The town of Austin is built along the steep walls of Pony Canyon, and Highway 50 climbs over the Austin summit at an elevation of more than 7,500 feet above sea level. Nearby mountains soar to heights of as much as 11,941 feet.
This is a high mountain desert region. It offers a moderate range of weather conditions with specific seasonal variations. The air is generally dry and clear. The climate is warm and sunny during the summer, with the average daytime temperature ranging between 60º – 90º. Temperatures can drop by 15º or more when the sun goes down. The occasional rain or thunderstorm is usually sudden and short-lived. Winter temperatures are commonly between 20º – 60º degrees during the day, and nighttime temperatures can drop to below zero. Snow is usually 14 to 24 inches per year with substantially more in the higher mountain areas.
Plants & Wildlife
The diverse ecosystems support a variety of plants and wildlife -- the only thing you won't see a lot of is people! The lower elevations are home to traditional desert life while the higher mountain regions have a decidedly alpine habitat.
Sage and rabbitbrush are predominate with a mixture of other plants, cactus, and grasses covering the hillsides. Wildflowers bloom in abundance in the spring and summer, with more flowers and wider varieties appearing in the upper elevations. They are spectacular after a particularly wet season, blooming in a profusion of color, shapes, and sizes. There are lush green meadows and cold sparkling streams. Look for lots of different trees in the canyons and along the high mountain creeks; aspens, willows, birch, pine, juniper and mahogany, to name a few.
This traditional high desert landscape is populated with rabbits, coyotes, foxes, lizards, and snakes, but you will also find herds of antelope or deer as well as mountain lion, elk, bighorn sheep, beaver, and others. Birds include eagles, hawks, falcons, grouse, partridge, and chukar as well as a variety of smaller birds.
Many of the larger creeks and pools in the canyons have good fishing. Groves Lake and Kingston Creek are both good fishing spots for rainbow, brown, and brook trout.
Days are clear, with little precipitation, but high winds are common. Watch for sudden thunderstorms, especially during the spring and early summer. Be aware of your surroundings and stay clear of flash flood zones.
Desert foliage offers little protection from the sun and elements. The thin air means UV protection is a must, so don’t forget your sunscreen, hat and shades.
This is the desert, the temperature drops dramatically at night due to the high altitude. Be sure to bring some warm clothing, especially if you are going to be outdoors at night.
Fire can be devastating to these remote canyons, so please be extra careful about campfires and smoking.
If you are out biking or exploring on your own, stay away from abandoned mine dumps and caves. Hantavirus is transmitted from the droppings of deer mice, so don’t breathe in the dust from abandoned buildings or crawl around under low hanging trees or other places that mice may nest. Watch for snakes and spiders and use common sense. They want to stay away from you just as much as you want to stay away from them, so just be observant and watch where you put your feet and hands. Insect repellant is a useful deterrent to gnats, and mosquitoes around creeks and marshes.
If you are planning a trip off the main road, be sure to bring along the standard emergency items – first aid kit, water, blanket, matches, etc. Most cell phones will not work in the high mountain canyons, so be sure you have told someone where you are going and when you should be back. Allow extra time for all the great things you are going to want to stop and look at, so you don’t get caught short at dusk. A jacket and a bottle of water are good things to take even on a short walk in the mountains.
For emergencies, the closest hospital is Banner Churchill in Fallon , located on Highway 50 in Fallon. Austin has a clinic, open 3 days a week with telemedincine on Tuesday and Thursday and a Doctor on Wednesdays. The Smoky Valley Outpatient Clinic in Round Mountain has a full time physician. Drugs and medication are available in Battle Mountain or Fallon. Austin, Kingston, Round Mountain and Big Smoky Valley all have active volunteers for fire and ambulance service. These dedicated and well-trained emergency service responders have received international recognition for their work and professionalism. As always, dial 911 for life-threatening emergencies.
Austin Clinic 775-964-2222
Ambulance — Volunteer 775-964-2870
Sheriff/Ambulance 775-964-2661 or 911 EMERGENCY