Nye County High Point Trip Report

Mt Jefferson, South Summit (11,941 ft)

Date: August 9, 2000
Author: Scott Surgent

My original plan to scale Wheeler Peak in the Great Basin National Park had to be postponed due to fires in that region, but thankfully the Toquima Range was doing okay, so to Jefferson I went. After driving up on the 7th to Henderson and staying at my folks' place, I drove the 230+ miles to Tonopah on the 8th, and onto my camping area for the Jefferson hike the next morning.

To get to the trailhead, take US-6 from Tonopah six miles east to the junction with NV-376. Turn left (north) and proceed just over 13 miles to the Belmont/Monitor Valley Road on the right. Take this paved road for about 25 miles northeasterly to the ghost town of Belmont. Of all the Nevada ghost towns, Belmont has some very impressive structures still standing, and currently, the town has a full-time population of about 20, including a saloon or two and a bed and breakfast outfit, of all things. Belmont is set in the foothills of the Toquimas and is a very nice place to visit. Continuing on the main route, the pavement turns to well-graded gravel. Proceed north another 5 miles to the signed Meadow Canyon Road on the left (west). Follow this road about 8 miles to a Y-junction where a sign mentioning "Jefferson Summit" points left. Take this left fork another rocky mile to a saddle at elevation 8,771 (this is marked as "Jefferson Summit" on the topo). After crossing a cattle grate, a jeep track heads off to the north toward the peak. Drive in as far as you're willing and able.

Comments on the roads: Gas up in Tonopah. Belmont has no services. The pavement along the road to Belmont is in variable condition. The gravel road after Belmont is very well maintained. Meadow Canyon Road is also well maintained but is only one lane wide and about 5 miles in, has some stream/ditch crossings that a passenger car might find challenging. The final 1 mile to the saddle is passable by any vehicle: passenger cars take extreme care. The jeep track from the saddle has sections of rock and sand, plus a high center, that might stop a passenger car. 4wd is not necessary.

I arrived at the saddle around 4 pm, and drove in on the jeep track less than a mile to a small knoll with scattered pinon, which I deemed to be an attractive campsite. The weather was nice and warm, and I spent the rest of the day relaxing and exploring my area. I was the only person there. I camped under the stars in the bed of my truck, and began my hike the next morning at 5:30 am.

Initially I hiked along the jeep track as it slowly disappeared into the scrub. Two tracks run parallel on either side of a N-S fence line. Eventually the footpath resumes on the west side of the fence, but there are openings in the fence, making it easy to cross. About a mile in and 600 feet of gain the jeep tracks disappeared, and I followed the trail over a rocky knob, down into a small saddle, and up a moderate grade to a broad shelf at about 9,500 feet at the head of Horsethief Canyon. Here, the trail fades. My options were to hike directly up the steep-ish grade to my right (north) or toward the more moderate ridge to my front (northwest). I decided to gut it out and hiked up the steep grade. It's easy, but it gains about 500 feet fairly fast. Finally, I was on another broad shelf. The trail was still gone but large cairns now marked the route. Also, the summit was once again visible.

After following the cairns for a while, the trail resumed and crossed west of Point 10,973, contouring up the side of the ridge to a small saddle. In front of me was a distinct "point" and behind it was the flat summit of Jefferson, with it's electronic gizmos now visible. The trail sidehilled to the west of this point, crossed a sketchy scree slope, and achieved another saddle just below the main summit. The route here is marked by cairns but look carefully as they blend in with the rocks. Follow a nice route up a rocky slope as it contours east of the summit. Big cairns mark important points. Finally, the antenna pole on the summit is visible; hike the final 200 feet or so over rocky piles, finding a use trail if you're lucky. The summit is very broad, and very big. I made the top just before 9 am and sat down in the lee of the small building out of the wind. Incredible views all around: the Toiyable Range to the east and the Arc Domes to the West. The entire hike is treeless and views are outstanding all the way up.

There are three summits named Jefferson: the south one is the highest. The others are visible to the north, about 3-4 miles away. After about 20 minutes, I began the hike down. The wind picked up but wasn't a problem once I got down a bit. 2 hours later I was back to my truck, overall the hike took a little less than 6 hours, with about 3,000 feet of gain in 8 miles.