down the wash.

Alamo Road
Wellhead Campsite (7.5 miles N of Corn Creek; view NE)

Beyond the narrows, Alamo Road crosses from Clark County into Lincoln County and descends the long and broad Sheep Pass Canyon. During the next 6 miles, the road becomes rocky and washed out, to include one section where I used 4WD on the return to avoid spinning my tires and further tearing up the road. The canyon bottom is broad and flat, and the limestone cliffs of the Desert and East Desert ranges tower above.

In the distance ahead, Desert Dry Lake playa comes into view, and eventually Alamo Road arrives at Desert Dry Lake Road (Site 0554; 36.4 miles), a service road to the left.

Now heading northeast, Alamo Road curves around a point of rock to run slightly south of east as it climbs gradually across the bajada. Crossing wash gullies, Alamo Road arrives at Dry Lake Camp Road (Site 0593; 38.4 miles), on the right. This spur road runs south about 40 yards to Dry Lake Camp (Site 0123). This undeveloped site provides a broad, starry sky and grand views north across the playa.

Alamo Road
Alamo Road at Cow Camp Road (8.7 miles N of Corn Creek)

Alamo Road continues east-southeast to a low saddle between a ridge and a rocky knob (about 39 miles out). From the saddle, the road curves more to the south, and the road ahead can be seen in the distance. To the southeast, Cabin Spring Road runs over a low hill and disappears into the distance; and to the northwest, Alamo Road runs out across Desert Dry Lake. Most of Alamo Road seen from this vantage is closed, but drivers can see the far side of the playa and the sand dunes beyond, giving a taste of what can be seen along Alamo Road - North (enter from Pahranagat NWR Headquarters).

Continuing over the saddle, the road winds down along the side of the hills to pass an old corral (about 39.4 miles out). Not much is left, but these historic sites always are interesting.

Just beyond the corral, Alamo Road forks (Site 0098; 39.5 miles). Alamo Road stays left, while Cabin Spring Road continues straight (right). Cabin Spring Road is a 2WD-HC or marginally 4WD road that runs southeast for about 9 miles to Cabin Spring (dry) and undeveloped campsites along and at the end of the road. There is a nice campsite on a low bluff 5.2 miles up Cabin Spring Road, but beyond there, the last 3.6 miles get pretty rough.

Alamo Road
Alamo Road at Cow Camp Road (8.7 miles N of Corn Creek)

Staying left, Alamo Road runs northeast for another 0.5 miles to where signs formerly announced that the road is closed. Signs prohibited (but did not block) further travel. I've walked the 2.2 miles across the formerly closed section, and the funny thing is that the more people who obey the sign, the better the road conditions become; that is, if nobody drives across the playa, nobody stirs up the deep dust, and therefore the road is fine.

For information on the northern section of the road, see Alamo Road - North End.

Alamo Road makes for a great place to get away from it all, but remember that this is wild and remote country -- you could be the only person out there for a very long time.

Alamo Road
Cow Camp Road Campsite (8.7 miles N of Corn Creek; view SE)
Alamo Road
Alamo Road at Hidden Forest Road (14.8 miles N of Corn Creek)
HIdden Forest Road
Hidden Forest Road (view E from Alamo Road)
Alamo Road
Long, straight road crossed by a few sneaky little gullies (view N)
Alamo Road
Long, straight road (view N)
Alamo Road
Long, straight road (view N)
Alamo Road
The wildflowers can be extraordinary
Alamo Road
Alamo Road at White Rock Road (20.6 miles N of Corn Creek)
Alamo Road
White Rock Road
Alamo Road
Alamo Road in White Sage Valley (view N)
Alamo Road
White Dirt Campsite (22.0 miles N of Corn Creek; view W from road)
Alamo Road
White Dirt Campsite (view SW)
Alamo Road
Alamo Road, passing hillside beyond White Dirt Campsite
Alamo Road
Alamo Road, approaching Deadhorse Road (view N)
Alamo Road
Alamo Road at Deadhorse Road (23.6 miles N of Corn Creek)
Alamo Road
Deadhorse Road (view NE from Alamo Road)
Alamo Road
Starting towards Sheep Pass
Alamo Road
Sheep Pass on the horizon
Alamo Road Alamo Road
Alamo Road
Getting closer to the Desert Range and Sheep Pass
Alamo Road
Alamo Road at Sheep Pass (29.5 miles N of Corn Creek)
Alamo Road
Alamo Road, just beyond Sheep Pass
Alamo Road
Alamo Road
Alamo Road
Alamo Road, starting into Sheep Pass Narrows
Alamo Road
Upper Sheep Pass Narrows
Alamo Road
Lower Sheep Pass Narrows
Alamo Road
Beyond Sheep Pass narrows
Alamo Road
Descending bumpy road in Sheep Pass Canyon
Alamo Road
Descending smooth road in Sheep Pass Canyon
Alamo Road
Low in Sheep Pass Canyon
Alamo Road
Alamo Road, nearing Desert Valley
Alamo Road
Alamo Road, Desert Dry Lake in the distance (view N)
Alamo Road
Flowers can be good out near Desert Dry Lake
Alamo Road
Alamo Road, flats above Desert Dry Lake
Alamo Road
Dry Lake Campsite (view south from Alamo Road)
Alamo Road
Desert Dry Lake Campsite (37.9 miles N of Corn Creek; view N)
Alamo Road
Alamo Road, beyond Dry Lake Camp
Alamo Road
Alamo Road, atop low saddle (view SE towards Cabin Spring)
Alamo Road
Alamo Road, atop low saddle (view SE towards Cabin Spring)
Alamo Road
Alamo Road, atop low saddle (view NE towards Dry Lake)
Alamo Road
Alamo Road at old corral (view S from Alamo Road)
Alamo Road
Old corral
Alamo Road
Old corral
Alamo Road
Alamo Road at Cabin Spring Road (39.5 miles N of Corn Creek)
Alamo Road
Sign: Alamo Road left; Cabin Spring Road right
Alamo Road
Former Dry Lake Closure sign (40.0 miles N of Corn Creek)
Alamo Road
Former Dry Lake Closure sign (view NNE)

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

Site Location Mileage UTM Easting UTM Northing Latitude (N) Longitude (W) Elevation (ft) Verified
1295 Corn Creek Rd at Alamo-Mormon Rd 00.0 647311 4033593 36.43808 115.35650 2,933 Yes
1517 Alamo Rd at Corn Creek Campsite 00.3 647212 4034068 36.44237 115.35751 2,969 Yes
0780 Alamo Rd at Joe May Canyon Rd 03.2 646366 4038614 36.48347 115.36609 3,240 Yes
1336 Alamo Rd at Wellhead Camp Rd 07.5 643035 4044499 36.53701 115.40217 3,411 Yes
1337 Wellhead Campsite . 643104 4044467 36.53672 115.40140 3,430 Yes
0992 Alamo Rd at Cow Camp Rd 08.7 643589 4046289 36.55306 115.39564 3,547 Yes
0882 Alamo Rd at Hidden Forest Rd 14.8 647279 4055442 36.63498 115.35268 4,490 Yes
1226 Alamo Rd at Pine Canyon Rd 15.9 647637 4057079 36.64967 115.34837 4,492 Yes
1227 Alamo Rd at Slate Mine Rd 16.9 648121 4058626 36.66354 115.34266 4,426 Yes
1228 Alamo Rd at White Sage Rd 19.7 650049 4062820 36.70103 115.32027 4,249 Yes
0455 Alamo Rd at White Rock Rd 20.6 650590 4064035 36.71190 115.31397 4,230 Yes
0738 Alamo Rd at White Dirt Camp Rd 21.9 651421 4066033 36.72976 115.30428 4,264 Yes
0494 White Dirt Campsite . 651382 4066058 36.73000 115.30471 4,260 Yes
0552 Alamo Rd at Deadhorse Rd 23.6 651727 4068747 36.75417 115.30031 4,272 Yes
0553 Alamo Rd at Sheep Pass 29.5 651931 4077996 36.83749 115.29618 4,981 Yes
0554 Alamo Rd Desert Lake Rd 36.4 652465 4087819 36.92591 115.28823 3,477 Yes
0593 Alamo Rd at Dry Lake Camp Rd 38.4 655369 4088573 36.93223 115.25548 3,283 Yes
0123 Dry Lake Campsite . 655376 4088538 36.93191 115.25541 3,303 Yes
0098 Alamo Rd at Cabin Spring Rd 39.5 656773 4087799 36.92502 115.23987 3,235 Yes
0489 Alamo Rd at South Closure 40.0 657093 4088514 36.93141 115.23614 3,231 Yes

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 170105

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