Mount Wilson is a highly prominent mountain located in northeastern Lincoln County, Nevada. The broad mountain features three summit humps, gentle open slopes, and an array of communications towers and an FAA radar facility. Two options exist for achieving the highpoint(s): drive a pretty good dirt road 25 miles from Pioche, and make short hikes from the summit plateau, or hike an unused jeep route from the east via backcountry roads. As far as mountaineering challenges go, this won’t rank high up there on your epic scales under normal circumstances. However, it is easily accessible and offers excellent views in a very remote part of Nevada. Mount Wilson is the highest point of the Wilson Creek Mountains and also ranks 90th on the list of most prominent mountains in Nevada.
With a decent high clearance vehicle, the round trip from US-93 near Pioche can take as little as 3-4 hours, including hiking times. Please see the “Hiking Route” section for details on the two or three contending summit humps for the highpoint.
I debated putting this page up, but given this peak's status as a range HP and a 2,000-foot prominence peak, I know people will want to seek it out.
North (presumed) summit
From Pioche on US-93, drive north out of town to the junction with state route NV-320 (turning left here would lead you to Highland Peak
). Where NV-320 goes left (west), you turn right (east) onto an un-named dirt road, and zero the odometer. The main junctions to be aware of: a straight at 3.8 miles (a left leads to a ranch home in the distance), a left at 11.6 miles, and another left at a Y-junction at 12.3 miles. All other junctions are obvious – stay on the main route. In some cases, roads seem to leave the main route and then re-connect, so alternative routes may be possible. At about 18 miles the road leads into a canyon with Mount Wilson directly above you. The road gains a small ridge, then drops into a small canyon, coming to a metal shed garage housing a snowcat. Past this, the road switchbacks up steeply to gain the summit plateau, 25 miles from US-93, give or take a little depending on where you park.
The road is wide hard-pack and generally very good (4wd rating 2/easy) all the way to the top. Look out for some rocks in places, some washboarding and steep slopes up high. The last couple of miles is along exposed hillside, but the road is wide and in good shape here. Watch the brakes on the descent. 4wd is not necessary but may be nice to have. High clearance is recommended. Small passenger vehicles may have trouble with the grades up high (about 10-12%).
In wet conditions, the road could get nasty and probably impassable. If they need a snowcat in winter, your truck isn't going to do much better.
FAA facilities are always off-limits but this means the actual facility itself, not the summit or approach roads. There are no signs along US-93 mentioning anything about the FAA radar complex up on the summits, perhaps to not draw attention to the buildings. The only signs you'll see are at the north summit just before you tag the cairn. These are the standard signs about penalties for damage, but do not expressly forbid access.
Middle summit and Highland Peak
There are numerous pullouts along the access road. Just pick one and call it yours. Use "leave no trace" ethics here.
The summit is broad and features three main humps: a 9,315-foot spot elevation on the northernmost summit, which houses the FAA radar apparatus, an 9,292-foot summit with a shed and other buildings, and a 9,308-foot summit on the south which has more traditional communications towers. The road will pass by the southern summit first, bypass the middle summit, ending at the northern summit.
The 9,315-foot summit has been graded flat and it begs the question as to when the spot elevation was determined. Visiting the ”top” is easy enough. Stick to the perimeter. There is a small cairn on the east end of the flat area. There is no need to go play among the radar thingymabobs.
The 9,292 footer can be ignored. It clearly sights lower than the north and south summits.
The 9,308 foot south summit has a rough side road that leads to the top. Hike this or simply go up the open slopes. Sighting back and forth between the north and south summits is inconclusive; they both look equal in height.
Steep, craggy summits, these are not. However, the pretty grassy meadows and gentle slopes, with stands of pine on the east-facing hillsides, makes for a very pretty scene. This could be a good picnic summit trip for the kids, your sweetie, or even grandma!
I eyeballed the jeep roads from the east and they look hikable. I do not know the details of where they originate down to the mile.
Middle & North summits from south summit
Ignore the "Mt Wilson" sign you'll see along US-93 about 12 miles north of Pioche. This just leads to a ranch complex.
I hiked this on August 3, 2009:
Mount Wilson (www.surgent.net)
This was my first hike of any sort after straining some ligaments in my calf and foot a month earlier, so it worked well as a good way to test my foot and get a peak in the process.