Highland Peak • Range Highpoint: Highland Mountains
• Central Lincoln County

Date Climbed
August 3, 2009

9,395 feet

4 miles

2.75 hours

1,250 feet

Warm, clear

3,275 feet

Click on the thumbnail to see a full-size version

Highland Peak from
Delamar Valley & US-93

As seen from Cathedral
Gorge State Park

My starting point

The road sits smack
on the ridge

Finally, the summit

The towers...

...and the actual top

Looking back at my route.

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I was on the front end of a couple of days exploring some peaks in and around Pioche, Nevada. Earlier today I had driven from my parents' place in Henderson to Pioche, then had a successful drive and hike up Mount Wilson, located about 25 miles northeast of Pioche. Next on my agenda was Highland Peak, about 7 air-miles west of Pioche. These peaks were chosen for their relative easy hiking options, given I was still nursing a bum ankle, injured a month ago while descending Navajo Mountain in Utah. I was limited to easy road hikes. Rubbly rocks or off-trail routes were out for me for awhile.

Highland Peak is the pre-eminent mountain for this part of Nevada: it has the highest elevation and prominence of all mountains located in southern Lincoln County, roughly anything within 40 air-miles of Pioche, the Lincoln County seat. A year ago my dad and I drove up some of the approach roads toward Highland Peak while returning to Henderson from Ely. Based on the map and our scouting drive from 2008, Highland Peak looked logistically very simple. Communication towers sit atop the summit ridge, which is not surprising, necessitating a decent road to the top. I was not the least bit bothered by hiking a road, especially in consideration of my ankle.

After my descent from Mount Wilson, I arrived back onto US-93 north of Pioche at its junction with state route NV-320, which is a loop highway off of US-93 leading to the old ghost town of Caselton. I crossed US-93 onto NV-320 and followed this road as it went west, then south, for 2.5 miles. I turned right (west) onto a major dirt road, marked by a tire set atop a post. The intent was to scout this road farther for the hike, which I was saving for tomorrow morning (my original plan). There are other roads in the area but this one is clearly the principal road, and it obviously leads into the canyons that eventually lead up to Highland Peak. I followed this road in another 1.5 miles to a Y-junction. Here I went right to scout on possible route up Power Line Canyon, but it soon became clear this way was not a desired option, although I had the pleasure of coming upon two wild horses ambling alongside the road.

Back to the Y-junction, I went in on the other main road down and up an arroyo, past a garage building, then south and west again up Anderson Canyon. Many side roads cross this main road, but the main road is always obvious, including power lines that line this road for much of the way into the canyon. The road narrows but is still quite good, coming to a sharp right bend after 2.8 miles from the Y-junction. To me, getting to this point was important since I had assumed this would be as far as I could get safely, mentally preparing myself to hike the remainder of the road if need be. This bend is at 7,700 feet and about 3 miles from the summit.

Much to my surprise the road looked very drivable so I continued on, working my way up 4 or 5 switchbacks before coming to a saddle at elevation 8,150 feet. It was about 1 p.m. when I arrived here, the weather warm and still, with Highland Peak visible immediately south. It was still early, so I decided to go for the hike now rather than tomorrow. Comments on the road: High clearance should be adequate to get up to the saddle at 8,150 feet. The road is regularly graded and has no real obstacles, but it is steep and sometimes rubbly. I had no trouble getting up in my truck. In fact, the road looks very drivable all the way to the summit, although admittedly I stopped where I did since I wanted a hike. Up high, steepness would be the only issue. It's a far better road than most tower-access roads I have seen.

I was already dressed for the dance, so to speak, after my hike on Mount Wilson, so all I needed to do was put some water bottles into my pack and lock everything up, and go on my way. It was warm, even at 8,150 feet, probably about 80 degrees, but very still with lots of insects. The hike to the summit follows the road. A steep push gains about 500 feet to meet up with the main range crest, followed by a short stretch of flat hiking with a little descent of 30 feet to a low point just north of the summit. From here it's a steep but quick push up the road to the top. I took a couple of breaks, enjoying a soft breeze that finally came up once I was on the main range crest. The road would sometimes drop onto the west-facing slopes, which featured a little more greenery and stands of sparse pine, while the east-facing slopes featured much more hardier desert-like shrub, an interesting localized "rain shadow" effect.

The road crests a small pass just north of the summit, at which time the towers on the south end of the summit ridge come into view, and behind them, the bare rocky summit itself. I made the top in 1 hour, 40 minutes, a gain of about 1,250 feet covering about 2 miles. My ankle was feeling pretty good, all things considered. The real test for the ankle would be on the descent. I walked past the last of the communications towers and walked up the rocky slope to the summit itself, where I sat and took another break. Not surprisingly, I had all four bars on my cell phone when I sent some texts to my wife and folks letting them know of my location. I spent some time identifying various peaks. I could name a few: Irish, Chokecherry and big Troy to the south and west. Mount Wilson was to my northeast. Way off to the north was the mighty Wheeler Peak, plus other innumerable ranges beoff to the horizons.

On the hike down I checked out a small hump of rock along the road that looked like it could be a summit contender, but it was clearly lower than where I had been once I surmounted it. I did not visit the slightly lower, more forested points on the north end of the ridge. The hike down went fine, taking me an hour to descend back to my truck. My ankle did fine but rolled once within the first few steps, but fortunately I caught it and nothing bad happened. I had taped it up, plus tied my boots tight. I just took the steps carefully and remained cognizant of it. I was back to my truck slightly before 4 p.m., tickled to have completed Highland Peak today and pleased the roads had been so gentle. I carefully drove down the switchbacks and the highway to Pioche, looking to stay at its one historic hotel along its main street, but they wanted a small fortune for it. Instead, I spent some time walking up and down the main street, getting some photos and reading the historic signs. I decided to drive down into Panaca to get gas, food and drinks. I ended up staying the night at Cathedral Gorge State Park, where they had a good campground and showers, plus being a Sunday, no one was there.

Things had gone well for me today, and I had completed both hikes in one day instead of two, giving me an open date for tomorrow to laze about, do some explorations and make the easy drive into St. George, Utah. You can read all about this, plus my third hike of the trip up Scrub Peak, by clicking here.

(c) 2009 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.