Santa Rosa RangeSanta Rosa Peak is a picturesque peak located about 45 miles north of Winnemucca, NV. Lonely, rarely visited, and subtle, this area is quintessential basin and range country: no lakes, no alpine meadows, no large coniferous forests. Santa Rosa Peak encompasses the central area of the Santa Rosa Range, and at 9,701 feet it is the second highest peak in the range and has 2141 feet of prominence. The United States Congress designated the Santa Rosa - Paradise Peak Wilderness Area in 1989 and it now has a total of 31,000 acres.
The high Santa Rosa peaks are snow covered most years sometimes even into July. It is approximately a four mile climb from the 4500 foot valley floor to the 9700 foot summit.
However you consider approaching Santa Rosa Peak, be prepared for rough roads once you leave the valleys, rattlesnakes once you start your climb, waist deep underbrush along the ridges, protruding ribs of granite and basalt to be climbed around and over, and a spectacular pile of large granite boulders to be climbed at the summit. Canyon routes are choked with aspen, cheatgrass, thistle, jackrabbits, and coyotes.
Getting ThereTrailheads & Trails
Several roads provide access to the west and east sides of the Wilderness. All are gravel and dirt. For most roads, at some point four-wheel drive is necessary, and high-clearance vehicle is almost a necessity. Westside roads are flat, soft, sandy tracks with high centers down low and nastier above 6000 feet; while eastside roads trend towards rocky clay that is slick when wet.
WESTERN ACCESS: Westside trails are accessed from Highway 95 north of Winnemucca near the town of Orevada. What maybe the most straightforward route up Santa Rosa Peak is gained from the ridge between Antelope Creek and Rock Creek. A rest area 2 miles south of Orevada has a dirt road traveling east from it. This dirt road can be driven to 6000 feet on Santa Rosa Peak's west ridge with 4 wheel drive, or around 5000 feet without 4 wheel drive due to a nearly overgrown creek crossing and steep hill. This west ridge offers a fairly straightforward shot to the summit with 4300 feet of elevation gain and 8 miles round trip.
HERE is a trip report with some directions for McConnell Creek from Splattski.com along with some more pictures.
The trail in Andorno Creek is accessed through private land. Permission should be requested from the owner of the Andorno Ranch before crossing private land. The Buffalo Canyon Trail is a 4.5-mile climb through phyllite outcrops and the headwaters basin to the summit of the range. It ties into the Summit Trail at the head of Abel Creek.
The trail in Falls Canyon passes a small waterfall about ½ mile into the 1.5 mile trek. The trail in Horse Canyon is two miles long with dramatic views of mudslide scars remnants of mother nature's strength. The two mile hike up McConnell Creek rewards you with a spectacular view of Santa Rosa Peak which can be scaled by only the hardiest of hikers. The rebel Creek Trail is a gradual climb of about three miles. From this vantage point, one can see the near vertical rim of Santa Rosa Peak which is crescent shaped with windswept limber pine growing at the tree line before dropping into the headwaters of Cottonwood Creek.
EASTERN ACCESS: There is a road up Cottonwood Creek all the way to the base of Santa Rosa Peak, however it is gated because the road leads to a private ranch. Apparently you can turn up Dry Creek from Cottonwood Creek, but this leads you towards the next peak south in the Santa Rosa Range. A 4x4 road up Mullinex Creek offers access to the peak also, which should allow for a high elevation start albeit a bit to the north.
The Summit Trail runs north-south along the east side of the range almost the entire length of the wilderness, crossing through several drainages before dropping over the west side of the ridge to end at Buffalo Canyon Trail head. Approximately half the trail is actually in the wilderness; the rest runs parallel a few hundred feet below the boundary. The most accessible section, from Lamance Creek to Buffalo Canyon, is about 10 miles long.
Other access points for the Summit Trail include: Abel Creek, Hanson Creek and Lamance Creek; all with similar topography and scenic vistas. The Summit Trail continues north into Big Cottonwood Canyon, private land with a locked gate currently blocks vehicle access to the northern trail head.
When To Climb
Santa Rosa Peak can be climbed most times of the year providing snow and weather conditions are stable. The summit is protected by steep drop offs on all sides, and with large amounts of snow the mountain would be subject to avalanche. Fall and spring are optimal and preparations for snow travel have to be made in the spring when snow can stick around into June. Roads can be muddy up high, but dry out quickly down low. Rattlesnakes are active in this area, and are certainly something to consider when hiking in the summer. Actual hiking routes will not have water in the summer and fall, but as mentioned above, some creeks down low will have water.