The Bristlecone Wilderness lies in the Egan Range in eastern Nevada. Heusser Mountain stands at 9,409 feet and provides spectacular views of Steptoe Valley and the Schell Creek Range. Elevations within the Wilderness boundaries range from 7,380 to 9,859 feet. Vegetation consists primarily of desert brush and grass at the lower elevations and a scattering of pinyon pine and juniper stands on the upland slopes. Groves of aspen exist in several drainages, including Rattlesnake Canyon. This area’s namesake, the bristlecone pine, is found in this wilderness as well, particularly along the northern ridgeline. Spring can be magnificent in this wilderness, with blooms of globemallow, paintbrush, blue flax, and expanses of arrow-leaf balsam root.
There is high potential for spotting pronghorn antelope on the lower slopes and mule deer higher up. Rumors of big horn sheep in these hills abound. An occasional badger may cross your path as well.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Bristlecone Wilderness.
The Bristlecone Wilderness is located in central White Pine County, approximately five miles due west of McGill, Nevada, or about 10 miles north of Ely, Nevada. To access to this wilderness from Ely: head north on Federal Highway 93 for 5 miles. Turn left on State Highway 490; at the stop sign turn right onto Lackawana Road. After leaving the small community of Cross Timbers, drive about a mile to a dirt road on your right that will take you along the eastern side of the range, or proceed through Hercules Gap to access the west side of the Bristlecone Wilderness.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
Recreational opportunities include camping, hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, and hunting. The Bristlecone Wilderness provides opportunities for solitude in the canyons extending from Heusser Mountain (9,409 feet) or tucked back in The Cove. Spectacular views of Steptoe Valley and the Schell Creek Range are afforded those who hike to the top of Heusser Mountain. See area management for regulations.
Contact the Ely District Office for current road conditions and hazards.
Want to Volunteer for Wilderness?
Citizens who volunteer their time to steward our wilderness areas are an essential part of wilderness management. Contact the following groups to inquire about volunteer opportunities.