Lying some 60 miles or so north of the southernmost named peak in the Spring Mountains of southern Nevada, Devil Peak
, is Mt. Stirling, boasting the title of the northernmost named peak in the range. Okay, maybe that’s not exactly something to boast about…but Mt. Stirling does maintain a certain amount of significance for other reasons.
In a seldom-visited part of a rather heavily traveled mountain range, Mt. Stirling is said to be about the only public-accessible viewpoint into Papoose Lake, about 45 miles to the north. In case you’re not familiar with Papoose Lake
, I hear it’s where that Lazar guy said awhile back that the US gov’t is stashing a UFO they found. The place sits right next door to Area 51. Apparently, from about the 6900-foot point on a nearby ridge you can catch a glimpse of the mysterious lakebed.
If looking at a dry lakebed 45 miles distant doesn’t appeal to you, and let’s be honest – it probably doesn’t, there are also dozens of fine petroglyphs on the rocks along the ridge just north of the summit that are worth checking out.
On a clear day, summit views include Charleston Peak
and company, of course, as well as Telescope Peak
, and even sweeter, a many-mile stretch of the High Sierra beyond. When covered in snow on a clear, crisp winter day, you can plainly make out Sierra peaks from Olancha Peak
all the way north to about where the hugely uninteresting White Mountain
, one of California’s heralded fourteeners, which sits across Owens Valley from the Sierra in the White Mountains, ends the snow-capped view. Sweet!
As evidenced by the abundance of crap along the route and even on the rocks just below the summit, wild horses, descendents from the old mining days, call this area home.
The “standard” route on Mt. Stirling, which approaches from the north, is an easy affair. Depending on how adventurous a driver you are on the way in, you should not expect more than perhaps 5-6 miles roundtrip, with maybe 2000 feet of gain. The first bit follows an old road, then cross-country’s it up a steep slope, before finalizing everything with an easy class 2 walk across a boulder-strewn, rocky ridge leading to the summit.
*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, take highway 95 north for 35 miles or so to and through the bustling (Not!) community of Indian Springs. Just before passing a sign stating that you are entering Nye County, look for a dirt road that intersects the highway on the left. This dirt road is about 11-12 miles north of Indian Springs.
Get onto the dirt road and follow it south/southwest toward the mountains in the distance. Mt. Stirling, by the way, is NOT the steep-faced high(ish) peak ahead that draws the most attention on the drive in. It is the next high(ish) peak to the right (northwest) of that.
The dirt road is in pretty good condition, but begins to deteriorate after awhile.
Staying on the main dirt road, you’ll pass a Toiyabe National Forest sign at about 5 miles.
At 6 miles, you’ll come to a “Prevent Forest Fires” sign and a fork. Staying to the right, you’ll notice that the road begins to deteriorate at about this point.
At a touch over 7 miles, the road will again fork. Fork left.
At about 7 ¾ miles, the road will split. Head down either fork, because it rejoins again shortly anyway.
Ignoring, as you hopefully have been all along, minor side roads intersecting the main road from time to time, you’ll get to a hellish part of the road at about 9 miles. You might as well park here.
A high clearance vehicle can get you most (or all) of the way here. A 4WD can get you all the way in all but the worst conditions. Regular cars will probably have to park somewhere around the 6-mile point.
There are no permits or fees. The mountain sits on national forest land.
Basic hotel accommodations can be found in Indian Springs, about 11-12 miles south from the dirt road turn-off along highway 95.
There are no developed campgrounds, to my knowledge, around the Mt. Stirling area. One would need to head to the Lee & Kyle Canyon areas of the Mt. Charleston portion of the range a bit further to the south to find some of those.
Primitive camping can be had in the area adjacent to Mt. Stirling. There’s no water to speak of.
When to Climb
Whenever. Stirling is at an elevation that makes for typically pleasant temps/conditions just about anytime.
You can contact the Kyle Canyon Visitor's Center at 702-872-5486 to obtain current conditions for the Spring Mountains.
You might also check the weather forecast
for nearby Pahrump, NV.