Celestial beauty graces Angel Lake

Richard Moreno
For the Appeal
February 6, 2005

The vast Nevada landscape never ceases to surprise. With hundreds of mountains, valleys and lakes spread over its 110,540 square miles, there always seems to be a new place to discover or explore.

One of the more remarkable scenic spots in northeastern Nevada is snow-fed Angel Lake on State Route 231 in the East Humboldt range south of the town of Wells.

Angel Lake is one of the state's most picturesque small bodies of water.

It was named in honor of Warren M. Angel, who owned a large ranch in the nearby Clover Valley in the 1870s.

The 12-mile drive from Wells to the lake, which is one Nevada's designated scenic highways, is worth undertaking.

Steep and winding at times, the drive is nonetheless a pleasant sojourn through rolling foothills of sagebrush and piņon trees.

As the road climbs higher, the surrounding terrain begins to change. Soon, groves of mountain mahogany and fields of thick grasses replace the scruffy piņon trees. At one spot, there is an impressive grove of stripped, quaking aspen intersected by the road.

Above and ahead is the crest of the East Humboldt Range. Like the nearby Ruby Mountains which they resemble, the East Humboldts are among Nevada's most beautiful mountains.

There is a special appeal in looking at these rugged, ancient rocks, which seem to change their appearance with the shifting light.

One minute, the imposing, snow-capped peaks resemble the jagged teeth of a giant feline, and the next they are simply uneven, stone upthrusts carved by the wind and rain.

At about nine miles, the main road intersects with a smaller route that leads to the Angel Creek Campground. Here, the view of the surrounding hills and valleys is spectacular, with the community of Wells tiny in the distance.

Farther up the road is the turn-off to Winchell Lake, a small reservoir recessed on the side of the range. Signs indicate hiking trails that lead from the road into the mountains.

State Route 231 begins to level off as you get closer to Angel Lake. To the right is Angel Creek Campground, operated by the Humboldt National Forest, which has 26 paved campsites and a half-dozen picnic tables. Because of snow, the campground is generally open from June to early September.

Angel Lake is not large nor is it entirely natural. It is surrounded by rock walls on three sides with a manmade dam on the east side cupping the water into a circular basin.

It resembles a glacial lake, which it was at one time.

The sheer walls consist of a crumbly, cracked rock which shows the effects of the continual heating and cooling found at such a high elevation (the lake is at the 8,378 feet). Scarecrow-like limber pines hang on the mountainside, somehow surviving the harsh winters.

In the warmer months, the lake is popular with fishermen, attracted by a healthy trout population, as well as hikers who enjoy the rugged backcountry.

The lake borders the 36,000-acre East Humboldt

Wilderness Area and serves as a trailhead into the region. Trails run north and south along the west flank of the mountains.

A sign indicates mileage to several points including Greys Lake, Smith Lake, Ackler Creek and Boulder Lake.

- Richard Moreno is the author of "Backyard Travels in Northern Nevada" and "The Roadside History of Nevada" which are available at local bookstores.

More information

Two excellent sources of information for hiking the East Humboldt range are "Nevada Wilderness Areas" by Michael C. White (Wilderness Press) and "Hiking the Great Basin" By John Hart (Sierra Club Books).

To reach Angel Lake from Carson City, travel 350 miles east on Interstate 80 to Wells then State Route 231 for 12 miles to the lake via a good, paved road (it can, however, be closed during the winter months).

For more information, contact the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, Ruby Mountains ranger, (775) 752-3357.