Guide to Road Tripping to Ward Charcoal Ovens Historic State Park

Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park

Witold Skrypczak/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

Most road-trippers are familiar with the big American destinations like the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, and Yellowstone National Park, but there are many more interesting attractions beyond these that most people just drive right by. Nevada's Ward Charcoal Ovens Historic State Park is one of these unique places, best known for its hive-shaped ovens that date back to the 19th century. Just a four-hour drive north of Las Vegas, it could make for an interesting day trip or a pitstop on a road trip through Nevada.

History of Ward Charcoal Ovens Historic State Park

Eastern Nevada has been a destination for silver mining since the 19th century, and although the silver mines aren’t in operation anymore, the historic stone ovens used to process the silver still remain. The ovens at Ward Charcoal operated between 1876 and 1879 and are a beauty of 19th-century engineering.

After the silver rush, the ovens were used as a shelter for travelers and bandits and are now on display for everyone who finds themselves in Eastern Nevada. Standing over 30 feet high, the ovens are a unique piece of the American southwest. The area surrounding the park has been developed for many other outdoor-based activities, making this park an all-around fun experience.

What to Do in the Park

After you've checked out the ovens, you can try hiking, backpacking, or biking to explore the area further. East Nevada is home to volcanic tuffs, a type of rock that was used to construct the ovens. You can gaze at the snow-capped peaks, fish at the nearby Willow Creek, or enjoy flora and fauna like sagebrush, wildflowers, jackrabbits, badgers, coyotes, and more. Several miles of trails ranging from easy to strenuous can lead you through the park.

What to Do Near the Park

Not far from the park is also Great Basin National Park, which is known for its sage-covered slopes, ancient bristlecone pines, and caverns. There are plenty of great hiking and biking trails here also and a host of other activities. In the background, the entire park is watched over by 13,000-foot Whitney Peak.

Great Basin is also a popular park among amateur astronomers because of the lack of light pollution. The dark skies you'll find here make it a great spot to look for your favorite constellation or spot a shooting star. And if you’re a history buff, you can learn the stories behind the abandoned silver towns in the area, or visit attractions in town like the Nevada Northern Railway Museum, Ely Renaissance Village, and the White Pine Public Museum.

Where to Stay

Camping in the park provides the most direct access to its unique features. If you prefer amenities to proximity, you can try another nearby campsite, Ely KOA. You'll find the great amenities and features you’d expect from as established KOA campground, including large open sites, bath and laundry facilities, full hookups, propane refill, and more.

If you prefer to stay in a hotel, you can find some nearby town of Ely, which is a 30-minute drive down the road. There's also a casino at the Hotel Nevada, which has been operating since 1929 and has hosted celebrities like Ingrid Bergman, Stephen King, and Gary Cooper.

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