Mount Grant • Highpoint: Mineral County
• Range Highpoint: Wassuk Mountains
• Hawthorne Ordnance Depot

Mount Grant as seen from the
Hawthorne Ammo Depot grounds

The pointy peak from
the access road

Nevada PageMain Page



Date: August 7, 2001 • Elevation: 11,280 feet • Prominence: 3,920 feet • Distance: 3 miles • Time: 2 hours • Gain: 920 feet • Conditions: Clear and calm • Teammates: Joe Surgent

Mineral County is located in the high desert along the Nevada-California boundary, about 4 hours north of Las Vegas and a couple hours south of Carson City by car. The county has just one city, Hawthorne, and a few scattered towns like Mina and Luning, all strung out along US-95. The county has one main business and employer, the gigantic United States Army Ammunition and Ordnance Depot, which takes up much of the land surrounding Hawthorne. In case you ever wondered where all our wartime playthings are stored, a lot of it is stored here.

The highest point of the county is Mount Grant of the Wassuk Mountains, northwest of Hawthorne, and west of Walker Lake, a remnant of ancient Lake Lahontan, which covered this part of Nevada many thousands of years ago. A tolerable dirt road starts at a gate nearby Walker Lake and runs 17 miles, ending below the summit. Since some of the range sits within the Ordnance Depot, visitors prior to September 11, 2001, could get a key from the Ordnance people in Hawthorne, sign a few waivers, and drive the road. After that horrific day in 2001, the Depot clamped down on visitation until recently. For many years, Mount Grant was essentially closed to the public.

My father and I were on a journey in and around central Nevada. Our plans included a visit here, then a drive to Jackpot on the Idaho boundary, then a visit (and a hike for me) up Wheeler Peak on the east side of the state. We arrived in Hawthorne after the long drive from Henderson. We detoured through Dyer, following a lesser highway underneath the state highpoint at Boundary Peak. We arrived in Hawthorne in the mid afternoon, enough time to drive onto the main Ordnance Depot "base" and get the key for tomorrow.

At the time, the day-to-day runnings of the base were subcontracted to various civilian companies. The main buildings had that military look to it, and neat tanks and other items from about World War II were erected around the area. However, there were very few actual people anywhere to be found. It had a kind of ghost-town feel. We were able to find the office where we signed for the key to the gate. My dad's past military experience (Colonel, retired, U.S. Army) helped a lot. He was instantly trustworthy in their eyes.

The next morning, we drove to the gate, unlocked it, and drove up the long road south toward the higher ridges and peaks. We took the drive slowly to enjoy the views, and found the road to be in good shape. The road follows Cottonwood Canyon, and gains about 5,000 feet from the gate, passing through zones of pinon and juniper, poplar, fir, and high-elevation sage and scrub.

In time, the road starts to hug the slopes a little more severely, and we sensed we were quickly gaining on the summit. The road was good enough that we could have driven it, but we opted to park at a wide area near a bend about 900 feet below the top, elevation 10,369 feet, and hike it from there. The one-way hike took about an hour. We arrived to the top, where the road ends in a loop. My dad did well, but I think this was his first time ever at 11,000 feet elevation. He admitted feeling a little wobbly.

The actual summit is still a short hike beyond the end of the road. The top is covered in flakey talus, and somehow, a trail was hewn into this mish-mash of rock. In a few minutes I was below the top-most rocks, some small cliffs momentarily blocking my way. I was able to find a way up these small barriers, and arrived onto the summit quickly. The views were beautiful, with Walker Lake below, and the grid-work of roads and bunkers of the Ordnance Depot in the surrounding desert flats. I could also see Hawthorne, too, plus many surrounding mountaintops.

Not wanting to keep my dad waiting, I spent just 10 minutes up here before starting down, taking the first few feet down carefully to be sure the loose rocks wouldn't slide from under me. I was back to where my dad was sitting after a few minutes, my whole time gone from him about 40 minutes. He was itching to get back down, so we hiked directly downslope, following natural openings through the brush such as gullies and game paths to shorten our hike. Back at the vehicle, we drove back down carefully, and were out past the gate, our whole time here about 4 hours. We returned the key to the Ordnance people, and continued on our way.

From Hawthorne we took shortcuts through Lander County into the town of Austin, where a friend of my dad's was now employed by the Lander County Sheriff. We came to Interstate-80 at the ugliest city on the planet, Battle Mountain, where we stayed in a hotel. Later in the week, we camped at the Great Basin National Park and I hiked Wheeler Peak.

Our timing for visiting the Depot and Mount Grant was very fortuitous. We, of course, had no clue what would happen slightly over a month later in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. After those events, the Depot essentially shut out all recreational access onto the Wassuk Mountains. Only in recent years have they started allowing one-day visits, a sort of race to the top. It's not cheap and only happens once a year, but for now, access to Mount Grant is extremely limited and this race is the only legal way to access the range and the summit.

(c) 2001, 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.