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A Guide To Mountain Biking in Ely, Nevada

Discover the best mountain biking in Ely, Nevada including the best trails, route recommendations, where to eat and camp, and more!

Becky riding mountain bike on singletrack trail in Ely, Nevada

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Ely, Nevada is a small, historic mining town located in the eastern part of the state near Great Basin National Park. What most people don’t know about Ely, though, is that it’s home to some great mountain biking.

I recently spent a few days exploring the trails and networks around Ely and came away pretty darn impressed with what I saw. I was also excited to learn about all the plans for future trail building and development that are already in the works for the next 5+ years.

Ely may not be known as a world-class mountain biking mecca, but it certainly should be on your radar if you’re looking for a unique, up-and-coming destination with lots of great riding and potential. There are also lots of unique and interesting things to do around Ely like ride the Nevada Northern Railroad, visit ghost towns, and more!

Read on to start planning your Ely, Nevada mountain biking trip.

Thank you to White Pine County Tourism & Recreation for hosting me!

Why Mountain bike in Ely?

Close your eyes and conjure up an image of Nevada in your head. Go ahead, do it! You probably envisioned either the bright lights of Las Vegas or Reno or a vast expanse of sage brush-studded desert with dry, rocky mountains in the distance.

Now scrap all that and picture a small western town surrounded by 11,000-foot peaks, pinyon-juniper forests, a quaint main street filled with colorful mural art, and endless opportunities for outdoor adventure – that’s Ely, Nevada.

It’s definitely not the Nevada most people picture in their minds.

Mountain biker riding bike on high desert, forested singletrack trail in Ely, Nevada
Ely, Nevada is not the Nevada most people think of

But what about mountain biking? It’s great, too! And it’s just going to keep getting better. Over the past few years, there’s been a big push by the White Pine Tourism Board – thanks in part to Kyle Horvath, who I had the pleasure of getting to know during my visit – to expand recreation in White Pine County, including Ely.

The town has received thousands of dollars in grants to build new trails, update old ones, and maintain what they already have. There are currently about 70 miles of trail already in place and ready to ride with 40+ more miles planned out over the next 5+ years.

In addition to great riding, Ely also has some awesome camping – both in paid campgrounds and free dispersed sites – as well as a number of fun and unique things to do around town to make the most of your visit (See ‘Other Things To Do in Ely’ below).

Painted mural of Basque Sheepherder with flock of sheep and horse. Painted by Lori Drew and located in Ely, Nevada
Ely has over a dozen historical murals like this one of a Basque sheepherder by Lori Drew

One final reason to plan a visit to Ely is its location. Ely sits on highway 50 near Great Basin National Park and it’s a convenient place to stop on your way to bigger mountain bike destinations such as Las Vegas, Hurricane/St. George, Salt Lake City, Moab, and Sedona.

Important Things to Know

Before I dive into the mountain biking in Ely, here are a few important things to know:

  • The elevation: The town of Ely sits at just over 6,400 feet and many of the trails are up at 7,000-8,000 feet. I definitely felt the altitude when I visited! Start with one of the mellower rides like the G Loop and work your way up from there.
  • e-bikes are allowed: E-bikes are allowed on the trails around Ely. Please be kind and courteous to each other – we can all get along! If you’re newer to riding an e-bike, just be sure to follow good trail etiquette.
  • Check the weather: The mountains surrounding Ely get snow in the winter and weather can be variable during the shoulder seasons (see ‘Best Time to Mountain Bike in Ely’ below). Always check the weather before heading out and be prepared with a lightweight layer since temps higher up can drop fast.
  • The trails are not well-marked: Outside of the Cave Lake network, which does have good trail signage, the mountain bike trails in Ely are currently not well-marked. While I recommend having TrailForks downloaded to your phone for every ride it’s pretty much essential here. You can also pick up a trail map at the White Pine Tourism Center, but it may not be up-to-date.

Trail Networks & route Recommendations

Ely has four main mountain bike trail networks. I’ve listed them in order of relative difficulty with Ice Plant being the easiest and Squaw Peak being the hardest.

  1. Ice Plant
  2. Ward Mountain
  3. Cave Lake State Park
  4. Squaw Peak

1. Ice Plant

Ice Plant is the trail network closest to town and is home to some of the best mountain biking in Ely, especially if you don’t want to work too hard for your downhill reward.

The trails here are mellow and slowly gain elevation until you hit the steeper slopes of Ward Mountain where you can then turn back around for a fun, fast descent.

The local kids love this area because there are lots of features to play around on like little kickers, drops, berms, and whoops (The Whoops trail is a must!).

Singletrack mountain bike trail winding through pinyon pine trees in Ely Nevada with sun setting on mountains in the distance
Ice Plant Route recommendation

>> Figure 8 Loop

There’s not a whole lot of elevation gain or loss at Ice Plant, but the trails have some super fun features like rollercoaster whoops on The Whoops, drops and kickers, a few man-made obstacles, and more. This loop is great for kids or to do if you’re short on time.

  • Route difficulty: Easy
  • Mileage: 4.4 miles
  • Route type: Figure 8 Loop
  • E-bikes? Yes
  • Elevation gain/loss: 528 ft
  • Map/GPS: TrailForks

Route directions: Ice Plant Parking > Ice Plant > Badger Hole > Upper Slalom > Tin Pan Alley > Ice Plant > The Whoops

Do more: The Ice Plant trails connect into the Ward Mountain trails, so if you want to extend your ride, you can keep climbing up Ice Plant either to Mid-Mountain Cut-off or alllll the way to the top where you can then descend down Total BS which is super fun. Be prepared for a hefty climb, though!

2. Ward mountain

Above Ice Plant are the Ward Mountain trails, which can be accessed via the Ward Mountain Campground or shuttling up Ski Hill Road.

For a nice warm-up pedal, the 5-mile G-Loop is a good intro to Ely mountain biking before tackling some of the higher-up terrains.

I will say that, currently, a shuttle is kind of necessary if you want to do longer descents off of Ward Mountain. The trails Powderberry, Tokey-Dokey, and Total BS all end near town, and you either need to pedal back to your car (which would be a hefty climb) or take a second shuttle vehicle back up.

There are plans to expand the Ward Mountain trails in the next few years, so this will add more options for non-shuttled rides.

Mountain biker riding singletrack trail in Ely Nevada with mountain range in the distance
Ward Mountain Route recommendation

>> G Loop

The G Loop on Ward Mountain is an easy, mellow warm-up ride and a good introduction to Ely mountain biking, especially if you aren’t used to the elevation. There’s a short grunt of a climb at the start, but then it mellows out into rolling singletrack before ending a fun, fast descent back to the parking area.

  • Route difficulty: Easy
  • Mileage: 4.7 miles
  • Route type: Loop
  • E-bikes? Yes
  • Elevation gain/loss: 805 ft
  • Map/GPS: TrailForks

Route directions: Ward Mountain Recreation Area Parking > Ward H Loop (or G Loop) > G Loop > Rope Tow > Making Pancakes > Powderberry Divide

Make it easier: If you prefer machine-built trails over old-school tracks, you’ll enjoy the descent down Total BS more. This will spit you out at Ice Plant where you can then take The Whoops back to town.

Make it shorter: If you start at Ward Mountain Campground as this route suggests, there’s a bit of a grinding climb at the start. You can skip this first climb by parking at Ward Mountain Parking instead. You’ll still need to climb up Rope Tow Flow and Making Pancakes, but this will cut off about 560 ft of initial climbing.

Ward Mountain Route recommendation

>> G Loop to Powderberry Divide

This is a shuttled ride, so you will need two vehicles. Powderberry Divide is a steep, loose descent off of Ward Mountain with lots of tight switchbacks. It’s definitely the most challenging trail in this network, but doable if you like raw terrain and loose riding. There are a few log drops/rollers, but no overly technical features aside from loose terrain. Did I mention that it’s loose?

  • Route difficulty: Intermediate+
  • Mileage: 8.3 miles
  • Route type: One-way shuttle
  • E-bikes? Yes
  • Elevation gain/loss: 1,159 ft
  • Map/GPS: TrailForks

Route directions: Ward Mountain Recreation Area Parking > Ward H Loop (or G Loop) > G Loop > Rope Tow > Making Pancakes > Powderberry Divide

Make it easier: If you prefer machine-built trails over old-school tracks, you’ll enjoy the descent down Total BS more. This will spit you out at Ice Plant where you can then take The Whoops back to town.

Make it shorter: If you start at Ward Mountain Campground as this route suggests, there’s a bit of a grinding climb at the start. You can skip this first climb by parking at Ward Mountain Parking instead. You’ll still need to climb up Rope Tow Flow and Making Pancakes, but this will cut off about 560 ft of initial climbing.

3. Cave Lake

If you only have one day to ride in Ely, spend it at Cave Lake. The trails here are a great mix of cross-country pedaling, stiff climbs, and super fun, flowy descents. The views are also amazing!

There are even two campgrounds at Cave Lake where you can base yourself from and don’t forget your bathing suit so you can take a dip in the reservoir post-ride.

Mountain biker riding singletrack trail lined with pinyon pine trees at Cave Lake recreation are in Ely, Nevada
If you only have one or two days to ride in Ely, make the Cave Lake trails a priority
Ward Mountain Route recommendation

>> Tour de Cave Lake

If you only have a day to ride in Ely, this is the ride to do. There is some stout climbing, but the views and descent down Twisted Pines at the end make the grind absolutely worth it.

It’s best to ride High Roller counterclockwise unless you’re up for some steep switchbacked climbing.

  • Route difficulty: Intermediate
  • Mileage: 11 miles
  • Route type: Loop
  • E-bikes? Yes
  • Elevation gain/loss: 1,729 ft
  • Map/GPS: TrailForks

Route directions: Lower Cave Lake Parking > Success Summit Rd (or Steptoe Creek Trail, but it’s nice to spin the legs on the road before climbing) > Fire Road 574 > Cave Overlook Loop > Twisted Pines > High Roller (counterclockwise) > High Roller/Overlook Connector > Twisted Pines

Make it shorter: To cut off about 3 miles and a lot of climbing, you can skip the High Roller Loop and just continue on Twisted Pines back to the parking area.

4. Squaw Peak

Looking to get rowdy? Squaw Peak on the other side of town from Ward Mountain has several raw, rugged DH lines that are great for riders who like loose, old-school trails with rocky features and plenty of chunder. They are definitely not for the beginner or even intermediate-level rider.

These trails are a bit challenging to access because the only road to the top of the mountain (West Squaw Peak Access Road) is quite steep and washed out in places and should only be attempted in a high clearance, 4×4 vehicle. Seriously. These trails are also not marked at all and not ridden as much as the other Ely trails, so trail-finding can be a challenge.

Truck parked on mountain top with mountain bikes in truck bed and lying on ground
The trails off Squaw Peak are steep and rugged and best accessed via a 4×4 shuttle

Note: I have not included a route recommendation for the Squaw Peak trails for several reasons: first, the road up is seriously rugged and requires a 4×4 high clearance vehicle, and second, these trails are for experienced DH riders only. If this sounds like you, Whorehouse Downhill and Rob’s Knob are super fun!

Best Time to ride Ely

Since Ely is situated at 6,500 ft and the trails are above town, it’s one of the few mountain bike destinations in Nevada that is great for summer riding. For spring, trails typically melt out around mid-to-late April and can be ridden late into September or October.

I rode in Ely during late May and the temps were perfect and the landscape was super green and beautiful.

If you’re looking for a challenge, head to Ely in June to participate in the Fears, Tears, and Beers race. It’s the oldest Enduro mountain bike race in the US and a day to remember for sure!

Becky riding up rocky section of trail on mountain bike in Ely Nevada
Ely is one of the few places in Nevada that can be ridden during the summer since the trails are situated at over 6,500 ft.

Ely Mountain Bike Shops

There is currently one bike shop in Ely – Sportsworld. While it’s not biking-specific, they do have a mechanic available and they sell a good selection of spare parts and gear.

Where to Eat & Drink in Ely

Despite its size and remote location, Ely actually has some great places to eat and drink.

  • Taproot Coffee Shop: A great little coffee shop that serves really good coffee and baked goods. Their homemade biscotti are amazing!
  • Mr. Gino’s: Also known as Mr. G’s, this is a good place for Italian food and hearty servings.
  • Shorty’s Food Truck: The only food truck in town, Shorty’s offers great sandwiches served with a daily soup.
  • Cellblock Steakhouse: I didn’t get to eat here, but Cellblock is the only fine dining place in town and it gets great reviews. It’s located in the Jailhouse Hotel.

Where to stay in Ely

Ely Camping

There is both free dispersed camping in Ely and paid campgrounds. The paid sites are:

  • Ward Mountain Campground: This is a really nice campground with 33 sites, pit toilets, picnic tables, fire rings, and easy access to the G-Loop and other mountain bike trails on Ward Mountain. There is water, but no showers.
  • Elk Flat Campground & Lakeview Campground: These campgrounds are located out by the Cave Lake trails. Elk Flat is a bit more private while Lakeview is close to the water and tends to be busier. Both campgrounds have showers, toilets, water, and other amenities.

For free dispersed camping around Ely, there are numerous fire roads on Forest Service land that have dispersed sites. Ski Hill Road, which is the shuttle road for the Ward Mountain trails, has several sites.

Ely bike-friendly hotels

I stayed in the Jailhouse Motel during my visit to Ely and it was simple but clean and quiet. They have non-smoking, ground-floor rooms, comfortable beds, and great water pressure in the showers!

Jailhouse is also home to the Cellblock Steakhouse and a small casino if you feel like trying your luck at the machines.

Other Things to do in Ely, Nevada

If you have some time to spend in or around Ely, there’s actually quite a bit to do despite its small size:

  • Take the guided art walk. Ely is home to over a dozen wall murals depicting historical events, people, and ways of life. Each mural has an audio recording so you can learn more about the history of this mining town.
  • Ride the Nevada Northern Railway. I really wish I’d had time to take a ride on the coal-powered train during my visit. The 90-minute train ride takes passengers along 100+-year-old tracks and provides a glimpse into what life was like a century ago. If you don’t have time to ride the train, you can still visit the depot and small museum.
  • Visit Great Basin National Park. This is one of the least visited National Parks in the US and it’s located only an hour from Ely. Explore the Lehman Caves, hike up Wheeler Peak, or experience some of the best night skies in the world.


Nevada is one of the most underrated states. Did you know it has more mountain ranges than any other state, including Alaska?! It’s also home to some great mountain biking. Plan your next trip with these Nevada biking blog posts:

What questions do you still have about Ely, Nevada mountain biking? Did you know Nevada had this kind of landscape? Leave a comment below!

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  1. we were disappointed in the Ely trails. Riding up ftom the campground, the lower trails were just toads. The upper trails were pretty featureless getting up to the shuttke drop off point. The ends of some trails were poorly designed (i.e. they took you down to a jeep toad and then up it to get to the next trail when it could have stayed off road at the same elevation as the stsrt of the next trail).
    Any features were man made, the tread is loose and horses have loosened it more, sections will not be fun if it becomes popular with horses. The whole trail system at Ward seems to be geared for shuttling. I guess it is easy to criticize after coming from Bend, Klamath Falls, Mt. Shasta, and Incline/Lake Tahoe areas.

    1. Did you get over to Cave Lake? That’s where the ‘best’ mountain bike trails are. Also – would love to know what trails you rode if you want to share. Some of the trails definitely are looser and have horse traffic, but there are a lot of trails that are smooth and built for mountain bikers that don’t see any horse traffic.

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