Skip to main content

In this episode of “Outdoor Nevada,” Connor Fields gives us a bird's- (or sheep’s-?) eye view of the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area. The cabin he visits at Soldier Meadows is only the tip of Northern Nevada’s remote-wilderness iceberg. 

For those with off-road capability, the areas surrounding Soldier Meadows offer miles of wild country to explore, history to brush up on, and a taste of what Nevada is all about. 

High Rock Canyon, located west of Soldier Meadows, is the gateway to the state’s most remote areas and part of the historic Applegate-Lassen Trail. This was an important route during westward expansion into Oregon and California from 1849 through the 1850s. The trail is filled with emigrant markings and traces of Indigenous history that predate John Fremont's rediscovery of this Northern Paiute route. 

Getting There: High Rock Canyon Road can be accessed from Washoe County 8A and Stevens Camp Road from the north, or from Washoe County Road 34 and High Rock Lake Road from the South. 

From Soldier Meadows, drive southwest until you reach the northern end of High Rock Lake. From there, head northwest into the mouth of High Rock Canyon. 

Many of the roads in the area are unmarked and unnamed on Google Maps. Using an off-roading app such as onX Offroad is a good way to get accurate information on trails such as this one. 

Distance: The canyon itself is a 16-mile, two-track road that crosses High Rock Creek multiple times. Washouts are common, and the road is continually changing, but stay on it, in order to help preserve the area’s cultural and natural resources.

Equipment Needed: High-clearance 4-wheel-drive vehicles are required along with plenty of food, fuel, and water. 

Pro Tip: High Rock Canyon Road is closed between February and the second weekend in May every year to reduce human impact on raptors and bighorn sheep. If you find yourself between the towering canyon walls of High Rock, make time to hike through Mahogany Canyon on your way through. This non-technical slot canyon is home to the federally protected Lahontan cutthroat trout and is wide enough that you can touch both sides. 

This guide is brought to you in partnership with KNPR's Desert Companion in support of Vegas PBS Outdoor Nevada.

About the Author


Ryan Vellinga is a graphic designer at Desert Companion. Outside of work, he's an avid backpacker and outdoor enthusiast always searching for inspiration in Nevada's landscapes.

Related Episode

Tracking Bighorn Sheep near Gerlach

Host Connor Fields tracks bighorn sheep in the Black Rock Desert near Gerlach.

Getting There

More Outdoor Nevada