Pilot Peak is the highest point in the Pilot Range, just 40 miles north-east of California's White Mountains. It is one of the few large, rugged desert peaks to be seen along US Highway 95 between Reno and Las Vegas. The mountain dominates the view for many miles along this lonesome road to the south of Hawthorne, Nevada, and its commanding view is confirmed by the presence of a radio facility on the peak. Ideally, no self-respecting summit would tolerate a road to the top, but I suppose that this is not an ideal world (White Mountain Peak, Mt. Grant, and Pikes Peak spring to mind)!
Fortunately, there are a few ridge routes that offer quality desert solitude and vistas. The actual high-point is set back from the highway far enough to appear as an afterthought to the rugged west slope springing out of the alluvium. All approaches are steep class 2 scrambles. The mountain does get climbed occasionally, as evidenced by a message found inscribed on a fruit can at a cairn on the exposed NW subpeak: "Beat this, Vince! July 1984".
Wildlife in the form of Desert Bighorn Sheep, Mule Deer, and Chukar can be seen on the slopes of Pilot Peak, but herds of tourists are rarely reported.
Getting to the Middle of Nowhere
Pilot Peak is reached via US Highway 95, the main artery between Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada. Most routes are reached by turning off the highway in the vicinity of Mina, Nevada, about 33 miles south of Hawthorne, Nevada. Since the most popular routes are from the west, minimal dirt-road driving is required. Four-wheel drive is not a requisite, but high-clearance is necessary. The road taken from the Mina area is determined by the desired route, but navigation up the alluvial fans to the base of the peak is not difficult as most roads are visible from the highway.
Nearest accommodations (unless you count what may be available in Mina) are either in Hawthorne (33 miles north), Tonopah (70 miles southeast), or Bishop (85 miles southwest). There is an RV Park, a decent cafe, and a small convenience store in Mina, but precious little else. Camping, of course, is all over the place in the form of BLM land.
There are no fees, restrictions, closures, or rules that I am aware of. Climbers should take into account the fall deer-hunting seasons --- don't dress like a deer, and expect to see people if you go during these times.
When To Climb
The comparatively mild snow conditions of the Great Basin offer an extended dayhiking season for those who don't like to gear up for major winter alpine adventures. Winter climbs should be done with waterproof boots and possibly gaiters if there is any snow. Summer hikes should always involve lots of water, as the evaporation rates get quite high in the desert. Don't expect to find any water sources on this peak --- if you do happen to find some in the bottom of some obscure canyon, make sure you treat it thoroughly! Times of high snow accumulation and/or muddy conditions may hamper driving efforts on the dirt road sections.
Camping is available literally all over the place. There are no fees for camping on BLM or general USFS land. Stay off the private, and you will be fine!
Like most islolated Great Basin peaks, this one requires creative research and a lot of guessing to determine current conditions!