Thousand Creek Gorge – Winnemucca, Nevada - Atlas Obscura
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Thousand Creek Gorge

A spectacular but little-known slot canyon in extreme northern Nevada, with sheer walls nearly 500 feet high and a perennial stream.  

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Thousand Creek Gorge is an improbable slot canyon, eroded through hard volcanic rock, in the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in far northern Nevada, next to the Oregon line. In places, the canyon walls are nearly 500 feet tall, while the canyon itself is barely wider. The whole canyon is only a few miles long as the crow flies.

Although the trail through the canyon shown on old topographic maps has long since washed out, a day hike through the canyon is an attractive option. Be prepared for fords and some bushwhacking, however. The route is also slow because it’s both convoluted and rough, and it will take much more time than you might expect from the few miles of linear distance it represents on the map. At least you’re unlikely to be bothered by crowds!

Views of the gorge from above are also worthwhile and can be had without a lot of hiking with a high-clearance vehicle (see directions below).

The area is also near the famous Virgin Valley opal mines of northern Nevada, one of the handful of places in the world where black opals are found. Some of the mines are open to the public during the summer season and are also worth a visit.

Know Before You Go

To the west (upstream) side: Go 25.2 miles west on Nevada SR-140 from Denio Junction and turn left on the well-marked graded road that goes to Dufureena ranger station and Virgin Valley Campground. This road should be passable to ordinary passenger cars in dry weather. From the campground, about 2.4 miles in, the road continues some 1.3 miles to the western mouth of the canyon. It may be passable to passenger cars if dry but high clearance is desirable.


About halfway along this road, a track climbs off to the right, for which high clearance is mandatory and 4wd desirable. This track tops out on the surface into which the canyon is incised. It's about 1.8 miles along this track to a turnoff to an overlook, but you can hike cross-country to the canyon rim most anywhere as the vegetation is so sparse. No bushwhacking is needed!


The track does go all the way to the eastern (downstream) mouth of the canyon, but four-wheel drive is mandatory on the descent to the canyon mouth. Getting to the east end is much easier from directly off SR-140. Turn left on an unmarked primitive road 19.1 miles from Denio Junction and follow it 1.5 miles to the downstream canyon mouth. High clearance is desirable on this road. As noted above, it continues as a 4wd track that climbs up to become the primitive road reached from the upstream side.

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