This is the quickest route to the summit.
From Las Vegas, the trailhead is reached by about 90 miles of paved road, followed by 23 miles of dirt road, most of it maintained. Any sturdy car can handle the dirt road, except perhaps in bad weather. A four-wheel-drive vehicle with an experienced driver might get about 1/2 mile closer to the peak. Keep in mind, however, that this is area is very remote and the dirt road is lightly traveled. If you break down, you'll probably be hiking 23 miles back to the paved highway.
The hike itself is about a mile, climbing no more than 1000 feet of elevation, and taking about 1 to 2 hours up and 45 minutes down. (The exact distant depends on how far you can drive on the 4WD road.)
The following directions were valid in 2015...
From Las Vegas, take I-15 north (in the Salt Lake City direction). Go about 15 miles and take the US-93 exit. Head north on US-93 for about 75 miles until you pass a shallow lake on the left (Lower Pahranagat Lake). Watch the milepost markers along the side of the road. Look for Milepost LN-32, which is near the Wildlife Refuge headquarters. About 2/10 mile after Milepost 32, there is a gated dirt road on the left. The gate may be open or closed, but it should not be locked. (If you find a locked gate, it is probably not the right one -- There are several other gated roads in this area.) Turn here, and reset your odometer. (photo of start of road)
Immediately after entering the dirt road, you may see a symbolic "No Vehicles" sign. This sign refers to a side road to the right, and not the main road you are on. Continue on the main road across a narrow strip of the wildlife refuge into the desert hills. This is now public (BLM) land. Proceed on the main road for 18.7 miles. Along the way, be on alert for stray cattle and possibly a closed cattle gate. (You can open any gate you find, but be sure to close it after you.) The road heads southwest at first, then at 8.5 miles, the main road takes a sharp and unexpected turn to the right (northwest). (Do not keep going straight, or you might get stuck in sand.) Along the next 10 miles, you will pass several side roads (mostly leading to water troughs), but continue on the most traveled road.
At 18.7 miles, the main road turns right, with a smaller road going straight. Take the straight road. This road is graded, but not as often as the main road. It is likely to be covered with snow or mud in winter and may be impassible then (photo of snowbound road). At mile 22.2, you will come to Badger Spring, where there is a cattle trough and the remains of a developed spring. Shortly after Badger Spring, the road degenerates and becomes impassible for ordinary cars. Park anywhere that doesn't block the road and that is out of sight of Badger Spring. (Under Nevada Law, you must park at least 100 yards from the cattle trough.)
Hikers and 4WDs should continue along the same road for another 1/2 mile. When you encounter a fork, go left. The road starts getting badly washed out here, and drivers may have to get out and repair it to continue further. (Bring a shovel.) Eventually, the road reaches a saddle where there is ample evidence of prior camping. (Update, May 2015: The last 100 yards of the road to the saddle are badly damaged, and the saddle itself is no longer reachable by an ordinary SUV, but you'll find parking just below it.) This saddle is the preferred camping spot and the traditional trailhead.
The trail begins at the saddle, heading up a ridge to the south. It is evident from use and from intermittant trail markings.
From the saddle, a newly blazed 4WD road goes left up a ridge. Adventurous drivers can keep going to cut a further 1/4 mile off the hike; others can hike. Eventually, the drivable road ends, and you must proceed on foot. Look for evidence of a trail, which may be marked by rock cairns and should show evidence of previous foot traffic. Once you find the trail, it should be easy to follow, proceeding up a rocky slope that turns to scree.
As you climb the steepest part of the scree slope, watch for a point where the trail bears to the right for an easier route. Your goal is to reach the top of the ridge in front of you, then go down to the right to a lower saddle, then continue up the next ridge. If you lose the trail (which is likely after the second saddle) your goal is to reach the highest point in the area. If you follow your nose and just try going up, you shouldn't go wrong, but be careful to note the route by which you came so you can retrace your steps going back.
When you can't get any higher, you have reached the summit. There will be plenty of evidence of previous visitations, and you will have a full view in all directions. (Also a new "weather station" installed in 2011.)
Bring binoculars or a telescope to view the base. If you expect to take photos of it, you will need a high-power telephoto lens to capture any detail.
4WD drivers intending to push beyond Badger Spring should bring one or more full-size shovels for possible road repair. A camp saw might also be helpful for clearing brush.
The weather is ideal for camping in the summer. At other times of year, temperatures can get very cold at night and possible very windy.
You can camp virtually anywhere along the route (except Badger Spring). The saddle on the 4WD road is the preferred camping spot because there is plenty of flat space. Camping here lets you arrive on the summit very early in the morning, which is the best time to view the base.
You can also camp at the summit, but beware of lightning and possible high winds. If the exposure makes you uncomfortable, there are more protected camping spots just before the peak -- but unfortunately out of view of the base.
There should be adequate firewood in the area. Be sure to bring a saw to cut it.