NorCal Roadtrips

An Explorer's Guide to Northern California

Exploring the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest

Background

The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest is a long, narrow swath of land that straddles the California/Nevada state line from an area northwest of Reno, NV south to Mono Lake. At 6.3 million acres it is the largest national forest in the lower 48 states. Highway 395, running north/south, marks the eastern boundary. Originally inhabited by the Paiute and Washoe people, gold changed everything, although later here than elsewhere. The gold rush in this part of the Sierra's began in earnest in 1859.

The forest service divides this large area into two ranger districts: The Carson Ranger District to the north and the Bridgeport Ranger District to the south. The Carson Ranger District encompasses the 29,000 acre Mt. Rose Wilderness anchored by 10,776 foot Mt. Rose. The 160,000 acre Carson-Iceberg Wilderness lies to the south and 16,500 acres of the 105,000 acre Mokelumne Wilderness are located in this forest as well. Everybody, of course, wants to know if the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness was named for the famed lettuce wedge but it was not. The Carson River and a granite spire shaped like an iceberg hold those honors.

Virtually all of the land in the Carson Ranger District lies in Nevada and we will not cover it in detail. It's a very narrow strip of land barely 15 miles wide managed out of Carson City, NV. To the west lies the Tahoe National Forest, the Lake Tahoe Management Unit and further south Eldorado National Forest. Recreationally two options predominate: hiking into the Mt. Rose Wilderness and operating an OHV on one of many OHV trails along the Hwy. 395 corridor north of Reno.

The Bridgeport Ranger District has much to offer, starting with Mono Lake. We have a separate write-up on that so please click the Mono Lake link for more information. There is only one "major" road in the area, Hwy. 395, but that road leads to some wonderful recreational opportunities, mostly centered around beautiful alpine lakes.

Things to Do

Watersports

Topaz Lake, Bridgeport Reservoir Twin Lakes and Lundy Lake provide recreational opportunities, with lesser contributions from Trumbull and Virginia Lakes.

Fishing

All of the lakes noted offer anglers opportunities to fish for trout. Rivers of some import include the West Walker and numerous streams mentioned in the text.

Camping

Camping here is understated, with no "major" state or national parks known for that type of recreation. But there are plenty of spots to camp next to a trout stream and enjoy some downtime.

Hiking/Backpacking

This long, narrow forest offers easy access in many places to the Carson-Iceberg and Hoover Wilderness areas. The eastern boundary of Yosemite National Park is also nearby.

Off-Road Travel

There are several 4WD trails in the vicinity of Bridgeport with opportunities to explore some old mining ruins, including the famous Bodie Ghost Town.

Destinations

Click the links for more information.

Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve- an interesting place to visit, site of some unique tufa spires and topography.

Topaz Lake- a full-service recreation lake with no public campgrounds.

Kirman Lake-a well regarded fishery requiring a 3 mile hike in and no camping.

Bridgeport Reservoir-a well regarded trout fishery with no on-site camping.

Twin Lakes-smallish lakes with a good mix of fishing, camping and hiking. Robinson Creek, a highly regarded trout stream is nearby.

Virginia Lakes- Pretty high-elevation lakes (above 9,000 feet) with camping at private facilities. Nearby Trumbull Lake has a public campground. All are close to the Hoover Wilderness.

Lundy Lake- a small natural lake at 7,800 feet and a good basecamp for hikes into the Hoover Wilderness. There's a Mono County Public Works campground at nearby Lundy Canyon.

Leavitt Meadows & Falls- camp in a pretty spot and take your Jeep to Leavitt Lake. Riders have a pack station nearby. Click the Hwy. 395 roadtrip for more information.

Roadtrips

Hwy. 395- Topaz Lake to Mono Lake

-The End-