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

Date Climbed
June 24, 2002

9,836 feet

7 miles

4.5 hours

3,000 feet

Warm but nice

5,400 feet

Click on the thumbnail to see a full-size version

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 (?)

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Star Peak is the highest point in Pershing County, just north of the city of Lovelock and about three hours' drive from Reno along Interstate-80. At first, it appears to be another of the many indistinguishable high-desert Great Basin mountains that cover Nevada. However, along with its status as the highest point in the county, Star Peak is also one of just 57 "Ultra" mountains in the mainland United States, mountains with prominence values that exceed 5,000 feet.

Adam Helman and I were on a multi-day northwest Nevada hiking trip, and had started the day at a campsite nearby Granite Peak, the highest point in Humboldt County. Our plan had been to drive north into Oregon, visit Steens Mountain, then come back south into Nevada. Actually, we had slated Star Peak for tomorrow. By way of Winnemucca, we drove 70 miles north and west to the Oregon state line at a small town called Denio. There, tragedy struck: a housecat bolted into the highway as I was driving by and I hit it. Both Adam and I were disheartened. I love cats and the last thing I would ever want to do would be to run one over, but in this case, I had no chance to brake. The only consolation was it was instant. The kitty did not suffer. Trust me, I felt absolutely awful.

In Denio, I topped the gas, while Adam asked about conditions on Steens Mountain. They said the road was still snowed in. Then, some people at the gas station were asking one another about "the cat", as in "has anyone seen the cat?" The vibe was real bad. No one suspected us, but we didn't stick around to find out. In my haste to leave, I left my gas cap behind, and had to stuff a rag into the hole to keep the gas from sloshing out. We returned to Winnemucca, then drove south to Lovelock. All of a sudden, Star Peak was on today's agenda.

From the Humboldt exit off I-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 river rock, and in a few cases Adam was deputized as my get-out-and-push-the-rock-aside person. Soon, we had driven into the heart of the canyon, coming upon some derelict shacks. Here, the road makes a sharp left bend and starts up very steeply up the open sage slopes.

Had we started from here, we would have had 4,100 vertical feet of gain, mostly along the road, to the summit. It was not an impossible task. However, the desire to chop off some of the road walking was too much to resist, so I put the truck into 4-wheel low and tried my luck with the steep roads. A previous report had mentioned a jeep getting up, so I hoped my truck would do well. I was able to grind the truck up another mile and 1,100 vertical feet (meaning a 20% sustained grade) until a hairpin turn stopped me, being too sharp for my truck to handle without making a 20-point U-turn. Instead, I found a wide-spot in the road and parked, and from this point we would begin the walk.

It was 12:30 p.m. when we started, somewhat warm, and buggy. The road goes nearly to the range crest, and the last mile is cross-country. The slopes are all very gentle, and we expected nothing out of the ordinary. Thus, we began our hike, trudging up the shadeless road, which would alternate between steep sections and short flat sections. The road was "decent" for about another mile or so, meaning that had I been brave enough, my truck could have handled it. However, after another flat section, the road becomes extremely rocky and narrow, and yes, only a Jeep would be able to handle it, and even then, it wouldn't go much faster than a crawl. For walking, it was easy.

The road eventually comes to a bend at 8,800 feet elevation, then swings left (north) and traverses across the slopes, bypassing some very old mineshafts. Some mine litter was still in the area. Finally, the road peters out in the sage at about 9,000 feet elevation. Turning right (south), we left the end of the road and started up the steep hillsides, walking amid knee-high sage and big fat locust-like insects, following the ridgeline all the way to the top, which we came to at 3:20 p.m. We took cover in a windbreak, but the conditions were lovely. Million-dollar views in all directions, including some salt-playa basins to the southeast.

The hike down went very 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 true 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, 2011 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.