East Peak • Highpoint: Douglas County
• Carson Mountains

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Date: August 10, 2000 • Elevation: 9,591 feet • Prominence: 360 feet • Distance: 5 miles • Time: 3 hours • Gain: 1,700 feet • Conditions: Clear and lovely

This was the second day of a four-day adventure in which I would visit four county highpoints in Nevada, plus explore Tonopah and the areas around the Nevada Test Site with my father. So far, I had hiked Mount Jefferson in Nye County, and Mount Davidson in Storey County, both yesterday. Then today, I hiked (and biked) Snow Valley Peak in Carson City. I was close to my next objective, East Peak in Douglas County.

From Spooner Summit, where I had parked for the Snow Valley Peak hike, I descended down into the Lake Tahoe basin and enjoyed the lovely lake, this being my first time here. I drove south along US-50 to Kingsbury Grade (NV-207). This road gains elevation fast, passing through a residential area. After a couple of miles, it comes to the main entrance of the Heavenly Ski Area, which is on the right side of the road at South Benjamin Road.

I followed the signs to the Stagecoach Ski Lift, then followed more signs to the Tramway Road, then on Tramway to another T-junction, then left, then a fast right to the Eagle's Nest Resort buildings, behind which is the dirt road that leads to the top of East Peak. This portion of Tramway Road is one-way and more than once I had to circle it before figuring out where I was and where I needed to beand to park.

I had tried to do my homework, but some of it was contradictory. On the phone, the Heavenly Ski people said hiking was not allowed. In town, the Information Bureau on NV-207 near the South Benjamin turnoff said hiking is always allowed. Then signs near the trailhead said hiking, biking, jogging and all else was not allowed, but there were many hikers out anyway.

I saw one guy for a jog, asked him about the "prohibitions" against access and he looked at me like I was from Mars. It appears no one pays attention to the signs and no one patrols it, either, or not very aggressively. So I decided to just walk in on the road despite the signs and hope for the best. I figured if I acted like I knew what I was doing no one would bother me, and it worked.

I started walking up the dirt road. Big trucks passed me, going to a construction site, and I made sure to get as far off the road as possible when they passed. The road switchbacks a few times at first, crossing the ski slope in the process, then straightens out and gains steadily as it skirts the northeast side of the mountain. After a mile and 900 feet of gain, I came to a pond. The main road continues beyond the pond.

To get to East Peak, I turned right, passed by the pond area (said hi to the fisherpeople), passed by a ski-lift, then started up the road toward a large ski-run area. Here I made a tactical decision that had both positive and negative effects on my hike.

I was growing weary of the long meandering road and decided to hike directly up this ski-run. It was steep and covered in straw (to combat erosion) but I gained 500 feet in about a third of the distance the road would have. At the top of the ski run, I came upon the road again, and could hear all the construction noises going on a short ways down the other side.

Then I made an error. I turned left and continued up this ski run, gaining another 400 feet before coming to the top of a ski-lift (the top of the one whose bottom was near the pond). But something wasn't right. I took a bearing and found myself south of the pond, with my actual destination, East Peak, in full view, to the pond's west. I think I had crossed into California! So I descended back to the road and quickly found the right road to the proper summit. I made my way up the rocks to the benchmark for a well-deserved rest and an awesome view of most of Lake Tahoe.

After all the contradictory signs and uncertainty and my own wrong-way turn, not to mention the ugly hiking along service roads and open ski slopes, the views from here were outstanding. I spent a few minutes here enjoying the solitude and the views. Despite the activity down low, no one else seemed interested in this peak. I seemed to have the whole upper mountain to myself.

After a snack, I started the walk down. I followed the road instead of the ski-run but the road took so long going down that when it came back near the lower ski-run, I took it down instead. I also saved time and mileage on the switchbacks near the bottom by descending another ski-run. In all, the round-trip is about 4 miles, or possibly more following the road the whole way, and about 1,700 feet of gain.

The whole hike, I was amid ski-lifts, ski-runs and numerous signs pointing to all the ski routes. I was amused that many of the signs were about 12 feet off the ground, until I remembered that when there's 7 feet of snow on the ground, then the signs will only be head-high for most people by that time. In winter, this area is probably beautiful. In summer, this ski run, like all others, is very homely.

Naturally, one attractive option to visit this highpoint would be to wait for winter, get a day pass and work your way up to the top ski lift. Then it's just an easy scramble to the summit. I am sure many thousands of people have done exactly this.

I was now done with my short list of peaks, so from here I drove south on US-95 to Tonopah, where my dad met me. We then spent a couple of days exploring the remote ranges in central Nye County, the Kawich and Reveille Ranges, where he likes to hunt. There are a few old ghost towns out here, and in some places we were within a mile or two of the northern boundary of the giant Nevada Test Range, where public access is strictly forbidden. We had no intention of trying our luck, of course, but we could see buildings through our binoculars way off in the distance. We are also positive we were being watched the whole time by the MPs.

(c) 2000, 2016 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.