Mount Wilson • Range Highpoint: Wilson Creek Mountains
• North-Central Lincoln County

Driving up the road

...getting closer

You can see the road
switchback up the slopes

North (highest?) summit

Looking back at Pt 9292
my truck, and Highland Peak

South summit

North summit from south

Nevada PageMain Page



Date: August 3, 2009 • Elevation: 9,315 feet • Prominence: 2,675 feet • Distance: 1 mile (hike) • Time: 3 hours (whole journey) • Gain: 280 feet • Conditions: Warm and clear

Mount Wilson is the highest point in the Wilson Creek Mountains of eastern Nevada, in Lincoln County about 25 miles north of the town of Pioche (and about 200 miles from Las Vegas). My interest in Mount Wilson came from its inclusion on the Nevada list of peaks with 2,000 feet of clean prominence, and for its status as a range highpoint. The FAA maintains a radar facility on the summit, a "bowling pin" type of radar as opposed to a bigger geodesic dome installation found on other peaks. A good road leads all the way from Pioche to the summit, although finding this road and staying on it can be tricky, even with maps.

While descending Navajo Mountain last month, I twisted my left ankle badly and strained ligaments. Since then, the ankle has healed, but I can still feel tightness and soreness. For this brief vacation, I opted for a pair of peaks near Pioche, this one and nearby Highland Peak. Both have roads to the top and would give me a chance to test my ankle under controlled environments. With time off before classes start in a couple weeks, I left Phoenix at 4 a.m. for my folks' place in Henderson, Nevada. I arrived mid-morning and spent the rest of the day not doing much except going out for steaks with my dad and winning $30 at slots, which would pay for a cheap hotel room later this trip.

I left Henderson around 6 a.m. today, following US-93 north through the Pahranagat Springs and the towns of Alamo and Caliente, arriving in Pioche at 9 a.m. I played tourist briefly, driving through Pioche and checking out its sights, plus stocking up on drinks and food. Pioche is at over 6,000 feet elevation, and the temperature was warm but not hot, in the low 80s. It felt really nice.

From Pioche, I went north on US-93 to the junction with state route NV-320 on the west side of the highway, which leads to Highland Peak. I didn't want this highway at the moment, but directly across from NV-320 is the dirt road that eventually leads to Mount Wilson. No signs indicate the name of this road, nor its destination. I was "pretty sure" I was on the right road, so in I went. The only junctions I had to worry about: a straight at 3.8 miles, a hard-left at 11.6 miles, and another left at 12.3 miles. After this last left, I came upon a BLM work-crew clearing brush, and they confirmed the road goes to the summit.

Roughly 17 miles from the highway, the road enters the foothills and canyons below Mount Wilson. The road makes a couple switchbacks, then descends into a canyon to a snow-cat storage building, so the FAA people can get up there when it snows. From here, the road makes a couple long switchbacks to gain the summit ridge and plateau, elevation 9,100 feet. I drove up and down one little hump and parked along the road near hill 9,292, south of the presumed summit, spot elevation 9,315. The road was better than I figured, and I was able to cover the 25-mile distance from Pioche in an hour.

Even up high, the road is two cars wide and often smooth. I used 4-wheel drive along one stretch where wash-boarding was a problem. High-clearance is probably adequate in dry conditions. Snow in winter and mud in spring closes this road except for snowcats.

It was past 10 a.m. when I arrived, weather stable and pleasantly cool with high clouds. I got my boots on and hiked to the northern summit where the FAA's bowling-pin radar thing sits in a flat clearing. The one-way hike covered about a half mile with 120 feet of gain. I paced the perimeter of this radar apparatus and tagged a small cairn near the east edge of this little clearing, but avoided the actual "pins". Given where I stood now was bull-dozed flat, I could not be sure if the 9,315-foot spot elevation for this hill was pre- or post-bulldozer. The views were very nice, with big Wheeler Peak to the north, and dozens of peaks all around me in Nevada to the west and Utah to the east. The walk back to my truck took 10 minutes and my ankle was feeling pretty good.

Back at the truck, I drove south, up and over the intervening hill near spot elevation 9,292 feet, and parked below the southern hill, the one with spot-elevation 9,308 feet. A steep road leads to the top, but I chose to hike up the sage slopes instead, since it was less rubbly and slippery than the road. The hike to the top of this hill took 10 minutes, with 160 feet of gain. I looked around, tagged a rock outcrop, looked back at the northern hill, and could not determine which was higher. I felt I had covered all bets by visiting both hills.

After my two hikes, which cumulatively took less than 45 minutes, I started the long, slow drive back down into the Wilson Creek Valley, retracing my route and having a lot of fun on the descent, a chance to "hike by truck". The drive out took about the same time as it did coming up, and I was back to US-93 at noon exactly. The drive-and-hike of Mount Wilson had gone well, much faster than I anticipated given the roads were better than I had assumed, and I didn't get lost like I always do. With still most of a day available, I decided to drive toward Highland Peak and scout the roads. Well, things went better than planned there too, and I hiked Highland Peak today as well.

Just so you know: a road marked as "Mount Wilson Road" is located about 15 miles north of Pioche along US-93. Despite its name, it does not lead to the mountain. It leads to someone's ranch instead. The roads I followed from the US-93/NV-320 junction works very well.

(c) 2009, 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.