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Pine Nut Road
Backroads Around Las Vegas, Desert National Wildlife Refuge
Pine Nut Road
Pine Nut Road

Overview

Pine Nut Road is a 6-mile long, bumpy dirt road on the east side of the Sheep Range that runs north from the Mormon Well Road to Pine Nut, a traditional primitive camping area. Pine Nut is just inside the Pinyon-Juniper Woodland zone, which means the campsites are shaded by Single-leaf Pinyon and Utah Juniper. The road usually requires only a high-clearance vehicle, but it can get troublesome crossing the first large wash; call the refuge headquarters for current conditions.

Link to map.

Pine Nut Road

Pine Nut Road provides access to the east face of Sheep Mountain, the namesake of the mountain range. This is a nice side road for a drive in the desert and an easy way to get away from town and camp out in the desert with some shade, but it is wild and remote country without any services.

For general information on camping, hiking, regulations, natural history, and other issues about the Wildlife Refuge, see the Desert National Wildlife Refuge -- Area Overview page.

Pine Nut Road

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert... Pine Nut Road generally is a good dirt road, but it runs out into wild and remote country. There are no services or developments of any kind. Cell phones do not work. Bring water and food, a good spare tire, a shovel, tools, a tow rope, bailing wire (I learned the hard way) and anything else that you might need to survive a night stuck out in the desert.

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

Pine Nut Road

Location

Pine Nut Road is located on the Desert National Wildlife Refuge and starts about 1.5 hours northwest of Las Vegas. To get there, drive out to the Information Kiosk (Table 1, Site 0106) at Corn Creek Field Station.

Continue east for about 250 feet to a T-intersection with a large directional sign (Site 0731). Turn right onto Mormon Well Road, and follow it south and then east for about 15 miles to Pine Nut Road (Site 0424), which is to the north (left). For details of this part of the drive, see the Mormon Well Road.

Pine Nut Road

The Road

From the Mormon Well Road intersection (Site 0424), Pine Nut Road runs north along a low ridge, then curves gently to the left (west) to drop into and cross a wash (Site 0001) at 2.6 miles out. This wash can be a problem to cross in 2WD, but if you get across, the rest of the road is in better condition.

After the wash, the road bears more to the northwest, heading towards Sheep Peak in the distance. Approaching the mountains, Pine Nut Road crosses and old burn area. I think this fire burned in the early 1990s, and it is interesting to see how the desert is growing back, or not growing back, as the case may be.

Pine Nut Road

Continuing, the road eventually gains enough elevation to climb out of the Mojave Desert Scrub zone and get into the Pinyon-Juniper Woodland zone where trees begin to provide shade.

At the end of the road, 6 miles out, 6-8 campsites are variously tucked under or around the trees. One campsite has a nice cliff-edge view to the south, but unfortunately, little shade. This would be a great campsite during fall or spring when temperatures are cooler and winter snow doesn't block the road.

Pine Nut Road
From Pine Nut Camp, it is only 2.6 air-miles to the summit of Sheep Peak, but it sure looks a long ways off.
Pine Nut Road Trees and shrubs at Pine Nut Camp.
Pine Nut Road Photographing little things at the sunny, cliff-edge campsite.
Pine Nut Road Heading back down the road, view of Quartzite Peak across the valley.
Pine Nut Road Heading back down the road, view of Quartzite Peak across the valley.
Pine Nut Road Heading back down the road, just across the burn area.

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

Site # Location Latitude (N) Longitude (W) UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (ft) Verified
0106 Corn Creek parking area 36.43831 115.35747 647223 4033617 2,814 Yes
0731 Corn Creek Rd at T-intersection 36.43836 115.35654 647307 4033624 2,814 Yes
0424 Mormon Well Rd at Pine Nut Rd 36.50162 115.16437 664399 4040953 5,282 Yes
1229 Pine Nut Rd at Wash 36.53713 115.16742 664051 4044887 5,757 Map
0390 Pine Nut Camp 36.57231 115.20256 660832 4048730 6,740 Yes

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 120424

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