Buckskin Mountain is the northernmost significant summit in the Santa Rosa Range found just to the south of the State lines where SE Oregon and SW Idaho meet. The closest town of any size is Winnemucca, NV about 90 km/55 miles to the south.
Judging by the paucity of information I found on the internet, Buckskin receives little attention from climbers compared to its higher neighbours to the south: Granite Peak and Santa Rosa Mountain. Any visits it receives seem to originate at “Windy Gap,” the high point on FR084 aka Buckskin Canyon Road, from where the mountain can be reached by walking and maybe even driving the roads that once led to the mines just to the north and now probably service the communications facility built right on the summit; a distance of about 8 km/5 miles return.
Buckskin lies close enough to the lower access roads to make an early season approach and climb feasible and makes a fine alternative to Granite Peak when the roads are still under snow. From the summit there are superb views south to the Santa Rosas.
The history of the immediate area is very much about mining and there is much more information available on this subject than there is on climbing the mountain. Tales abound of the “lost Buckskin Mine” which 19th century prospectors found but couldn’t relocate. Although enough evidence of precious metals was found to result in the opening of at least 3 workings on the NE slopes of the mountain in the 1850’s.
In 1907 some of the richest gold ore ever mined in Nevada was discovered 4 miles north of Buckskin Mountain. The result was a good old fashioned bonanza. The town of National sprang up near the mine and lasted about 10 years before the ore ran out. A few remnants can still be found and are doubtless why the old roads up there are kept in repair. Interest evidently continues to the present day in that I found a mineral claim right on the summit of Buckskin.
Given the foregoing, the geology of the mountain in necessarily complex. The Santa Rosa Range is an uplifted block of ancient Mesozoic sedimentary, metamorphic, and volcanic rocks intruded and overlain by younger granites and still younger volcanics. The predominant volcanic rock on Buckskin is rhyolite. The intrusives cut through and are surrounded by the older volcanics and the resultant colourful layering is everywhere evident on an ascent of the mountain. I’m no expert in such matters but the summit rocks looked very much like limestone to me.
Getting ThereAlthough Buckskin can be approached from the south on NV 290 via the Paradise Valley, I make the assumption that this will likely be an early season objective for most and the roads around the high points you would have to cross - Hinkey Summit and Windy Gap - will be closed. In any case, the access road only begins to gain altitude seriously at a point 16 km/10 miles off US 95 just south of McDermitt, NV and the mountain is likely best approached from the west in any season.
Assuming you agree, drive 19 km/12 miles south from McDermitt on US 95 (or about 80 km/50 miles north from Winnemucca) and find “Buckskin Canyon Road” on the left. The official designation of the road is FR 084. Drive as high as you can FR 084 if you want to hike from Windy Gap – a total distance of 21 km/13 miles if you can get that far. If not, drive as high as you can and find somewhere out of the way to park. Although I drove higher before being stopped by mud and snow, I found it very convenient to park right at the bottom of the first switchback by Buckskin Creek at N41 46.225 W117 33.938 at an altitude of about 1,800 metres and walked from there. There’s a nice open spot for 3 or 4 vehicles and you could probably camp there too.
Routes1. From Windy Gap. Walk or drive FR084 to the obvious high point at Windy Gap. Locate the spur road running north from the gap and head that way. The road swings east and back west around a shoulder and Buckskin comes into view as you round the corner.
Continue roughly north on the road towards the mountain keeping left whenever you come to a junction. At N41 46.552 W117 32.932 the road meets the West Face route (see below). Wander over for a look over the cliffs and down this side of the mountain.
Carry on north on the road and look for any convenient spot to swing northwest and up to the south summit. Continue northwest over the high point, down very briefly and finally make a beeline for the communications hut and the true summit.
Although this is a Class 1 walk for the most part, it might be quite late in the year before the roads are clear of snow. Some may appreciate the comfort of an ice axe when side hilling across some of the exposed steeper remnant snowfields covering the road.
2.The West Face. A much more serious proposition than walking the roads and a far worthier route to the top of Buckskin Mountain.
Climbs a sub ridge up the west face directly to the green lichen stained “cockscomb” pinnacle, a very distinctive feature of the band of cliffs that line the top of the face as seen from the road. The route then traverses the base of the cliffs in order to exit onto the friendlier east slopes and meets the road from Windy Gap.
See the West Face Route page attached.
Red TapeAs far as I’m aware this is all Bureau of Land Management jurisdiction and no formalities apply.
Camping/AccommodationIf camping is your thing, I can’t see any restrictions applying to Buckskin and vicinity.
McDermitt has only a couple of basic motels but Winnemucca has the usual list of standard name brands from cheap to expensive.
WeatherMcDermitt weather most likely reflects the conditions to be expected as least at the base of Buckskin Mountain.
Useful LinksThe Lost Mine of Buckskin Mountain
Bureau of Land Management Nevada page.