Pinyons, Caves, Springs, and a Lake
The Cave Springs Trail is located at Cave Lake State Park near Ely, NV. Cave Lake is a popular spot for fishing, picnicking, and camping. The park can be heavily used during the summer months as locals flock here to fish and Las Vegans come to escape the heat. There are several maintained trails in the park, and the Cave Springs Loop is the longest. Although, be forewarned that the final 2 miles of this loop hike are actually along roads. This caught me off guard the first time I tried this loop. However, there are worthwhile things to see during the road portion of the hike. Cave Springs, a large limestone Arch, and good views of Cave Lake.
From the trailhead follow the trail across Steptoe Creek via the bridge. There are some nice pools on this creek near the trail crossing and you may see anglers fishing the creek. Once across the creek you will quickly come to a wooden sign which says "trail" and points to the left. Turn left following the sign.
The trail ascends gently, meandering through a pinyon pine and juniper forest. The first mile is the steepest part of the trail. You will get some decent views after a short climb of Cave Lake, Cave Mountain, and the Schell Creek Range. There are wooden trail markers along the trail indicating each half mile.
Other vegetation you will see along the trail in addition to Pinyon Pines and Juniper include Sagebrush and Mountain Mahogany. After about a mile you will start to get better views of the Ward Mountains to the West and a prominent mountain called Square Top located inside the park. Between 1 and 1.5 miles in you will come to a registration box, when I hiked this it was impossible to register as rodents had torn the registration papers to shreds.
The trail continues primarily east, sometimes ascending, sometimes descending gently, and sometimes remaining flat. At about two miles a dirt road crosscuts the trail. You can turn right on this dirt trail to head towards the main park road and make for a shorter loop.
The trail continues with more gentle ascents getting rather close to some limestone walls. The trail then turns South and begins to descend steadily until you reach a junction with a dirt road. The rest of the hike will follow this road. Turn right and the road goes past Cave Springs, a good place for a break.
Past Cave Springs there are several closed meadow areas that are signed by the Southern Nevada Water Authority for restoration. In the distance you can notice some limestone cliffs and some caves. The road continues past the caves and cliffs. As you pass the limestone cliffs make sure to turn around as there is a fairly decent sized Limestone Arch on the Western Side of these cliffs.
Eventually Cave Lake will come back into view. Continue on the road which will become paved. If you wish you can walk the shore of the lake instead of along the road. The main park road eventually comes to a junction with the trailhead road shortly after passing the State Park ranger station. You will finally see a trail on the right hand side of the road, so you can at least finish your hike on a dirt path for the last 150 feet, instead of on a paved road.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.