Fortification Range Trails
Hike and Trail
If you happen to be driving U.S. 93 south of Ely as
the sun is setting toward the horizon, you'll learn
quickly how the Fortification Range got its name.
Glowing steep and bright in the setting sun, the
range's sheer western cliffs indeed resemble a great
golden castle. But this is the just beginning of the
beauty the Fortification Range has to offer. On the
range's northeastern flank, Cottonwood Canyon will
give you a good sense of the area's true diversity
Once you're on the jeep track leading into
Cottonwood Canyon, it will quickly become apparent
why this canyon is different from so many others in
the area. Thanks to water draining from the higher
reaches of the canyon, and from Cottonwood
Spring, the drainage is choked with a thriving
tangle of ash, willow and cottonwood - a beautiful
respite from the normally arid terrain.
Park your vehicle at a convenient turn-around spot,
grab some food, water, sunscreen, sunglasses and
sun hat, and maybe a windbreaker in case you plan
to hike to the top of the ridge, and set out for a
wonderful hike up the canyon.
The tight pinyon-juniper forest can get disorienting.
Luckily, the canyon is relatively narrow, so you
shouldn't worry about getting lost. As you hike,
you'll get glimpses of tangled rock formations rising
above the trees. Soon, you'll see a crown of golden rock along the top of the canyon.
Although the climbing is steep at spots, you should be able to pick your route up to the crest of the range. Determined hikers should aim for Fortification Peak rising to over 8,200 feet to the south of the canyon. An unnamed peak over 8,000-feet tall makes a
good goal to the north. Both will reward you with stunning views of the range's wonderful terrain, the valleys below, and Mount Grafton rising to the east.
Anyone who visits the area will learn the truth about what wonders wait here and why it's worth protecting.
FORTIFICATION RANGE - COTTONWOOD CANYON
DIRECTIONS: Roughly 18 miles south of Major's Place (the intersection of U.S. 93 and U.S. 50/6), and a half-mile north of the Lake Valley Summit, turn east onto a well-graded dirt road. A sign will point to Atlanta. Drive about 15 miles southeast, then south
along the east of the range.
After about 12 miles, the road will split at a fence. Continue driving straight south three miles until you find a jeep trail heading west (right) up into Cottonwood Canyon. Enter the
canyon, then park at a convenient place where you'll be able to turn around. The route quickly gets too narrow to turn around.