Services, Getting There
Hikes & Trails:
Joe May Trail
Wagon Wheel Trail
Hidden Forest Trail
Sawmill Canyon Trail
Pine Nut Trail
Dead Horse Trail
Pine Canyon Trail
Old Corn Creek Road Trail
Desert National Wildlife Refuge
Nevada Benchmark Atlas: Page 82
DeLorme: Page 66
Wilderness Area Status: Agency Proposed Area
Year Designated: n/a
Managing Agency: Fish and Wildlife Service
Refuge Visitor Information
The magnificent Sheep Range and associated ranges in what is now the Desert National Wildlife Refuge was first protected by President Teddy Roosevelt in early 1907 as part of our Nation’s forest preserves. President Franklin Roosevelt created the Refuge, including the Sheep Range, out of the National Forest in 1936 to provide habitat to the Desert bighorn sheep who are well suited to the rugged nature of the Sheep Range. The Refuge, truly a national treasure, is the largest Wildlife Refuge in the contiguous United States at nearly 1.6 million acres. The Sheep Range is the largest roadless area in Nevada.
The Sheep Range has long been recognized for its outstanding wilderness values. In the 1970's, the US Fish and Wildlife Service reviewed the entire refuge for wilderness (as per the Wilderness Act of 1964) and much of the refuge including, the 460,000-acre Sheep Range, was formally recommended for wilderness designation. It has been largely managed as Wilderness since then. Along with Gass Peak and the Las Vegas Range proposed Wildernesses, this area comprises part of the Sheep Range Wilderness Complex.
The massive Sheep Range Proposed Wilderness is one of the most topographically and ecologically diverse wilderness areas in the country. The stunning exposed limestone-spine of the range creates dramatic walls and ever changing colors as the hours, weather, and seasons change. Managed and protected as proposed wilderness since 1974, this area is unique in providing the visitor with the ability to experience the full spectrum of the seven life-zones that characterize the area, uninterrupted by human modification. These diverse habitats host approximately 320 bird species (including the Golden Eagle, Roadrunner, and Pygmy Owl), 53 mammal species (including the kit fox), 35 reptile species, and 4 amphibian species. The varied elevations and climate support nearly 500 plant species. Located on the eastern side of the expansive Desert National Wildlife Refuge, the Sheep Range runs over 60 miles, paralleling Highway 93 through Clark and Lincoln Counties.
The Saltbrush Community, found in the lowest reaches of the proposed wilderness, populates the saline valleys surrounding the area with salt tolerant vegetation. These hot and dry valleys see temperatures as high as 117 degrees in the summer and can sustain ephemeral pools of water after rare, extreme precipitation events. From 2,400-3,600 feet, the Creosote Bush Community dominates the area featuring Mojave Yucca, Bursage, and Range Ratney. This scrubland community sees less than 5 inches of rain per year. The Joshua Tree Woodlands add mysterious forms across the landscape in elevations ranging from 3,000-5,000 feet. The Blackbrush Community, characterized by various species of Yucca, Mormon Tea, and Cholla Cactus, intermixes with the Joshua trees in areas above 4,200 feet. But at 5,000 feet, the Joshua trees thin-out and the Blackbrush Community dominates steep rolling hills in a region typified by shallow soils. In a narrow zone at an elevation of 6,000 feet, scattered Joshua trees thinly scatter the lowest reaches of the Pinyon-Juniper Woodland. Above 6,000 feet, the open-canopy Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands see precipitation from 10–15 inches per year with much of this precipitation falling as snow. From 7,500 to 9,000 feet, reclusive Pine-Fir Forests, characterized by Ponderosa Pines and White Firs, develop closed-canopies in canyons and on northeast facing slopes where the rains are more frequent and the snows linger. And upon the highest summits of the Sheep Range where elevations reach nearly 10,000 feet, conditions become extreme. From multiple days of sub-freezing temperatures in the winter to long and dry sun-irradiated days in the summer, only Bristlecone Pine Trees survive this climate. These enduring trees are the crowning glory to the extreme diversity in terrain and ecosystems found in the Sheep Range proposed wilderness. The persistence of Bristlecone Pines in the face of such adverse conditions is an appropriate symbol of resistance against the challenges and threats that have plagued the natural integrity of the Sheep Range since it was first protected as a National Wildlife refuge in 1936.
Though not as well known as the Mt. Charleston area and Red Rock Canyon NCA, the Sheep Range is loved by many and is a haven for those looking for less crowded recreation in a stunning setting. It is easily accessed with a four wheel drive from the Corn Creek Visitor Center in the NW corner of the Las Vegas Valley. The Sheep Range offers outstanding opportunities for primitive recreation and solitude. Trails provide access into the deepest heart of this magnificent wilderness. Many of the trailheads of this trail system lie at the end of challenging dirt roads that provide access to many of the most scenic areas for those not able to hike or backpack. Trails lead the visitor through the extraordinary series of life zones. Elevations range from as low as 3,000 feet to nearly 10,000 feet on Hayford Peak, and plants range from saltbrush in the lowest levels of the wilderness to Bristlecone Pine in it's highest areas. The Sheep Range hosts an amazing diversity of ecosystems including eight species of conifers. Beyond the parking areas and trails, 460,000 acres of unexplored and untracked wilderness beckon to visitors with the skills, stamina, and determination to explore deep-wilderness.
The Sheep Range has been utilized by ancient people for thousands of years, first by Archaic people and later by the Southern Paiutes and their allied groups. The ancient cultures left beautifully preserved agave roasting pits, rock art, rock shelters, camps and other artifacts. The Sheep Range is still very important for native people today.