Pony Express across Utah and Nevada trip report

NMBruce

Adventurer
To map this trip, I used Gaia GPS app and BenchMark State Maps. I recorder the route we did on Gaia, so it’s available to anyone using Gaia

We left Colorado and camped the first night outside of Spanish Forks at Diamond Camp Ground. There are not a lot of places to camp around the start of the Pony Express. The next morning we started out on the Pony Express from Lehi Utah headed west. One of the first parts was closed due to road repairs, a lot of Utah trail is gravel roads that are traveled a lot. This detour was about 5 miles outside of Fairfield so we had to stay on HWY73 until we got to HWY36 then go south and then we rejoin pony express trail there. Reason for a long detour is to go around TOOELE army depot. After Outlook Point, just south of the Dugout Army Base, Jim vehicle had a rock go through the tread. We changed the tire and got Jim back to pavement and he headed home. I thought the closes town was Dugout, but it just a military base and we couldn’t get on to have Jims tire repaired or see about a new one, the next town was about 1.5-2 hour drive back. Curt and I didn’t want Jim to take a chance of the multiple plugs holding or not holding because going west there would be even less services. After what we traveled on, it was a good decision as the roads where covered in sharp rocks. Jim had a few years old BFG KO2, but they where 4ply, DONT TRY TO DO THIS STUFF IN 4ply TIRES. They are good tires, but just not made for the sharp rocks we encountered.

Utah has a lot of the Pony Express history displayed, some buildings or parts of buildings and markers, a lot more than Nevada has. Utah is also very easy to transverse, we did most in 2wd and I avg about 16.5mpg, needing only to add 10gals of fuel to get to Eureka NV. There where a few places I used 4wd. Utah is easy to cover and can be done quickly.

First nights camp on the trail was in a canyon after the town of Callao UT and the next Pony Express marker, Canyon Station. At breakfast we had a visitor, nice old guy who was out scouting for hunting. He advised us that after Ipabah to stay on the road through the Reservation, so we did. This is the first place we saw wild horses. This is the second place we got off the trail as it is shown on Gaia. We didn’t see the turn off and going by what we got told, we just continued on the road we where on. At Antelope Springs we stopped for lunch. Just after this, we missed our next turn, the Pony Express curves right, but my route on Gaia showed it going straight. There was no sign for the Pony Express, but there was a sign for the old Lincoln Highway, we followed that. So far at this point, this was the hardest road we traveled, needing at times to build up a wash or two to cross them. I would recommend going with the curve to the right. In some videos I watched, they had a problem with going into a wash, worried that the truck might tip, we never saw that, so I can only guess it must of been in this section we missed.

After a rest stop at the Pony Express rest area on hwy 93, we continue on. Just after that we hit our first Silt Road, I buried my truck. I was trying to stay on the upper parts and slipped in. This stuff is like baby powder. One of the guys stepped into it and sunk almost up to his ankle. My friends took the alternate route off to the side. I had to be winched out. We continued on and wherever there was a alternate route, we took it.

The next obstacle was climbing Overland Pass, not hard but slow going. The view was great at the top and then going down the other side, the road was about 6-12” narrow than my truck, so you will get pinstripes. Lucky my Quicksand colored Tacoma doesn’t show them. Not being able to find a camp site, we went into Eureka NV and camped at Silver Sky Lodge RV park, great people and clean showers, highly recommended.

Before leaving Eureka, we did a small resupply and got gas. We headed out on HWY50 to avoid what I heard was the trail being closed because of an active mine. We rejoined the Pony Express and not long after, we found a fence that we had to go around and right after that, a rancher has closed the trail across his property. We detour south and joined HWY50 for a short time. We stopped for lunch at the Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area, a nice stop and they have camping. It was time to get back on the road, so we headed up a forest road to rejoin the trail and drove passed it, we had to back track and still almost missed it. There is a large rock right at the entrance that you need to go around and the trail doesn’t look used at all. Just after this, there is a fork in the road, take the left one because the trail doesn’t come down a ridge and across a gully. The next problem was just after a gully, you have go left through the fence and follow that road, the road you think you should be on, doesn’t go anywhere. Now we got into some really cool rock formations and went along next to a river bed with a lot of over growth, but there was a road. As you come out of this you will see an old cabin, I am not sure if it was a station or not. I think this sections was a very low travel part, there where times it was hard to tell it was a road or anything, but every once in a while, there would be a marker. The road follows a fence line and when the fence turns left, there is a road, but it doesn’t go across the small valley, so we detoured again. We came up to a gate, it looked like it was locked, but the lock on the chain didn’t stop anyone from opening it. After this the road was nice and we came into Austin NV around 5. As we headed out of Austin we where looking for a camp site and one of the trucks had a problem. Remember that big rock a while back, well Tom hit his exhaust outlet with it and the now the whole exhaust was loose. Curt repaired it, but now it was late. We needed a camp site, so we drove about 15 minutes outside of Austin to Bob Scott campground and camped in the overflow just outside.

The next day we took HWY 722 to make up some time and rejoined the Pony Express west of Smith Creek Station. The road was nice and we parallel a dry lake bed. Just after that we had another No Trespassing sign and ended up going around this property. Going down into Dalton Canyon was some nice off roading, with some good off camber stuff. At the other side of the property we just went around was a really nice place to camp. Along this next section we had a bunch of closed gates and a lot of cattle that where looking for feed. It wasnt long after that and we where on HWY50 again. We stopped at Cold Springs Station for lunch, worth the stop.

We took HWY50 down to Sand Springs station. Here we try to find the trail again and after a few miles of back and forth on HWY50, we found that it went across a dry lake. We where able to follow it for a short distance and that was it, what looked like some wet lands stopped us. We back tracked and took a road that went around the dry lake, that was a mistake. The first part wasn’t bad, but then we hit a lava rock field. Man was this slow going and I am guessing that the rides didn’t ride across this, it would be really hard on the horses. I would skip this part and stay on HWY50 to Salt Wells and then come back down. From this area to HWY95, you cross a lot of dry lake beds and silt areas. One of the hills you have to climb is all silt, 4L and gas did the trick. We also had 4-5 miles of silt, nothing like where I got stuck, but some of the harder stuff we did. As for off roading, this was fun.

After crossing HWY95 to HWY95A, there was not a lot to see. We found a nice camp site right before HWY95A.
After HWY95A, there are couple of nice camp sites, but again, not much to see before getting on HWY50 again

Doing this again, I would skip the lava rock area and ended the trail at HWY95 or at least at HWY95A.

My friends and I had a blast doing this. I had to use an extra 10 gals of fuel to get me to Eureka NV, but after that I was good. I think Jeff in his FJ, used a little more and Tom with the F250 and spare 30 gals was fine. Camp sites are far and few between, so if it’s getting late and you see something you like, use it. I recorded my route with Gaia and don’t mind others using it. I tried to make notes along the way. If doing this, plan to detour and maybe get a little lost and know at places your not on the trail. Plan to get pinstripes on your vehicle, my tan Tacoma did better than I thought it would. Dusty is a way of life on this trail, especially around the silt roads. I would plan to change out filters after it, unless your the lead vehicle. A lot of it you could do solo, but the silt parts, you really should have someone else along. I have an M416 size trailer, built for off roading and I would not have a problem taking it along, but not something larger.

Over all, would I do it again, yes, but skip the parts I said. I have some friends who didnt get to go and my buddy Jim who had to turn back wants to still do it.

To think of the history of the Pony Express, the guys who maned the stations and the riders. There are parts of this trail that are also parts of the very early Lincoln Highway, The Overland Stage Route and The California Migration Route from the east. All that’s left is some marker, ruins of buildings and ancestors of the horses that ran the trail.
 

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highwest

Active member
That silt’s crazy.

I was on that same road a few years ago and stopped to help a Power Wagon that had also put a rock through their tread.
 
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