Fortification Range offers one of the most gorgeous views to all those who are fortunate enough to drive towards it during sunset. The setting sun sets the range in flames, bathing it in golden light. The steep vertical western cliffs of the range look almost like a fort from the Roman era - hence the name.
And this is what you get to see and sleep under during your unforgettable days of camping at the Fortification Range Wilderness in Ely, NV. This and much more, as the wilderness is known for its golden and red beauty that nature has bestowed on it. That’s not all, the area is also impressively biologically diverse.
The 30,656-acres of Fortification Range Wilderness is managed by the Bureau of Land Management for the protection of the long Fortification Range. This unique range is formed solely of volcanic materials such as breccia and tufts. Rock formations, cliffs, canyons, and outcrops aren’t the only exciting features of this wilderness.
It is just as biologically blessed when it comes to its vegetation and flora. The northern part of the range in the wilderness area is covered with juniper, ponderosa, aspen, cottonwood, and pinion. The southern portion is home to scattered yet dense forests of pinon and juniper. As a result, wildlife is abundant in the area. Hunters, trappers, and pine nuts collectors are regulars of this wilderness.
Fortification Range Wilderness is 19 miles south of US Intersection 93 and a little over 70-miles from Great Basin National Park. Once you get to Country Road 457, you’ll see the eastern boundary of the wilderness from your car window. A little walk away from the road and you’ll emerge into a land of white spires, sherbet-colored rock formations, and wild horses.
The twists and turns on the road to the wilderness can get a little tight with cliffs on both sides. Occasionally, you might come across the dirt roads. This is a wilderness area and there’s a high chance of animals jumping in front of you so it is advised to drive slowly.
Bureau of Land Management permits RV and backcountry camping at Fortification Range Wilderness. Visitors can occupy a campsite for 14 days and not more. Campfires are allowed unless there’s a fire hazard restriction. You can collect down and dead wood for campfires, but not live wood.
One must practice the Leave No Trace Policy while camping on BLM land. If more than two campsites are located closer than 300 feet to each other, one of them might be removed. Plan your trip accordingly as during hunting seasons, campsites can be in high demand.
Hunting is permitted by the BLM in this wilderness and game animals include mule deer and Rocky Mountain elk that can be found in the woodlands of this vast wilderness. Pronghorn antelope are also hunted in the low sage flats of the Fortification Range Wilderness. Game birds of the wilderness include greater sage-grouse and Rio Grande wild turkeys.
While hunting and trapping are permitted, they are still subjected to State and Federal laws and regulations. It is strictly prohibited to create permanent blinds in the wilderness. Hunting is one of the most popular recreational activities here and the region gets crowded around hunting season.
This wilderness area poses several hiking opportunities, though it should be kept in mind that only hikers with high levels of experience should brave this landscape. Some of the most frequented trails are of Fortification Range High Point, Fortification Benchmark, Patterson Peak, Indian Springs, and Limestone Hills Highpoint. They take hikers on challenging treks over diverse terrains and past spectacular scenery and wildlife.
Cottonwood Canyon is one of the biggest attractions of this wilderness. And while there are numerous canyons in this wilderness, Cottonwood stands out with its beauty.
The cottonwood spring that drains from the higher reaches certainly adds to its charm. The hike up the canyon is wonderful. It could get a little windy so make sure to grab your windbreaker and all the required supplies before making your way up.
It is no secret that Fortifications Range Wilderness is beautiful beyond words. The looming rugged peaks are limestone white and pale pink, and when the sunlight hits it, it becomes a blaze of vivid lights and colors. Capture the scene and you’ll love that picture forever.
Making the wilderness even more vivid is the contrasting green forest standing out in the pale white of the mountains. The wilderness has a diverse topography, one that even allows the visitors to capture nature’s own amphitheater in upper Cottonwood Canyon.
Wildlife is in abundance here and you are likely to come across many species during your stay, especially if you venture into the thick forest. Some of the wildlife of this wilderness are pronghorn antelope, mule deer, mountain lions, coyotes, and various species of raptors.
Wild horses profusely populate the area and you’ll see them running around everywhere in the wilderness, but then it’s Nevada and horses are very common here.
Fortification Range Wilderness is an excellent place for learning about geology and wildlife. Many geologists and nature lovers frequent the area for just that. The southern part of the wilderness is blanketed with lush pinyon-juniper woodland, while the wilderness itself is dominated by the Fortification Range that is made of nothing but volcanic materials.
What’s fascinating is that a large part of the Fortification Range is left untouched and is in its most natural condition. Something that every geologist would appreciate.