Glassy reflections on a still morning from our site in Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge

A lovely, green (free!) lakeside campground right off Hwy 93 in Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge in south-central Nevada.

Location: Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, Alamo, NV. Link HERE.
Coordinates: Entry to camping area around 37.313774, -115.129478. Link to map location HERE
Cost: FREE. 14-day stay limit. NO generators.
How We Found It: We heard about this spot from other bloggers (Ivan and his Kitty have stayed here multiple times) and also found it on freecampsites.net
Nearest Dump/Water: Nearest dump ($5) & water ($5) is at Alamo RV Park just a few miles north on Hwy93. They also offer showers (two for $5). Household trash can be dumped at the entrance to the Refuge. On-site pit toilets.

  1. Access – 5/5
    Access to free camping really doesn’t get any easier than this. The entrance to the camping area is right off Hwy 93 at Upper Lake Pahranagat and is clearly marked by a camping sign. Once you turn into the refuge it’s just over a mile on a very well-graded wide, firm dirt road to the campsites with ample space to turn around at the end. Camping is only allowed in designated sites, each of which are clearly marked on the road. Overall there are 15 campsites all situated along the lake of which three only accept tents (sites #5, 9, 10), one is for smaller campers only (site #11), one is disabled only (site #14, big-rig friendly), and the remaining ten can accept just about any size RV (sites #1, 2, 2a, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13).  Four of the sites are “shared” (2/2a and 3/4) and the three sites at the end (12/13/14) are right next to each other which means you camp in the same area as your neighbor. Each campsite has picnic table & grill with excellent lake views and lovely, relaxing cottonwood trees. There is a kind of “unofficial” overflow area just opposite the entrance to the refuge on the other (East) side of Hwy 93 if the camping area is full and you want to wait for a site to open up.
  2. Nature – 4/5
    Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge is is a fabulous spot for nature. It’s a natural oasis covering 5,380 acres of lakes, marshes, wet meadows and desert uplands creating a home for over 264 species of birds and other wildlife. There is a lovely 3-mile hiking/biking trail around the like as well as lots of trees and pretty views of the distant mountains. The only slight ding? You are close to Hwy 93 and will likely hear some highway noise at your site.
  3. Isolation – 2/5
    So-so isolation here. The refuge is close to Hwy 93 so you will see/hear cars going by during the day (it’s quiet at night). Also there are likely to be other campers using the refuge and if you’re camping in one of the “shared” sites (2/2a or 3/4 or 12/13/14) you will be sharing space directly with another rig. However if you snag one of the solo sites you’re likely to feel quite relaxed and cozy. Overall traffic is low here.
  4. Pet Friendliness – 4/5
    Very nice site for doggie. Lots of space to hang in camp and a lovely 3-mile hike/bike trail around the lake to walk & explore. Only ding? No swimming allowed in the lake (for the sake of the protected birds) so doggie won’t be enjoying any dips.

Overall Rating = 3.75
BONUS ALERT = Camp right by a gorgeous lake with trees & birds in the middle of dry, dusty Nevada!

Summary: Pahranaghat National Wildlife Refuge is a gorgeous, green oasis in the middle of dry, dusty south-central Nevada. Located right off Hwy 93 it’s just ~90 miles north of Vegas and has 15 lovely, free campsites (11 of which can fit big-rigs) located right along Upper Pahranagat Lake. I honestly had a hard time deciding whether to rate this place as a campground or a boondocking spot (I use a different set of criteria for each). In many respects this is really a managed campground in that there is a fulltime host and you can’t camp outside of designated sites. Plus the refuge offers additional amenities such as pit toilets (several of them along the lake) as well as household trash (dumpster at the entrance) and picnic table/grill at each campsite. On the other hand it’s FREE and rather relaxed making it more like a fancy boondocking site. In the end the feeling of the place (the lovely lake, wildlife, birds) made it seem like more of a boondocking site to me. Very unscientific I know so you’ll just have to decide for yourself. Lake views are fantastic from each campsite, the hiking/biking trail around the lake is excellent and there is plenty to explore around the area including ancient rock-art, road&walking trails as well as the notorious Extraterrestrial Highway. The only dings are that you are close to Hwy 93 so you will hear road noise during the day (didn’t bother us much, but might bother some). Also a few of the sites are “shared” (2/2a, 3/4 and 12/13/14) so you may well have close neighbors, plus the refuge does have particular rules such as NO generators and NO ground campfires. Overall we loved being next to the lake and watching the birds & sunsets over the water. A gorgeous spot where we will most definitely return.

Extra Info: Strong Verizon 3G signal (around 3 bars). Several on-site pit toilets plus dumpster for household trash at the entrance, but NO other facilities (no water or dump). Nearest dump ($5) & water ($5) is at Alamo RV Park just a few miles north on Hwy93 (they also offer showers (two for $5) and Propane). Right across from Alamo RV Park is a very nicely-maintained, small laundromat plus there is a totally decent grocery store at the gas station.

View of our site (#1)

View of our site (#1). This is a large pull-in.

View of our lovely "sitting area" showing grill (left) & picnic table (right)

View of our lovely “sitting area” showing grill (left) & picnic table (right). No ground fires allowed.

View of one of the "shared" sites. This is site 2 & 2a

View of one of the “shared” sites. This is site 2 & 2a

View of site #5. This is a tent-only site (no RVs).

View of site #5. This is a tent-only site (no RVs).

View of site#6

View of site#6

View of site#7

View of site#7

View of Site#8

View of Site#8

View of end sites #12 (right) #13 (middle - with the car in it) & #14 (left). These are very close together.

View of end sites #14 (left – empty) #13 (middle – with the car in it) & #12 (right – empty). These are very close together.

View of pit toilet along the lakeside road.

View of pit toilet along the lakeside road.

Looking for birds along the hike/bike trail

Looking for birds along the hike/bike trail

Map of campground sites at Pahranagat NWR

Map of campground sites at Pahranagat NWR

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20 Responses to Free Campground Review – Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, Alamo, NV

  1. Dave'n'Kim says:

    Perfect! We haven’t been there yet but I’d secretly noted this place for any future ventures back to this part of the world – we only passed thru Valley Of Fire on a limited-time trip, but want to go back and see more, of Las Vegas, Lake Mead, etc – so this review is very helpful. Just hope it doesn’t become ‘too crowded’ as a result of your many followers now learning about it! ;-)

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yeah, you never know with these reviews. Sometimes it encourages more folks to come. I always worry about sharing vs. not sharing, but part of why I blog is to share the nice places we find so I guess I don’t really have any choice :) The camphosts told me THIS is the busiest season with people traveling north and it’s true that the campground has been almost full everyday. Since this is a no generator area however (most folks only stay a 1-2 nights) there IS alot of turnover so if you come early in the day you have a good chance of getting a site. Over winter they said the campground was practically empty.

      Nina

    • libertatemamo says:

      By the way IF you end up coming here and it’s full you can always overnight at the unofficial overflow just across the road OR you can drive a few miles north to the intersection of 375/318 where there is a free shaded rest area.

      Nina

  2. Rowanova says:

    Another beautiful site and a great review. I’m still login’ the Nevada info as you meander thru the state.

  3. Dan says:

    You forgot to add the lakes and marches provide great fishing and waterfowl hunting ;) Good review. Can’t wait to see your impression of other areas. Safe travels!

  4. Doug says:

    Wow, did I read correctly, NO GENERATORS? That is almost unheard of in the RV world. A few years ago, I had to stay at a free BLM campground near Ely, due to recent rain turning all the side roads into mud. Some clown there ran his generator continuously from 7am-9pm every day. After 30+ hours of this innane discourtesy, I could take it no more and high tailed it into Utah. If only I had known of this place instead!

  5. scott says:

    does this area allow for swimming?

  6. helen sheorn says:

    I camped there two weeks ago and the host told me that generators ARE allowed. They haven’t changed the signage to show that.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Oh goodness. Well we didn’t hear any generators while we were there and just went by the signs. Cheers for the update!

      Nina

  7. Paul says:

    I’ve been reading and following your blog and have enjoyed it. I would have never thought about doing some of the camping that you do, but would like to try it. I know you do a lot of boondocking and it looks like a lot of fun, but when your at those type of sites do you ever leave for the day to explore via your car? I ask this because I’ve never done this and would worry about my equipment while gone and would hate to return to a vandalized rig or other property. How do you protect yourself from this if you were to leave? I would assume that your MH could be left all alone with nobody around.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Leaving you rig & stuff at a site is definitely something that takes getting used to. We do day-trips almost everywhere we go which means leaving the rig behind. If you’re out in the boonies (and thus out of sight), or alternatively if there are other RVers around I always feel perfectly fine doing this. If we’re in the middle of a busy town (say, at an overnight spot or we’re very visible from the main road (our current spot is a little like that) then I don’t like to leave the rig. You’ll just have to play it by ear and your own comfort level.

      The vast majority of the time we feel perfectly OK to leave the rig. We’ve only ever had one thing stolen in our 5 years of fulltiming and that was my bike at a gated (secure) campground in San Diego. In the boonies…never.

      Nina

  8. Sergio says:

    You often report having to pay 5$ for Dump and 5$ for Water… are we talking about bottled spring water or water from the public water system… from the tap? Cities I know offer access to dump facilities or public water for free… I do not recall ever had to pay for these services.

    • libertatemamo says:

      No, this is for tap water. It’s not always easy (or conveniently close) to find a free dump when boondocking and most cities here in the West don’t offer that service. Every now and then we do find a free one (e.g. We used one in a NV rest stop today). If I can find one on our route we’ll use it (I use sanidumps.com to check), but if there are none closeby or it’s a big detour (I.e. More than $10 in gas) to get to one then we pay the small fee.

      Note/ If we’re staying at a State Park or NF campground (I.e. Paying for a site) they’ll usually have dump and water for free.

      Nina

  9. Sean says:

    Thank you for posting this place! We are always looking for a manageable way to boondock and alot of times the available information is nothing like what you posted here and it ends up being a crapshoot as to how usable and accessible the location is.

    -Sean

  10. David says:

    we are planning to head that directions in January, heading south
    how is the weather that time of the year

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