The South Nopah Range Wilderness became part of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1994 and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management in the State of California. This wilderness area encompasses 17060 acres of desert and mountain terrain and is bordered on its north side and contiguous with the larger Nopah Range Wilderness. The South Nopah Range Wilderness preserves natural habitat for wildlife and provides recreational opportunities for backcountry camping and hiking. There are no obvious trails or water sources, so recreational users need to bring in supplies and tend to follow washes or wildlife trails to explore the area.
The landscape of the South Nopah Range contains bajadas, alluvial slopes created by washes with loose rocks and sediment, that slope up both sides of the rugged Nopah Mountain Range contained in the area. The Nopah Range has elevations of about 4200 feet and is composed of sedimentary rock. Interesting large mammals that can be spotted in the wilderness area include desert bighorn sheep, wild horses, and wild burros. Prairie falcons glide across the sky along the southern section, and evidence of old mining activities dot the landscape. There is little vegetation in the area; plant life consists of desert scrub and some ivory-spined agave plant.
While staying in the region, you can also visit the Death Valley National Park, which lies 31 miles to the west, Red Rock Canyon National Park, which is situated 57 miles east, and the Mojave National Preserve, which is 53 miles south of the South Nopah Range Wilderness.
The South Nopah Range Wilderness area is just west of the Nevada border and situated entirely within the State of California. Pahrump Nevada sits at the junction of Highways 160 and 372, northeast of the Nopah Range Wilderness. The town is the nearest major center with amenities and services for travelers passing through the area to the South Nopah Range Wilderness.
The South Nopah Range Wilderness is separated from the Nopah Range Wilderness by the Old Spanish Trail Highway. Furnace Creek Road borders the wilderness area on the south side. Several informal, unmarked, naturally surfaced access roads run from these paved roads to the border of the wilderness and can be used by high clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles to access washes in the wilderness, which serve as trailheads into the BLM South Nopah Range Wilderness. Motorized vehicles are not permitted in the pubic BLM lands and some private lands surround and extend into the wilderness area. Do not cross private lands on foot or by motorized vehicle to access the public lands without first obtaining landowner permission.
When traveling in the region, visitors will experience extremely hot temperatures in summer, and the area is remote with poor cellular coverage. Ensure your vehicle is well maintained and have maps, drinking water, extra vehicle coolant water, spare tires, and any other supplies you may require in case of emergency.
There is no RV camping in the South Nopah Range Wilderness. However, designated campgrounds in the surrounding national parks accommodate RVs.
At just over a one and a half hour drive from the South Nopah Range WIlderness, the Texas Springs Campground makes a great place to set up a base camp for RV campers looking for accessibility and amenities while still enjoying a natural, secluded setting.
This campground is only open from mid-October until the beginning of May, which is the peak season in the area. The campground is located to the west in the Death Valley National Park on a hill overlooking Furnace Creek. The proximity of Furnace Creek is convenient as you can stock up on supplies, and many popular sites for hikes, such as Golden Canyon and Zabriskie Point, geological sightseeing location Badwater Basin, and a golf course are nearby.
The campground has 92 individual spots with some vegetation, but the campground is mostly open and exposed with little shade and privacy. There are restrooms with flush toilets, a dump station, and drinking water supply at the campground. Of note, payment here is by credit card only, and generators are not permitted. Campsites have fire grates and picnic tables, but there are no RV hookups.
Backcountry camping is permitted on BLM lands providing campers adhere to
“Leave No Trace” principles. As there are no reliable water sources in the wilderness area, it is less popular for backcountry camping than some of the surrounding wilderness areas. Visitors must pack in a minimum of one gallon of water, per person, per day.
Recreational activities in the South Nopah Range Wilderness are usually restricted to the cooler months between October and April as summer temperatures are prohibitive for desert camping, hiking, and backpacking in the region. When camping on public lands, stays are restricted to 14 days maximum, and campsites should be set up on previously utilized sites. Be prepared to pack out all your trash and bury human waste appropriately.
This is rough rugged terrain with hazards, and cellular service is unreliable. Ensure you let someone off site know of your plans and expected time of return.
If you love a secluded desert landscape, privacy, and solitude, the South Nopah Range Wilderness is just waiting for you to discover. Although there are no maintained or designated trails in the area, hikers can venture out along washes and remnants of trails used by old mining activities in the area. The open desert, foothills, and relatively low but rugged mountain terrain is laced with washes and gullies that provide routes through the rough natural landscape. Take plenty of water on excursions as there are no reliable water sources in the region. A minimum of one gallon, per person, per day is required. Hiking is most popular in the region between October and April when high summer temperatures do not impede strenuous activity.
Wildlife typical of the California desert wilderness can be found in the area, including jackrabbit, ground squirrel, rattlesnakes, and desert tortoise. Because of the scarce water and vegetation, large mammal populations are not sustainable in the area long term. However, they do pass through occasionally. Keep an eye out for wild horses, wild burros, and desert bighorn sheep.
Golden eagles and prairie falcons can be seen gliding along the southern skies of the wilderness area in search of prey, and diving to the desert floor below to pick up unsuspecting prey. Wildlife is best viewed in the fall and spring when local creatures are more active.
Scramble up and over boulders and ledges in the South Nopah Range Wilderness and Nopah Range Wilderness to the north during the cooler, peak season months, in the area. Outfitters in the larger centers of California and Nevada can provide information on excellent spots, and you can purchase or rent necessary equipment such as crampons, axes, rigging, and helmets if required, and pack them into the South Nopah Range Wilderness to conduct some climbing.
Watch out for rattlesnakes that shelter under boulders and ledges, and ensure you bring lots of water to hike into rock climbing sites and to hydrate after strenuous rock climbing activities.
Just nine miles west of South Nopah Range Wilderness, visit the town of Tecopa, site of the Tecopa Hot Springs. Accommodations and facilities are available for visitors looking to enjoy the hot springs. A chain of hot springs is situated in the region and many sites have been developed for tourists to enjoy. Visit in the winter months when temperatures are coolest in the area and the contrasting hot spring waters are the most inviting!
During the chilly winter months, enjoy the area near the town of Pahrump, Nevada from an off-road vehicle. Motorized vehicles are not permitted on public lands. However, there is an extensive network of ATV and OHV trails near Pahrump to the northeast.
Some of the more popular trails are Carpenter Canyon Road, Wallace Canyon Road, and Wheeler Wash, which are great for beginner and intermediate riders. Watch out for other trail traffic like cyclists and hikers, and ensure you have appropriate safety equipment such as helmets. ATVs and OHVs must be licensed and registered as per State of Nevada law.
Enjoy the excellent dark night skies in the area, which is relatively remote from human settlements and has minimal light noise, making it excellent for viewing stars and constellations. Take a telescope and a star chart to locate celestial wonders and enjoy the peace and solitude in this remote wilderness.
Temperatures are cooler at night in this desert region, so be prepared to bundle up to enjoy the stars even during the summer months.