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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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