OverviewA desert classic! A true stand-out.
Moapa Peak more than deserves a place in SP as a true desert classic. It's massive and imposing limestone south face beckons climbers and hikers alike when viewed on the approach. It's maze of canyons and cliffs offers a challenge in route-finding and scrambling. It's north face, when finally seen from the summit, is even more imposing and sheer than the south face. Awesome.
The views to the south from the summit are stunning - the desert far, far below and Lake Mead and the Virgin River in the distance behind. Actually, the views in all directions are expansive. Distant and unnamed mountains are all around - including plenty within the Nevada Test Site. Also seen are prominent peaks like Mt. Charleston, Mt. Potosi, the Muddy Mountains, Mormon Mountain, Virgin Peak, Signal Mountain (over St. George, Utah), Hayford Peak, Frenchman Mountain and so on. As a matter of fact, the summit views are so expansive on clear days that some claim that you can see the mountains of four states - Utah, Arizona, California and Nevada.
Most of all, though, what makes Moapa Peak a desert classic is its fantastic knife-edge summit ridge. The nicely-exposed ridge, in some places only a foot or so wide, meanders along for 300 feet or more from a saddle below the summit nearly all the way to the summit itself. Good stuff!
Due to the rough access road leading to the mountain, the relatively remote location of the mountain itself, and the reputation of the knife-edge ridge, Moapa Peak is infrequently climbed. In reviewing the entries in the mountain's summit log, the last entry prior to ours' was one year earlier. Several entries in the register mention other members of the various groups turning back at the knife-edge. It's intimidating to some, but a friggin' blast for those who give it a shot! It's really not that bad.
For those interested, the easiest route involves 3300 feet of gain over 4 miles of cross-country class 2 and 3 terrain. Most of the gain occurs in the last 2 1/2-3 miles, which makes for a fairly challenging and steep route up this beautiful beast.
The only downside to this hike, I feel, were the ticks. Between the four members of our group, I think we picked off a total of 5 of those nasty suckers. Fortunately, they're fairly large and easy to spot. Hmmm. Maybe that's one of the reasons this mountain is infrequently climbed. I hate 'em.
*You might also check out a fledgling outdoor site (www.backcountry-explorer.com), which provides access to trip reports, beta, photos and other stuff covering hiking, scrambling, climbing and canyoneering around Las Vegas. A new hiking and scrambling guidebook, Rambles & Scrambles: The Definitive Guide to Peakbagging Around Las Vegas, is now available.
Getting ThereFrom Las Vegas, take I-15 north toward Mesquite and St. George. At exit 100 (Carp/Elgin), which is before Mesquite, leave the highway. As soon as you exit, you will come to a one-lane tunnel going under the highway. Go under both sides of the highway, and then hang a right on the paved frontage road on the north side. About 100 yards later, you will see a dirt road heading off toward the north. Turn onto the dirt road. From here, Moapa Peak is several miles away but still appears as the fairly impressive obvious large peak in the distance.
Once on the dirt road, it is a little over 8 miles to the trailhead. Although the road branches off from time to time, stay on the obvious main road that appears to be heading toward the base of the peak. You will pass under some power lines and go past a wooden corral. Keep going. The road deteriorates from time to time, but overall, is in decent shape. My Corolla got within 2 1/2 miles of the trailhead while only scraping the undercarriage a dozen or so times. For this reason, I'd recommend a high clearance vehicle.
The trailhead is not obvious, but I'll provide some clues: While traveling toward the base of the mountain, you will be steadily but indirectly heading toward a ridge in the foreground. Once the road actually reaches this ridge, you will see that the road loops around (with a fork to the right continuing toward a break in the ridge), and in the middle of the loop, you should see some sort of large rusted metal "thing". Some farming equipment, perhaps...I don't know. Park anywhere on this loop.
Although you can continue down the dirt road fork from the loop, through the break in the ridge, and perhaps 1/4 mile closer to the mountain, there are poorer parking options there and the wilderness boundary is soon reached. No sense in it. Stick with the loop parking area. This is the trailhead. It is unmarked.
"Wilderness is land set aside as part of wild America, where man can be a visitor. The natural environment has not been disturbed. Travel is restricted to foot or horseback. No mechanized equipment is allowed. "
When To ClimbThe mountain is climbable year-round.
Expect it to be rather hot, probably unbearably so, in the summer.
Fall, winter and spring are a much better time to climb the mountain. I've read that the knife-edge ridge (and a headwall encountered on the way) can be a little treacherous if snow and/or ice are present. Having been there, I can see how this could be so. Regardless, for those comfortable in those conditions, it seems perfectly doable.
I have not heard of any water sources on the mountain.
CampingBackcountry camping is allowed without a permit. Go for it. I've heard of parties camping at the trailhead (a nice spot to camp, actually), but not actually on the mountain, where level terrain is virtually non-existent.
Mountain ConditionsCheck here for weather info.
Fortunately, the southern Nevada desert offers very predictable, and generally beautiful, weather. I, however, encountered very low visibility and loose, troublesome snow on my first visit to the mountain. This visibility and snow made for some considerable route-finding problems that ultimately cost me the mountain on that visit. In the event of crappy weather, I suggest you come prepared - as I didn't.