The tiny mountain mining town of Jarbidge is easily the most isolated town in the Silver State, but its canyon-bottom, mountain-ensconced location may also be Nevada’s most stunning. In Jarbidge, Nevada, visitors can walk through history that never left, kick back at a couple classic Sagebrush Saloons, or get after some world-class fishing, camping, off-roading, and photography in the magnificent Jarbidge Wilderness.
Nevada’s Remote Wilderness Outpost
Situated on the northern edge of Elko County in a deep canyon surrounded by the northeastermost unit of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, this historic, backcountry mining town is set against the 100,000-acre Jarbidge Wilderness and trout-packed Jarbidge River, surrounded by vibrant aspen groves and 11,000-foot peaks. Arguably our crown jewel of the Rubies Route road trip, Jarbidge a recreationalists dream while the historic, living ghost town of Jarbidge serves as an ideal basecamp for hikers, anglers, off-roaders, shutterbugs, RV and tent campers, and all manner of off-grid solace seekers in between. Today, Jarbidge is home to roughly a dozen permanent, year-round residents who watch over and keep things going at two classic Sagebrush Saloons, the Jarbidge Trading Post, gas pump, and post office.
According to Shoshone legend, a giant cannibal named Tsawhawbitts (pronounced tuh-SAW-haw-bits) roamed a certain canyon in the far reaches of northern Nevada, hunting for unsuspecting men to toss into a large basket and carry back to camp for “dinner.” In 1909, prospectors following news of a gold strike, made their way into the canyon and named it after its mythical resident, mispronouncing the Shoshone word as “Jarbidge” (JAR-bidj). More discoveries were made the following year, and Jarbidge quickly became an official settlement with several hundred residents. As it happened, the finds would lead to the last major gold rush in Western United States history, as well as—how appropriately—the last stagecoach robbery, too.
This latter-day Wild West history remains front and center in “downtown” Jarbidge, thanks to a handful of built-back-then cabins and even a few publicly accessible buildings, including the 1911-built jail.
History buffs can check out the inside of the Historic Jarbidge Jail cell—complete with a chamber pot, cot, chair, and other nuggets of history. Perhaps the most noted prisoner was Ben Kuhl, robber of the aforementioned Rogerson-Jarbidge stage—and murderer of its driver—in December 1916. Up the street is the Jarbidge Community Hall—which still houses its original stage, ornately oil-painted stage curtain, historical bulletins, and a number of intriguing artifacts from the not-so-bygone era.
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Things to Do in and Around Jarbidge
Jarbidge defies many people’s images of Nevada, with towering mountains that exceed 10,000 feet in elevation, tree-studded rock formations jutting up all around, and roaring creeks ripping through the Jarbidge River Canyon. The lush forest setting, both in the Jarbidge Canyon and above the rim at higher elevations, hosts a spectacular variety of wildlife. If you time it right, you’ll also be able to see endless swathes of sunflowers and dozens of other types of wildflowers blanketing the wilderness area, coating the slopes with unimaginable vibrancy.
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Needless to say, the recreational opportunities here are unbeatable—and often crowdless. Anglers are drawn to Jarbidge for the region’s fabled fishing; it’s one of the only places in Nevada net redband rainbow trout, mountain whitefish, and even what is often die-hard trout chasers’ last piece of the Trout Royal Slam puzzle, the endangered bull trout (strictly catch-and-release only). Hundreds of miles of trails and tracks call to off-roaders, mountain bikers, and even trail runners.
The Jarbidge Wilderness Area, previously 64,667 acres, was expanded to over 100,000 acres in 1989 when the U.S. Government enacted the Nevada Wilderness Protection act. Although controversial to many locals, due to restrictions newly placed on their own backyard, it expanded a haven for many outdoor enthusiasts. The Mary’s River Trail, the Slide Creek Trailhead, and the Jarbidge River Trail attract hardy soul-searching hikers with beautiful scenery and Nevada’s wildlife. Meanwhile, bowhunting season attracts hunters from all over the world to stalk deer and elk in the Jarbidge Wilderness Area, home to some of Nevada’s biggest ungulates ever recorded.
If you’re simply here to cruise around and take it all in, be sure to pop into the Jarbidge Trading Post for locally made crafts and souvenirs, as well as to Nevada Glassworks LTD to get your hands on some truly exquisite bowls, jewelry, and other colorful hand-blown gems. Or just cruise the main drag; in the summer months, you’re likely to find a yard sale full of antiques, historical ephemera, and other things you never knew you absolutely needed.
Food & Drink in Jarbidge, Nevada
As a town of around a dozen permanent residents, there’s not a whole helluva lot here, but what is here is great—including two authentic-as-hell Sagebrush Saloons (because Nevada). As with any wilderness adventure in Nevada, we recommend stocking up on everything you need before you leave “civilization;” however, the plucked-straight-out-of-a-Western-film Jarbidge Trading Post has you covered for an impressive array of forgot-to-put-it-in-the-camping-box sundry items, camping gear, locally made souvenirs, and even tenkara style fishing gear.
For a good meal, hit up the Outdoor Inn for hot home-style faves and homemade delights—like pies, jellies, and milkshakes—washed down by plenty from the (very) full bar in the next room. Or just knock a few back at the Red Dog Saloon, home to a truly impressive whiskey selection, for a town of this or any other size. Just note that, at certain times of year, when one of the bars is open, the other one may be closed; they’re run by the same great folks.
Jarbidge Hotels and Camping
For outdoor enthusiasts, the town Jarbidge offers several free Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest-managed campgrounds, both south and north of town, with a range of primitive campground amenities—in addition to countless home-is-where-you-park-it boondockin’ sites, many along the river in town, and endlessly more up in the Jarbidge Wilderness.
However, if four walls happen to call your name, book a night at one of a handful of Jarbidge hotels. The Barn Hotel is tucked away with beautiful views, the Tsawhawbitts Ranch Bed & Breakfast provides homey vibes, while the Outdoor Inn offers comfortable motel rooms and RV spaces with full hookups in the heart of the action.
Jarbidge, Nevada Events
The population of Jarbidge swells from about a dozen to about a hundred residents in the spring-through-fall months, and one thing’s for sure: this community knows how to throw a party. While many visitors come to chase their recreationalist passions, hundreds of visitors come specifically for the revelrous gatherings, barbecues, contests, and even costume parties on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Halloween.
For a true taste of the town’s spirit, swing through in mid-August for the annual Jarbidge Days, which honors the town’s pioneer past with great food, free-flowing drinks, contests and games, and even a parade up—and right back down—Jarbidge’s single actual (unpaved) street, culminating in a big party at Pioneer Park and the Jarbidge Community Hall, stumbling distance from the Outdoor Inn’s full bar. Just be warned; people around here are friendly, so be ready to talk to a lot of strangers.