Star Peak • Highpoint: Pershing County
• Range Highpoint: Humboldt Mountains

Looking up from about
the 7,280-foot level

A little higher -
about 7,800 feet

Old mining structures near the top

Me at the top

"Meyer" was here, 1916 (?)

Nevada PageMain Page



Date: June 24, 2002 • Elevation: 9,836 feet • Prominence: 5,400 feet • Distance: 7 miles • Time: 4.5 hours • Gain: 3,000 feet • Conditions: Clear and dry, a little warm • Teammates: Adam Helman

Star Peak is the highest point in Pershing County, north of the city of Lovelock and about three hours' drive from Reno along Interstate-80. Adam Helman and I were on a multi-day northwest Nevada hiking trip, and began today at a campsite nearby Granite Peak, up north in Humboldt County.

Our first goal was Steens Mountain, in Oregon. I drove us to the town of Denio on the Nevada-Oregon border. Just as I entered town, a cat bolted into the road. I had no time to stop, and I hit the poor thing. It was instantaneous, and the cat died immediately. I love and adore kitties, so this was an awful event for me. I felt absolutely awful.

I rolled into the gas station to top the gas. We learned that the road to Steens Mountain was still closed due to snow. Someone there was asking if anyone had seen their cat. I got a sick feeling, as did Adam. We paid and left. The vibe was really nasty. So we drove back to Winnemucca, then south toward Star Peak, which was actually on tomorrow's agenda.

From the Humboldt exit off Interstate-80, we went south on a frontage road, then along dirt roads south and east, heading into El Dorado Canyon within the Humboldt Mountains, which include Star Peak. The road was marginal, covered in rounded boulders. I deputized Adam as my get-out-and-move-aside-the-rock person. He did a fine job.

After a few miles, we were now deep into a canyon, near a couple derelict shacks. We assumed we'd start hiking from here, which would be a big hike with about 4,000 feet of gain over 10 miles. However, the road looked okay, so I willed the truck up the steep slope and hoped for the best.

The road wasn't bad. I had the truck in low 4-wheel drive. The tread was smooth, but the issue was steep grades, extremely narrow roads with no margin for error, and very tight turns. I was able to get about a mile farther, and up another 1,100 vertical feet. I parked at a tight switchback, where there was a patch of flat ground big enough to keep my truck off the main road. We were now just 3,000 feet below the summit with about 4 miles to go. These were stats we could live with. I locked up the truck and we were moving about 12:30 p.m.

We just walked the road, which was steep but easy. The day was warm and there were lots of insects. There was no shade, as the biggest trees were mid-sized junipers, but they were spaced out. The slopes were open and covered in sage. We covered the first two miles quickly. The road was not too bad even up this far. Had I a Jeep or something a little more robust, I could have driven here without a problem.

After a brief flat section, the road then steepened, its last big push uphill toward the range crest. Here, the road was in abysmal shape, with rocks about two feet in diameter all over the road. It was still easy to walk, though. The road then makes a hard left turn and traverses north, just below the range crest. Along this stretch, we passed nearby old wooden ruins, shacks and other structures from the old mining days.

The road then ends in a clearing below the range crest. From here, we turned south and hiked another half mile or so through open sage to the top. Locusts about three inches long were everywhere, leaping into us. They were merely annoying. Soon, we were on the summit, a three-hour hike for us. Conditions were lovely. The air was dry and clear and we had million-mile views in all directions.

The hike down went quickly. The road was steep enough to "compel" us to keep up a walk-run pace, and we were back to my truck in slightly over an hour. We piled in, and I began the harrowing drive down the roads. In 4-wheel low, I let the truck idle itself forward, and I had to do very little other than steer and manage the brakes. It worked beautifully and in about 20 minutes, I had eased it back down onto the flatter road at the mouth of El Dorado Canyon. From here, we drove to Reno in preparation for tomorrow's hike up Mount Rose.

The hike had gone very well, and had been an unexpected delight. From below, it doesn't look like much, but its real beauty is evident when actually on the hike and atop its summit. Like so many of Nevada's peaks, it is a hidden gem.

A final comment: the register was signed by a lot of people who mentioned taking ATVs or dirt-bikes up these roads. This seemed sensible. The roads really aren't for vehicles, in my opinion, unless the driver is extremely experienced and has a vehicle with a short wheel-base (so as not to have to make 20-point U turns at the hairpin turns). My truck was simply too long to handle these tight turns. But I could easily see an ATV like a quadrunner handling the road, again with an experienced driver.

(c) 2002, 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.