Wild Horses in Nevada: Population and Where to See Them

Written by Erin Cafferty
Published: December 9, 2023
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If the allure of spotting wild horses brings you to the great state of Nevada, you’re in the right place. Nevada is home to nearly half of all wild horses in the United States! These hardy horses live on public land protected by the government, so it’s easy to find them if you know where to look. Before we get into where the best places to see wild horses in Nevada are, let’s dig into the origin story of these awe-inspiring animals.

History of Nevada’s Wild Horses

Wild Horses

If you’re lucky, you might see a herd of wild horses running through sagebrush in central Nevada.

©mlharing/iStock via Getty Images

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Nevada’s wild horses and burros are protected species living on U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. They were brought out west during the 1800s gold rush by miners, ranchers, missionaries, and settlers.

The Nevada Wild Horse Range was the first established wild horse area in the U.S. It encompasses over 1.3 million acres of military land where between 300-500 wild horses live and roam. No visitors are allowed, but the history — dating back to 1962 — is important nonetheless.

How Many Wild Horses Are in Nevada?

A mustang mare and her in the high desert

There is an overly healthy population of wild horses living in NV.

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Nevada ranks number one for the state with the highest population of wild horses. There are currently over 45,000 wild horses and about 4,500 burros living on BLM land in Nevada. This doesn’t even include animals in unprotected areas of the state!

Here’s where the problem lies: The ideal number of wild horses for the land is closer to 13,000. Overpopulation is contributing to habitat loss, water source degradation, and other issues not just for the horses but also for the ecosystem at large.

Controlling the Wild Horse Population in Nevada

Cowboys and Horses Under the Big Blue Sky

Helicopters are used for wild horse roundups to keep the population under control, but wranglers are still needed on the ground as well.

©jeannehatch/iStock via Getty Images

The BLM conducts roundups, hosts adoption events, and exercises fertility control to keep population numbers across nearly 15.6 million managed acres down. Since 1971, the BLM has already removed nearly 137,000 wild horses from Nevada and has plans for a catch-treat-hold-and-release gather in 2023. This protects the horses as well as the environment and other wildlife that live there.

Chasing the Herd

Want to catch a horse in the wild and bring it home? Sorry, that’s illegal. You can adopt one at a BLM-sanctioned auction though!

©Jeanne Hatch/iStock via Getty Images

It’s illegal for anyone other than BLM officials or designated wranglers to touch, let alone catch, wild horses. Routine roundups are used to control population numbers. Otherwise, the wild horses stay wild.

You can visit the planned location for roundups and watch it happen in observation areas though! But that’s not even close to the best place to see the wild horses in Nevada…

10 Best Spots to See the Wild Horses in Nevada

Coming to Nevada to see the wild horses? Here are 10 of the best places to visit to catch a glimpse of the wild horses in their natural habitat.

1. Virginia Range

Galloping wild American Mustang horses

Wild horses roam the Nevada desert against the backdrop of the Virginia Range Mountains.

©EttaDallas/iStock via Getty Images

The wild horses of the Virginia Range in northern Nevada are “wild horse free,” according to the BLM. They don’t live within herd management areas, which means they are completely feral. This is the prime area for viewing the state’s wild horses. The most famous herd in Nevada lives here!

If you have a sense of adventure, a hike on the Truckee Meadows Historic Trail is a good option for spotting the horses. Estimates say nearly 3,000 wild horses live in the Virginia Range, so your chances of seeing one are pretty high (but never guaranteed).

2. New Pass-Ravenswood Herd Management Area

Wild horses at Moonrise

Protected BLM land, like the New Pass-Ravenswood Herd Management Area, is a great place to see the state’s wild horses.

©Chelsea Doyen-Thomas/iStock via Getty Images

Located 35 miles northwest of Austin, Nevada lies the New Pass-Ravenswood Herd Management Area. Wild horses roam the peaks and valleys, which offers an exciting backdrop to an already epic view. Beyond visiting the area itself, you can also often see the herds as you drive along US Highway 50 going east.

3. Red Rock Herd Management Area

Do Not Feed The Wild Horses Sign

Both wild horses and burros can be found within the Red Rock National Conservation Area near Las Vegas.

©trekandshoot/iStock via Getty Images

Out in the Mojave desert in Red Rock Herd Management Area lies more of Nevada’s wild horse herds. Less than 30 horses live in this area, but you can spot them easily in the open county during the summer months. However, there are 157,443 acres of ground they can cover so be patient and stay vigilant.

4. Lake Mead

Wild Mustang Horses in near a lake

Lake Mead National Recreation Area near Las Vegas is a popular place to see wild horses.

©gchapel/iStock via Getty Images

Located within the Muddy Mountains Herd Management Area, Lake Mead is home to some of Nevada’s wild horse population and over 500 burros. The horses here have draft bloodlines, which make them hardy and capable of living off the land. It’s a treat to see them, and you might if you visit the lake in the hot summer months!

5. Antelope Valley

Great Basin National Park

The Great Basin is home to over 80,000 wild horses.

©iStock.com/Allen Allnoch

About 50 miles south of Wells in the Great Basin lies Antelope Valley. Wild horses roam this area, so it’s worth a trip to see if you can spot one. Just be sure to keep your distance and don’t feed the horses — they are feral animals that can colic from any new food being introduced into their diet.

6. Mount Charleston

The Bristlecone Pines that grow in the Spring Mountains are some of the oldest trees on earth.

The Bristlecone Pines that grow in the Spring Mountains are some of the oldest trees on earth. You can see these trees and wild horses along the Bristlecone Loop Trail.

©iStock.com/Florian Schipflinger

Nearby Mount Charleston is another place with plenty of wild horse sightings. Specifically, the 6.3-mile Bristlecone Loop Trail offers expansive views of the valley and the herds of wild horses. This area could also be worth a visit when you come to Nevada!

7. Wheeler Pass Herd Management Area

Wild horse in Nevada mountains

You can see wild horses grazing in the small community of Cold Creek, Nevada.

©lyndsikathleen/iStock via Getty Images

Located within the Spring Mountains, the Wheeler Pass Herd Management Area is a popular place to see wild horses in Nevada. Approximately 55 wild horses occupy the land along alongside about 30 wild burros. Cold Creek, a small community near Las Vegas, is a specific spot where you’re likely to see a wild horse. A 4WD vehicle is recommended to access the herds who live here.

8. Pine Nut Mountain Range

Wild Horses

You can spot wild horses in the sagebrush outside of Carson City in the Pine Nut Mountains.

©Mercy_C_M_H/iStock via Getty Images

Spread across 90,000 acres, wild horses roam the Pine Nut Mountain Range outside of Carson City, NV. This is a common area to see wild horses who have Shetland bloodlines. Don’t be surprised when these animals are shorter than other wild horses around the state.

9. Fish Creek Herd Management Area

Mustang in high desert in the Washoe Lake

Over half of the U.S. wild horse population inhabits Nevada.

©AlessandraRC/iStock via Getty Images

Just miles south of Eureka, NV you will find the Fish Creek Herd Management Area. The wild horses that live in this area of Nevada have Quarter Horse bloodlines, but you can also spot Curly Horses that live here. This unique breed was brought to Eureka by Tom Dixon in the late 1800s and is still seen in the wild today.

10. Palomino Valley Wild Horse and Burro Center

Mustang Holding Pens, Pyramid Lake, Nevada.

Wild horses stay in pens at the Palomino Valley Wild Horse and Burro Center awaiting adoption.

©alacatr/iStock via Getty Images

One place you’re guaranteed to see a wild horse in Nevada is at the largest BLM preparation and adaption facility in the U.S. The Palomino Valley Wild Horse and Burro Center is open to the public 6 days a week for viewing or adopting the wild horses captured during roundups.

Summary of the Best Places to See the Wild Horses in Nevada

Wild horses are well-known and loved by both locals and visitors of Nevada. If you ever have a chance to take a trip to the state to see the wild horses, here’s a recap of the 10 places you should go.

#1Virginia Range
#2New Pass-Ravenswood Herd Management Area
#3Red Rock Herd Management Area
#4Lake Mead
#5Antelope Valley
#6Mount Charleston
#7Wheeler Pass Herd Management Area
#8Pine Nut Mountain Range
#9Fish Creek Herd Management Area
#10Palomino Valley Wild Horse and Burro Center

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Jeanne Hatch/iStock via Getty Images

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About the Author

Erin Cafferty is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on horses, mountains, and parks. Erin holds a Master’s Degree from Radford University, which she earned in 2018. A resident of Virginia, Erin enjoys hiking with her dog, visiting local farmer's markets, and reading while her cat lays on her lap.

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