We have not ridden, nor driven most of these roads. We did ride the Blue Sky road from mile 48 to the finish. This is a proper gravel road, but the only one of the day. The other roads are dirt / jeep tracks. We spoke extensively with a ranger from the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge about the feasibility of the route. We were assured that the roads were bikeable on our Salsa Cutthroats — a drop bar, rigid mountain bike with 50 mm tires.
This route explores the very southern reaches of the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, a place few people venture to due to its extreme remoteness.
Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge features a rugged diversity of terrain, creating a rich mix of habitat types, home to more than 300 species of wildlife. Featured species include pronghorn antelope, California bighorn sheep, mule deer, greater sage-grouse, and redband trout. The 278,000-acre refuge is one of the most expansive wildlife habitats in the arid West free of domestic livestock. [US Fish & Wildlife]
What we hope this route has to offer is: remote high desert landscape, abundant wildlife, and the historic Shirk Ranch.
The ranch has fourteen buildings. They include the main house, two bunkhouses, a blacksmith shop, a woodshed, an outhouse, a chicken coop/animal shed, a water tower, two wells, original fences, and the hand-dug irrigation system. There are two additional elements, a historic dump area, and a gravesite, located on two small non-contiguous parcels of land west of the main ranch complex. The entire complex is 14.5 acres. [Wikipedia]
Cross the creaking porch to explore the main house. Watch your footing for missing floorboards and watch your head for swallow nests. Dangerous stairs lead up to a dormitory. Downstairs you’ll find a master bedroom, a stripped kitchen and a living room. Artifacts in the living room include an empty half-gallon of Monarch Canadian, a La-Z-Boy recliner with a rat’s nest and a table with a battered 1978 National Geographic magazine about the spunky cowgirls of the Australian Outback. [The Register-Guard]
Before you venture out, we recommend that you review the Refuge map.
If you’re looking for a longer and more demanding route, consider adding in the Barnhardy route. Start at the Hot Springs Campground and when you reach Lookout Point, pick up this route (South Boundary). Just after mile 48, pick up the Barnhardy route again. This will be a big, big day with little water access.
If you do give this a go, we would love to hear from you. Leave us a comment below.
Adventure / Gravel Route
Technical Difficulty & Risk[what this means]
Moderate+. This route has a significant amount of primitive dirt road / jeep track, limited cell phone reception, and is remote. Most of the ride takes place above 5500 feet with exposure to the elements: wind, rain, or sun.
When we like to ride this …
Early summer through mid-summer when the creeks are flowing, the grasses are green and the flowers are in bloom. Access to use is limited by the Refuge to June 15 to December 1.
Lookout Point. To access Lookout Point use Blue Sky road, a proper gravel road. At the viewpoint, there is a small turn around area where you can park. Note, the drive to the start, from Plush, involves 16 miles of gravel road that can be severely washboarded.
Lat / Long: 42.481273, -119.632191
Brown = gravel / dirt road
For help with GPS files, the RideWithGPs mapping app and to learn how to download our routes for free, see the “Using Our Rides” page.