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  • Writer's pictureJason Sheck

The Road to Pine Grove (a ghost town)

Between the smoke from the Caldor and Dixie fires, and the National Forest closures that are scheduled to end on September 17, we've been pretty limited in terms of preferred forest roads and hiking spots for most of August. Even if the National Forests weren't closed, the smoke has been so thick that we haven't been in a hurry to hike in the Tahoe area anyway. So, we found our way to the desert south of Smith Valley, NV to explore the Pine Grove ghost town. There are are a number of forest roads leading to the abandoned town, but from GAIA you never know how rough traveling down them will be.

What did I learn?

To get the most out of a trip to a ghost town, make sure you research more than just the location and how to get to-and-from the town. For example, we missed the cemetery because it was up one of the many mining roads that still existed in the vicinity of the town. Although Bri isn't interested in historic cemeteries, I can't help but be curious about who is resting there, when and how long they lived, and see how the headstones have stood the test of time.

With a significant part of South Lake Tahoe evacuated for the Caldor Fire, there are checkpoints and road closures set up in the area. Here we are trying to head east on US Highway 50 at its junction with Nevada Highway 28. Definitely a first for me...hopefully a last.

There are faster ways from Incline Village to Smith Valley than through Markleeville and over Monitor Pass, but Markleeville survived the Tamarack fire earlier this year so we wanted to stop at one of the local businesses that likely lost significant revenue during their own evacuation. The food was outstanding, the outdoor accommodations simple but effective, and it all made for a great place to stop for lunch! We even had a homemade strawberry and apple pie that was still warm from the oven.

As we drove south from Markleeville on HWY 89 we could see some of the fire scar left by the Tamarack fire. It's hard to tell, but the ridge in the distance is mostly burned.

The Forest Road from NV HWY 338 to the east was, for the most part, in good condition. After passing the radio tower that I presume was the reason for the well kept road, the road got narrower, was steep and washed out in several places, and overgrown enough that we added some more pinstripes to the Jeep. I don't recall bottoming out anywhere, but we had to drive carefully and straddle the washouts a few times. Not a great route if you're worried about your vehicle's paint...

Pine Grove had a few buildings and some mining equipment still standing. There were A LOT of mining roads running throughout the area. You could probably spend a whole afternoon just driving up and down all the mining roads which seemed to be in good shape.

From Pine Grove we continued east until we caught up with East Walker Road, and from there headed north toward Yerington and Smith Valley. The roads got better-and-better as we moved along.

We even managed to get stuck in a desert traffic jam on the way home...they turned off after less than a mile of driving behind them so it didn't turn into a major delay.

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Pam Settergren Hauer
Pam Settergren Hauer
Sep 19, 2021

Glad you were able to get out again and that the fires are mostly contained. It has been a tough summer for so many! Love the history and pictures you share.

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