By Wayne Cottrell — Gold Lida is a 48.4-mile, challenging out-and-back ride between Gold Point and Lida Summit in west southwest Nevada. The title’s reference to a fictional Star Wars character is not unintentional, as the net elevation gain is an epic 3,290 feet, starting and finishing in mile-high Gold Point. To add to the challenge, both Gold Point and Lida (the ride passes this settlement on the way to Lida Summit) are listed as ghost towns. Both have resident populations, but neither supports many if any services, as their heydays are long past. Gold Point has a history of hit-and-miss. The area was first settled in 1880 under the name Lime Point, but prospecting was slow. Miners abandoned the area, but returned in 1900 when gold and silver discoveries established the nearby towns of Goldfield and Tonopah. Silver was then discovered in the adjacent hills, and Lime Point was renamed Hornsilver. By 1903, this camp was abandoned, because of the high costs of mining operations. More silver was discovered in 1905, though, and the miners returned, finally establishing a more permanent settlement. Soon, Hornsilver’s population reached 1,000. After a couple of decades of boom and bust, gold was discovered in 1927. The town’s name was changed to Gold Point, and it thrived until World War II, when the U.S. government ordered all gold mines to shut down as nonessential to the war effort. After the war, mining resumed, and continued until the 1960s, when a major explosion effectively ceased all major operations. Gold Point’s current, regular population is only seven, but there are seasonal fluctuations.
Gold Point is located in a remote corner of west southwest Nevada. To get there from Las Vegas, head northwest on US 95, toward Tonopah. Turn left on NV 266 (160 miles from Las Vegas) and head west. After seven miles, turn left on NV 774, and head southwest to Gold Point. The settlement is located at the end of the highway. From Salt Lake City, head west on I-80. Once in West Wendover, exit I-80 and head southwest on US 93A, which merges with US 93 after 60 miles. Transfer to US 6 (southwest) in Ely. Once in Tonopah (275 miles from Wendover), head south on US 95. Once at NV 266, 37 miles south of Tonopah, turn right and head west, following the above directions to Gold Point. The town is 175 miles from Las Vegas, and 435 miles from Salt Lake City. The weather in Gold Point is moderate; average temperatures exceed 80 degrees only during June, July and August. Average highs are in the 40s during December, January and February.
Be prepared for this ride by recognizing that the altitude changes along the route will present some temperature variations. Also, note that the settlement of Lida, near the turnaround, does not offer any services. Thus, be self-sufficient. With all of the history recounted above in mind, start the ride at the beginning of pavement, at 3rd & Gold Streets. This is the beginning of NV 774. Head northeast, out of town. The highway gradually descends from Gold Point’s elevation of 5,392 feet. By the time NV 774 ends, at its junction with NV 266 (mile 7.45), the elevation is 4,771 feet, having lost over 600 feet. Make a sharp left here, and head west. While NV 774 carries just 20 vehicles per day, NV 266 carries about 15 times this – yet, 300 vehicles per day is very light. There is a narrow, striped shoulder. NV 266 gradually climbs, with Mt. Jackson Ridge to the right, and Lida Valley to the left. The highway’s gradient increases to about 3% as the Palmetto Mountains appear on the right. At mile 18.7, a dirt road on the right (elevation 5,995 feet) leads to Lida This “ghost” town, like Gold Point, has a similarly exciting mining history. NV 266 bypasses the town, as the gradient increases to 5%. The next 5.5 miles feature steady climbing at this gradient, with mighty Palmetto Mountain looming to the right, and the even mightier Magruder Mountain (elevation 9,044 feet) looming to the left. NV 266 finally crests at mile 24.2 – a sign signifies that you are at Lida Summit (elevation 7,437 feet).
Turn around at the summit and begin the return ride. The next 16.8 miles are downhill, with the gradient gradually decreasing as you get farther from the summit and Lida. Turn right at NV 774 to begin the final stretch to Gold Point. The highway climbs gradually for the final 7.4 miles, to the end of pavement in Gold Point.
Starting & ending point coordinates: 37.354486oN 117.365006oW
For more rides, see Road Biking Utah (Falcon Guides), written by avid cyclist Wayne Cottrell. Road Biking Utah features descriptions of 40 road bike rides in Utah. The ride lengths range from 14 to 106 miles, and the book’s coverage is statewide: from Wendover to Vernal, and from Bear Lake to St. George to Bluff. Each ride description features information about the suggested start-finish location, length, mileposts, terrain, traffic conditions and, most importantly, sights. The text is rich in detail about each route, including history, folklore, flora, fauna and, of course, scenery.
Wayne Cottrell is a former Utah resident who conducted extensive research while living here – and even after moving – to develop the content for the book.