Arc Dome • Range Highpoint: Toiyabe Mountains
• Northwestern Nye County

Date Climbed
July 30, 2008

11,773 feet

14 miles

9.5 hours

4,400 feet

Clear, hazy, warm

5,233 feet

Click on the thumbnail to see a full-size version

The unique summit of Arc Dome
as seen from a long distance
away, taken via zoom image

A few feet up the trail, and you
enter the Arc Dome Wilderness...

...Then pass through forest of aspen
and meadows of sage and grass

This basin is about a mile
into the hike at 9,400 feet

The old jeep track approaches the
upper plateau near Peak 10,910

High on the upper plateau, Arc Dome
looms high, still a couple miles away

Descending to the saddle
below Arc Dome

Still descending

Looking the other way

At the saddle, looking up at
Arc Dome and the final 1,000 feet

Now only maybe 100 feet to go
(huff, puff, huff, puff)

The summit shelter and cairn

Looking back at the upper plateau
from the summit of Arc Dome

The town of Ione, NV

Nevada PageMain Page


Arc Dome is the highest peak of the Toiyabe Mountains of central Nevada. It reaches 11,773 feet high and is one of 57 peaks in the mainland United States with over 5,000 feet of prominence. Aside from its numerical significance, it is one of the prettier, more attractive mountains to be found anywhere. Arc Dome can be seen for many many miles, its symmetrical bare "dome" summit making it easily visible from hundreds of square miles around the peak.

I first learned of Arc Dome in 2000 when I climbed Mount Jefferson in the nearby Toquima Mountains. On the summit of Jefferson I looked west at the interesting peak (not aware of its name) and later, checked it on the map. It became a "to-do" peak, but its one-way distance from my home kept it on the back burner for a long time. Whenever I got into central Nevada, I was usually concentrating on my county highpoints, which I finished in 2006. Turns out the Toiyabes contain a county highpoint: big Bunker Hill about 20 air-miles north, the highpoint of Lander County, which I climbed back in 2001. This would be my first visit to the interior of Nevada since my completion of the Nevada county highpoints in August 2006.

I left home and drove to my parents' place in Henderson, crashed for the night, then the next day (the 29th), drove to the trailhead at Columbine Campground. I went up US-95 to Tonopah (230 miles) then decided to take a short-cut, leaving US-95 a couple miles north of Tonopah onto Gabbs Pole Line Road. This road cuts a straight line from Tonopah to Gabbs and appears to shave off about 80 miles compared to if I stayed on US-95 and took other state highways to Gabbs. I was curious about this road, as the map shows it to be unpaved and un-numbered. The guys at the BLM office in Tonopah gave me some information on it. It's paved for the first 21 miles, then graded hard-pack dirt for the remaining 40 miles to where it comes out near Gabbs. However, I turned off early, taking another good gravel road north toward the Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park (an old shot-up BLM sign at this junction, about 45 miles from US-95, was the only hint to turn). This road went north about 30 miles, then up and into the Shoshone Range through the little town of Ione (population 41), then down into the Reese River/Yomba Indian Reservation.

Not far out of Tonopah, I could see Arc Dome rising way far off in the distance, and as I drove these back roads it got bigger and more impressive. In the little Reese River/Yomba community, I took some local roads and Toiyabe Forest Road 119 about 8 miles southeast toward the Columbine campground. I arrived around 4 in the afternoon. Columbine is just a small round-about in the road, ringed by four or five camp spaces. I took space #2, near the trailhead. When I arrived I was the only person there but then a few minutes later two hikers showed up, having hiked from the other side of the range down into Columbine. And not long later another car came rumbling in, this guy from Tucson. It was warm when I arrived but as the sun set, it became pleasantly cooler with a great sunset (aided in part by smoke from a large forest fire at Yosemite in California).

After a night's sleep in the bed of my truck, I awoke early and got my pack in order for the big day-hike. I had some concern about my readiness: I had not done much of anything in almost two months, so I was fearing I might be a tad out of shape. I planned to go slow and take it one segment at a time. I started my hike at 5:30 in the morning, trailhead elevation 8,700 feet, walking up the few feet from my truck to the fence, then up the trail to the Arc Dome Wilderness sign. The initial mile or so stays low in the Stewart Creek drainage, passing through stands of aspen and open meadows of deep sage and general grass. The Stewart Creek Trail junctions off from here about a quarter-mile into the hike, but I stayed right, planning to take the more direct "jeep route" trail to the summit.

Hiking in the aspen, old visitors had carved in their initials and dates into the bark, which "scars" and preserves the dates and names even after many years. Some dates were from as far back as 1921. The trail through the forest gains moderately and slowly loses the forest, coming onto slopes of sage again at about 9,400 feet. Here, the trail mounts a small ridge that hems in a basin/meadow, which was fenced and probably was an old cattle pen at one time. I took my first break here, having covered about a mile and gaining about 700 feet. Yeah, I felt kind of slow and out of shape, but I was going good, too. I'd just have to go slower than usual. The weather was spectacular, and I was still in shade. However, the scent of smoke was in the air, courtesy the big fire over at Yosemite. I could see the smoke as a layer of haze in the high atmosphere. Otherwise, the sky was deep blue and the sun was still very low in the east.

The trail (which looks nothing like an old jeep track here, by the way) drops slightly toward some wooden posts then skirts left of the meadow, paralleling the fencing. The sage was thick here and the trail a bit hard to follow at times. Past the fenced-in area, it crosses over a small brook, then swings to the right and gains up a more prominent ridge, elevation 9,600 feet. The map shows the "jeep route" to go west of the ridge, while the better trail goes left and more directly up the slope. I opted to follow the map and followed the jeep track, which actually looked like an old jeep track for the first time. This part went fast, and the track gained steeply up the bare slopes to re-meet with the better trail on the ridge, elevation 9,900 feet.

Now on an elevated bench of sage, I had million-mile views to the south and west, and the sun was just barely starting to rise above the ridge crest. I made good time on this section, which covers about 2 miles and heads generally south, making a very long and gentle gain up the slopes. I passed a "junction" of jeep tracks at about 10,300 feet, then started up the steepening slopes. This part was kind of sloppy and steep, but short, and in time, I had gained onto the big plateau of land, elevations ranging from 10,800 feet to almost 11,400 feet.

This broad "upper plateau" was very nice, and barren, other than low sage scrub and a few large rock cairns signifying important route junctures. I made excellent time here as well. The jeep track, now just barely visible in the low scrub, meets with the main crest trail at approximately 11,060 feet elevation. Up until now Arc Dome had not been visible. But as I hiked this upper plateau, it became more and more visible and impressive, then hidden again as I approached the highpoint of the trail on this plateau, at 11,200 feet elevation. Finally, the trail began a gentle descent, in which it would lose about 600 feet of elevation in about a mile to a saddle at 10,700 feet just north of Arc Dome itself. The views here were amazing! I made good time down this descent portion, arriving at the saddle and taking one last big break before tackling the remaining thousand feet to the top. It was about 9:30 a.m. and the weather was outstanding. So far I had not seen any of the other hikers from the campground on the trail. I took a long food and water break and changed out of my warmer clothing into shorts. I spent some time psyching myself for the last haul to the top.

The last mile and thousand feet of gain to the top went well, and I went slow. The trail is overall kind of steep, but well-maintained and a pleasure to walk. It basically makes about 20 steep switchbacks up the north slope, passing by some old rock walls and cleared areas along the way. I left my pack for the remaining 400 feet, lightening my load. And finally, Arc Dome's summit was mine for the time being. The summit is a small flattish narrow ridge, the summit itself marked by a circular stone wall and a brick cairn of sorts, in which the summit logs were crammed into an old military-style strong box. I signed in and noted some familiar names. I admired the views and snapped some photographs. I had arrived at 11:00 a.m., an ascent time of five and a half hours, which for me wasn't too shabby given I had been a lazy bum for the prior two month's. But I didn't stay long. In about five minutes I started the trek down. I picked up my pack and made the descent to the saddle in about 20 minutes.

At the saddle I sat in the shade of a lone limber pine tree, and stared up at the 600 feet of ascent I still needed to make to get onto the upper plateau. After hiking eight miles and gaining 3,800 feet, and having the summit done, the last thing I wanted was another 600 feet of up to go. On the plus side, the slope was pitched very leniently and the trail was fantastic. Well, what other choice did I have? After whining to myself for a few minutes I got my butt in gear and started up this section, taking a number of quickie breaks along the way. I was getting pretty beat by now. However, past this uphill portion it was all nice gentle downhill from here on out, and I had a very nice walk the entire way to my truck. The sun was high now and it was warm, even at 11,000 feet.

Coming down the slopes onto the bench I came upon the two backpacker guys, who were slowly heading upwards toward Arc Dome. We had a pleasant chat break. I never did see the guy from Tucson. Anyway, I walked down, letting gravity assist me, and just kept at it until I got down into the aspen forests, where I took a break in the shade. I was surprised how outright hot it was getting! Even at 9,000 feet or so it felt like it was the high 80s. I finally egressed out to my truck, arriving at 3 p.m. I took a few minutes to change and was driving out by 3:30. Yeah, I was pretty beat, but I felt fantastic and thrilled to have shaken the cobwebs from my hiking legs with this exhilarating hike up Arc Dome. I retraced my driving route back to Tonopah, and decided to spend $30 for a cheap but clean hotel room right on the main drag across from a Mexican Food restaurant, where I rewarded myself with a big fattening combo plate. I was asleep by 8 p.m.

The next day was spent driving back to Henderson, stopping in the town of Goldfield to do a little historical exploration and possible genealogy. Goldfield was once the biggest city in Nevada, about 20,000 people in its hey day of roughly 1905-1910 when gold, silver and copper were mined here. Now it's just a curious ghost town of about 400 people, but it's still the county seat of Esmeralda County, which itself has only about 800 people, so you know you're in the middle of nowhere here. Distant relatives on my mom's side settled here around 1905 and bred like rabbits; it was plausible I have some old relatives still here, although we wouldn't know it if we bumped into one another.

Back in Henderson I enjoyed some down time, visiting family and friends, wishing my mom a happy retirement. A few days later my dad and I went on a short journey toward Ely where I climbed my second of two big peaks for the week, Ward Mountain.

(c) 2008, 2013 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.