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Austin Nevada, 2-10 days, June N39° 27.498′ W116° 59.755′ | Elev 7,209
Austin sits in the high mountain desert region at the north end of the Toiyabe Humbolt Mountains. It is in the middle of the state of Nevada and three hours east of Reno. There is plenty of wilderness providing uncrowded outdoor opportunities for backpacking, rock hunting, photography, fishing, hunting, hiking and biking. Absolutely perfect place to Vanabode. Super cheap campgrounds including hundreds of thousands of acres of pristine high desert, rocky hills, snow covered mountains, deep pine forests and endless prairie. The city of Austin is comprised of less than 5,000 people and there are the typical small town limitations. Two gas stations, 3 convenience stores and a few gift shop and diner type dives. Great food at $8 a plate most places.
Don’t forget to ask how to get to the awesome Spencer hot springs sprinkled throughout the area. To keep the secret places clean and not too crowded the locals discourage the installation of signs. So it is better to ask around especially if the weather is getting cold.
Some locals use the hot springs sans clothes so if you are put off by public nudity scout out the area first before indulging. We went in on a Monday morning so we had our privacy.
Remember when camping in the west it is very dry. Bring lots of water and drink it! This climate makes hiking and camping perfect though. You rarely sweat even when it is hot and at night you don’t need air conditioning or climate control of any kind. Their are very few insects here and no biting bugs that we ran into. Most of the ground is covered by 50% grass and 50% sandy gravel. This is nice because you can here someone approach your area from 100 feet away and plan accordingly.
This area and the hundreds of thousands of completely accessible acres of wild country are what make Nevada truly spectacular. You can literally drive off Highway 50 nearly any place you want on some 200+ paved and dirt/gravel roads that take you 20, 30 and sometimes 100 miles into the wilderness. Here you have complete privacy, seclusion and can truly escape normal life. Vanaboding here you can easily stay a week at a time, move 20 miles each day, camp a week more, move again and work yourself North or South depending on the weather conditions.
Make sure and stop and see the Stokes castle. It was hand made from 800 tons of hand hewn native granite and is now partially restored. They used 17,000 feet of wood to make the interior and balconies so at the time it was the grandest place in the state. They installed city water and electricity and was built by a railroad and mining kingpin. As the rich tend to do, they never actually lived in the castle and it fell into disrepair later on. It is now under the protection of the National Historical Registry. It was completed in 1897. It is three full stories high.
It was an easy but winding and tight drive up “castle road” to the castle near the intersection of highways 50 and 305. The sign leading up to the castle is installed at a convenience stores parking lot. There are also great views across the outlying pastures and farms and forests below.
In the John Scott campground there is running water, bathrooms, and trash bins plus clean organized camp sites complete with huge picnic tables and benches close to large steel in ground fire pits for camp fires and grilling. As with most “free” campgrounds out here there is a 14 day limit, but it is rarely enforced. Unless it is crowded you can simply leave for a day then come back and stay longer if you choose to.
Above picture shows me relaxing in one of the free outdoor hottubs you find out in the desert. They are great for relaxing in and cleaning up from long hikes or camping excursions. Some of the hot springs are left in their natural state while others like the one above are rerouted to fill big tubs for more control. On moonlit nights in the colder months these hot springs are mind blowing fun.
Picture above shows Spencer Hot Springs with man made deck and rock seating installed. Spencer Hot Springs can be an interesting place if you have the time to hit it just right. Sometimes wild parties break out, especially over holiday and on weekends. Then again you can wait until one of the springs opens up in the middle of the day on a Tuesday like we did and have the wild and beautiful place to yourself. And remember if you are Vanaboding here it is free for as long as you want to camp.
Goldfish flourish here in the open desert keeping the water clean that runs off the springs and down into this man made catch system. Here you can get wet as well but the water is a little more murky so we stuck with the first drain of crystal clear water upriver.
Above: Notice the dirt road leading off the highway we are parked on. The highways out here in most of Nevada and Utah, and parts of New Mexico, Eastern Washington and Oregon offer hundreds of places to simply pull off the highway on the dirt roads and drive until you are happy. Vanabode here forever with views that are unbeatable. The air is dry and that makes sleeping even when it is in the 80’s completely doable at night.
Above: The John Scott campground outside Austin has running water, bathrooms, and trash bins plus clean organized camp sites with picnic tables coupled with steel fire pits for camp fires and grilling. This “free” campground has a 14 day limit, but it is rarely enforced. This is a good base camp if you want to hit the hot springs for a few days.
Above and below: The International store and restaurant has great food for a fair price. It is one of the few places in town so if you plan on eating out check their hours and plan out your week.
Vanabode Special Notes: If you do travel during the very warmest months please do some weather checks because sleeping in the desert above 100 degrees is not fun. We got here in early June and the temperatures were a perfect 70 during the day and 50ish at night. I love this place and could stay here camping at elevation in the forest and running down to use the hot springs every day forever. This is an awesome Vanabode outpost near Austin Nevada.
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