OverviewHorse Benchmark 7,163’ is a notable summit located east of Virginia City in the Flowery Range, an offshoot of the Virginia Range. It is among a series of rocky-topped peaks in the immediate vicinity, including Peak 7036, Rocky Peak 7,082’, and Tibbie Peak 7,277’
Horse Benchmark is not frequently accessed, mostly due to its location hidden behind major view points from most of the Northwest Nevada population centers. It is in a unique spot, seemingly far from civilization, but in actuality, quite close to civilization by Nevada standards.
Located a few miles east of Virginia City, Nevada, a BLM access road leads to a ridge behind Horse Benchmark less than 5 miles from paved roads.
Horse Benchmark is most easily and best hiked along with nearby Rocky Peak, as the two share a ridge that minimizes descent en route from Rocky Peak to Horse Benchmark.
Much of the surrounding area is on private lands, with "No Trespassing" signs near some old mining sites (some of which are occasionally active). This is often a deterrent to visitors who believe the entire area is off-limits. However, the route described below provides public access without trespassing on any of these lands.
The best time to hike up Horse Benchmark and the Flowery Range in general is probably late fall (November, December) and late winter/early spring (February, March, April). During summer, temperatures are far too high. The area can get pretty snowy during the heart of winter, although Horse Benchmark typically sees less snow than the peaks further west.
Getting ThereThere is only one direct route to Horse Benchmark. The route starts on a BLM access road hosting power lines, off of Six Mile Canyon Road. This road is accessed approximately mid-way between Virginia City and US 50. 3 ½ miles from either location. The road is at 39.315071, -119.58248.
From Reno, drive to Virginia City over the Geiger Grade (or US 50 from Carson City), and head east on Six Mile Canyon Road which heads downhill from Virginia City on the left. Drive past the Sugarloaf Rock Formation for 1 ½ miles. There are a couple roads near mining operations. One has a No Trespassing Sign. The one just past it has no such sign. There are large power lines at the base of the road. The road starts at only about 4770’.
From Carson City, take US 50 east towards Dayton. Six Mile Canyon is on the east side of Dayton, about 15 miles east of Carson City. Take a left on Six Mile Canyon and head up about 3 ½ miles. Park at the base of the road, or on the road.
RouteFollow the power line road for about 2 miles at which point there is a turn heading right up towards the ridge towards Rocky Peak, which is visible the entire route. The road zig zags up the ridge. Views to Horse Benchmark are sometimes blocked by Rocky Peak.
Either you can go around Rocky Peak, or cut through the lower parts of it and head over to Horse Benchmark, or you can simply do both peaks, which adds only about ½ mile total because they share a saddle. Horse BM adds about 600’ of gain from the saddle.
If hiking both, the total round trip hiking distance is a little under 10 miles give or take, with an elevation gain of nearly 3,000’. Hiking just Horse Benchmark makes it about 9 1/2 miles round trip with an elevation gain of approximately 2,700’. This of course depends on the actual route taken, but this is a ballpark estimate.