OverviewThe view of Virginia City from near the summit of Mt. Davidson. The 1878 flagpole is on the left of the picture. The Catholic Cathedral is visible below.
Mt.Davidson is the highest point in Storey county Nevada. What sets this little mountain apart is that it is perched above the amazing historical town of Virginia City, a place that is worthy of visiting on its own merits. (More about the history of Virginia City in a later to be developed section.)
Nevada has just 17 counties and so Mt. Davidson is important to those who chase after the county highpoints. You can read more about Nevada counties and see a map of Nevada HERE. This county highpoint could be done together on the same day with the Douglas county highpoint of East Peak which is on the Nevada side of the Heavenly Valley Ski area. Or you could combine it with Snow Valley Peak, spend the night in South Lake Tahoe eating your fill at the buffets and grab East Peak the next day. Tons of stuff to do in this part of Nevada. If you lose any money at the casinos, don't blame me however if you hit it big.......well, I'd be the first to congratulate you.
Mt. Davidson doesn't dominate and in fact, isn't overly obvious from down in Virginia City unless you are looking for it, it kind of blends in with the other peaks ringing the small city. Virginia City sits at an elevation of 6200 feet and has a population of close to 1500 people.
Mark Twain noted Mt. Davidson in his book "Roughing It". He mentioned seeing a flagpole on its summit from which a flag is flown every 4th of July.
I not only got to see the famous flagpole on my climb (errrr, hike) in April of 2003 but it had a flag attached, although the winds had wrapped the flagpole around the pole. A written memorial by the Virginia City fireman is nearby and
is a memorial to the victims of 9-11-01.
From the pages of his book, Mark Twain had this to say about the flag and Mt. Davidson:
"It was not without regret that I took a last look at the tiny flag (it was thirty-five feet long and ten feet wide) fluttering like a lady's handkerchief from the topmost peak of Mount Davidson, two thousand feet above Virginia's roofs, and felt that doubtless I was bidding a permanent farewell to a city which had afforded me the most vigorous enjoyment of life I had ever experienced. And this reminds me of an incident which the dullest memory Virginia could boast at the time it happened must vividly recall, at times, till its possessor dies. Late one summer afternoon we had a rain shower. That was astonishing enough, in itself, to set the whole town buzzing, for it only rains (during a week or two weeks) in the winter in Nevada, and even then not enough at a time to make it worth while for any merchant to keep umbrellas for sale. But the rain was not the chief wonder. It only lasted five or ten minutes; while the people were still talking about it all the heavens gathered to themselves a dense blackness as of midnight. All the vast eastern front of Mount Davidson, over-looking the city, put on such a funereal gloom that only the nearness and solidity of the mountain made its outlines even faintly distinguishable from the dead blackness of the heavens they rested against. This unaccustomed sight turned all eyes toward the mountain; and as they looked, a little tongue of rich golden flame was seen waving and quivering in the heart of the midnight, away up on the extreme summit! In a few minutes the streets were packed with people, gazing with hardly an uttered word, at the one brilliant mote in the brooding world of darkness. It flicked like a candle-flame, and looked no larger; but with such a background it was wonderfully bright, small as it was. It was the flag!--though no one suspected it at first, it seemed so like a supernatural visitor of some kind--a mysterious messenger of good tidings, some were fain to believe. It was the nation's emblem transfigured by the departing rays of a sun that was entirely palled from view; and on no other object did the glory fall, in all the broad panorama of mountain ranges and deserts. Not even upon the staff of the flag--for that, a needle in the distance at any time, was now untouched by the light and undistinguishable in the gloom. For a whole hour the weird visitor winked and burned in its lofty solitude, and still the thousands of uplifted eyes watched it with fascinated interest. How the people were wrought up! The superstition grew apace that this was a mystic courier come with great news from the war--the poetry of the idea excusing and commending it--and on it spread, from heart to heart, from lip to lip and from street to street, till there was a general impulse to have out the military and welcome the bright waif with a salvo of artillery!"
Get the book, Virginia City and Mark Twain, they were proud of each other in them days of yesteryear. Mark Twain still looms large in the town. Prior to being named Mt. Davidson, after a California state geologist who climbed the peak, it was called Sun peak. This had to be prior to Mark Twain living there.
Getting ThereFrom Reno one heads southeast on Nevada route 341 up the Geiger Grade - a 6,800 ft pass that eventually drops down to Virginia City at 6,200 ft elevation. It is 15 miles from the US 395 to Virginia City. There is also a SR 431 which goes west towards Mt. Rose so don't get confused by the similarities of the numbers. The signs to Virginia City are obvious.
From Carson City, it is 8 miles east on US 50 to SR 341. As you head north on 341, there is a split in the road with SR 342 branching off from 341. Either road will get you to Virginia City with 342 going through Gold Hill on the way. It is about 8 miles from US 50 to Virginia City.
Red TapeNo permits required of any kind and let's hope it stays that way.
When To ClimbYou could climb this peak all year round. Only under heavy snow conditions might the peak be problematic. It is a walk up, a good little conditioner and not one that should be made easier by driving up the 4WD road that gets fairly close to the summit. On top is some communication stuff but what a viewpoint this one is. Worth a hike any time and most likely not too many days in a year that would keep you off of it.
CampingThere are no campgrounds but there is an RV park for those who are so inclined.
The RV park information is HERE
Also you'll find lodging in nearby Reno and Carson City.
Mountain ConditionsA weather link for Virginia City can be found HERE
Storey County was created in 1861 and named for Captain Edward Farris Storey, who was killed in 1860 in the Pyramid Lake Indian War. It is the smallest county in the state; despite its small size, it was the most populous in Nevada when it was created in 1861. Virginia City has always been its county seat. It was originally to be named McClellan County after General McClellan who later ran against Lincoln for President and lost. Today, Storey County is noted for its legal prostitution. In the 2006 election, Storey became the only county to vote in support of Question 7, a statewide ballot initiative to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol, sponsored by the Marijuana Policy Project.
Here are some links to web pages that provide historical information about Virginia City:
Link Three (perhaps the best of the bunch)
Mark Twain was an integral part of the early Virginia City.