Hayford Peak, the highest peak in the Sheep Mountains of southern Nevada, lies within the vast Desert National Wildlife Refuge (DNWR)
, the largest wildlife refuge in the continental United States. The refuge, which is home to bighorn sheep, mountain lions, and a bunch of other critters, also hosts a diverse population of desert plants, ranging from the scrub brush and Joshua trees of the lowlands around 4000 feet to the ponderosa pines and fir trees of the 7000-9000 foot levels in the deep canyons of the higher mountains to the bristlecone pines near the summit of Hayford Peak itself. The canyons of the Sheep Mountains tend to be rugged and deep, many of them difficult to traverse due to dry waterfalls and other obstacles.
Hayford Peak is infrequently climbed. It's standard route, and likely the easiest route, is 16 miles (roundtrip) with around 4100 feet of gain. The vast majority of the standard route's 16 miles is on use trail, and the hike can be broken up, if one wishes, by taking a good and well-deserved break (or even an overnighter) at the Hidden Forest cabin, which is a little over half way to the peak.
The summit views, I'm told, are among the best in southern Nevada.
In a great and relatively pristine area, Hayford Peak is a fine desert peak.
Oh yeah...Hayford Peak is also one of the 57 Ultra Prominence peaks
in the lower 48, chiming in at #42.
*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.
From Las Vegas, head north on highway 95. Soon after passing the Kyle Canyon turn-off to Mt. Charleston on your left and then going under the Snow Mountain overpass, you will come to the unpaved, but signed, Corn Creek Road. Corn Creek Road is around 23-25 miles north of Las Vegas.
Follow the well-graded Corn Creek Road for 4 miles or so to the Corn Creek Field Station. This is the DNWR's ranger station. Inside you can find maps and ask questions, assuming it's open (it often isn't). Outside of the field station are restrooms (generally unlocked), a small interpretive area, and behind it, Corn Creek, a small pond or two, and if you walk around enough, you'll find another interpretive display housing some endangered fish.
If you're done goofing off there, leave the field station parking lot and continue east/northeast 1/4 mile (or less) to a junction with another dirt road. Hang a left and follow the dirt road north. This dirt road is also well-graded.
Follow the road for about 15 miles, passing the signed Cow Camp Road, and ultimately hang a right onto the signed Hidden Forest Road.
Although Hidden Forest Road is a bit rougher than the other two access roads, it's still passable in a passenger vehicle.
Follow the road a few miles to an obvious parking area at the mouth of Deadman Canyon. The road ends here. There's adequate parking for many vehicles.
This is the start of the route.
Backcountry camping is allowed without a permit. I think you just hafta be 100-200 feet away from roads (that's easy enough) and 1/4 mile or so away from water sources (water is scarce and human presence scares the animals away from their drinking water).
As always, please do not collect or burn bristlecone wood. Fallen wood plays an important role in scientific analysis of the ancient trees.
When To Climb
Hayford Peak can be climbed year-round.
Summers are a particularly nice time to hike in the area, as Deadman Canyon remains relatively cool and the higher reaches of the mountain can be quite pleasant.
Although the mountain can also be climbed during the snow season (generally early-November to early-May), expect it to require considerably more effort.
There are no developed campgrounds in the area.
As stated above, backcountry camping is allowed. Also, you can stay at the Hidden Forest cabin for free and without reservations. It is unlocked and you may expect to find some basic essentials (some canned food, a ratty sleeping bag or two, a can opener, etc) should you need them in a pinch.
You can phone the Corn Creek Field Station at 702-515-5450 and/or check out this weather link
for current conditions in the general area.