I've wanted to go here for like ever. Dinosaurs? in NV? gotta see it, but I always seem to be going somewhere else. So finally decided to make central a NV a destination instead of a driveby. Glad we did.
You get there dropping from Middle Gate down NV 361 to just north of Gabbs (you'll see a HUGE working mine just before you turn east and head steeply up and over the Paradise Mountains to a little valley, then the road turns narrow and finally to dirt as it climbs the other side of the valley on the edge of the Shoshone Mountains to the ghost town of Berlin. All in all, a very pretty drive...if you like Great Basin sage and piņon pine/juniper type terrain...not everyone does.
But there's a cooler way to get there via dirt (actually several, but I took just one; this neck of the woods has some LONG dirt roads that are either in super dirt freeway shape, or goat paths). Doable in 2WD depending on conditions. You get off 50 near Eastgate onto the "old 50" which is now 722. You go through a gap and then turn off onto a road that follows Buffalo Creek, and signed to Ione. It goes through some cool terrain around the north end of the Paradise range, south end of Desatoyas and out into the Ione Valley. You can shoot straight (VERY straight) to Ione, which isn't a state park but is a sorta ghost town; it had some people living there but no businesses open, although it looked like they might have been active in the recent past. Well worth a look-see. From there easy dirt over to Berlin.
When you enter the state park you almost immediately enter the ghost town of Berlin, which was active just after the turn of the century. It's in a state of arrested decay (like me, but slower, and like Bodie in CA). It reminds me a lot of Cerro Gordo, but without the nice bar/hotel. On the other hand, the mill is accessible.
A few rangers live on site, and they are the most helpful fun characters you are gonna encounter in parks. There was literally no one there but me the day after Memorial Day, and Robin the caretaker more or less gave me a personal tour. Later, the other ranger, Todd, showed into the locked buildings and gave us a tour of the smaller mine (mine tours are on Fri-Sun). The mine is really intimidating; hard way to make a living. You can poke around endlessly looking in the buildings, at the junk laying about, etc.
The ichthyosaur is also quite a sight. Fossilized, of course. Fifty feet of swimming toothy lizard from like 225 million years ago or whatever. They give two tours a day to see that; the fossils are enclosed in a locked buildiing.
They've also got a terrific campground, with water and pit toilets. Each site is very private, and has a table, firepit, grill and a ramada, which is a really nice touch. There are a few hiking trails, although it's a longish walk on the road back to the town of Berlin. The ichthyosaur is but a half mile away.
From the campground:
What we didn't realize initially is all the roads to explore around the area. We spent several days doing this. Going up to Ione is easy, and keep going to the pass to get a view of the Toiyabes, Arc Dome and the Reese Valley (gotta be the longest smallest river I've ever seen.
A nice trip is to go up Union Canyon, just up from the campground. It was the site of a mining settlement that preceded Berlin by a bit, but little is left. The road requires at least high clearance, and can wash out. Again, you wind up over in the Reese Valley. There's a small Indian reservation for the Yomba on the other side, but no services, although the folks over there could lend a hand if needed. If you wander a bit further south, there are some easier roads that go through the old town of Grantsville (some nice campsites right in town and lots of junk to pore over). My friends went even further south, and looped the bottom end of the Shoshones near the old Cloverdale Ranch.
We saw lots of pronghorn, one wandering the ruins in Berlin, and my friends even startled up a band of wild horses. But there are few, very few, people around. You may not run into anyone in hours of driving dirt; indeed, on the paved roads from Berlin to US 95, an hour away, I only saw 5 cars, and three of 'em were travelling in caravan. Gabbs has gas and some groceries; you have to go knock on the grocery door to get a guy to unlock and run the gas pumps across the street. So be prepared.
All in all, WELL worth a visit if you like this stuff. We're gonna go back and do some more: there are nice routes over Toiyabes from Big Creek SW of Austin to Kingston, another sort-of ghost town. And south of that to Darroughs, a hot springs (and out by Potts Ranch as well). There are the Spencer Hot Springs just off 50 east of Austin, and then down past Toquima Cave and over to the Monitor Valley. I'd also like to cross over Northumberland Pass and see the cave up there. We're also told there's a bar at Butler Ranch...gotta be the remotest around if it's really there. And that just takes us through some of the area; there are more ranges and basins to the east.
It was a pleasure to travel in this area. The parks people were beyond helpful, the locals friendly, and just amazing terrain. I regret that I had only just passed through before.