Nevada is loaded with mountains, lots of them. Most people think of the whole state being a big desert but nothing could be further from the truth. Nevada is a mountainous state, with mountains dominating your view in just about every area. Consider that the word "Nevada" is the spanish word for snowy as in "Sierra Nevada" which means snowy mountains. Believe me, the mountains of Nevada are high enough to have snow on them.
Hidden away everywhere are mountains and peaks that you soon take for granted as you drive through this state and Mt. Grafton would easily fit in this category since it has a much more famous and noted neighbor in Wheeler Peak just to the northeast. There is nothing about Mt. Grafton that would make you pull your car off the road to snap a photo since it looks pretty much like a ton of other Nevada mountains.
So why have a page for it? Here's why.
1. Mt. Grafton is the highest peak located on BLM land in Nevada and one of the highest BLM mountains in the lower 48 states. (note: the highest one on BLM land in in the 48 may be Ibapah Peak in neighboring
Utah ) Here is a source which claims Grafton is the highest.
2. It is one mile north of the county highpoint of Lincoln county which is
found on the shoulder of Mt. Grafton's southern shoulder.
3. It is a qualifying peak for the Nevada Peaks club
4. It is one of Nevada's 178 prominence peaks, a huge
challenge to complete if a person is crazy enough to attempt
such a feat.
The register on the summit indicates that only three or four parties a year summit this peak which is understandable when one considers the difficulty of just getting to the mountain in the first place.
Although it is not a technically difficult mountain, it isn't a walk in the park as no trail finds its way to the summit. The mountain is covered with talus and brush / trees that make progress slow and tedious. Not a good mountain to solo as one could easily break an ankle or leg with one misstep.
Mt. Grafton is a long way from most anywhere but you will find it on most Nevada State Highway maps. First, find Ely Nevada on your map and notice that U.S. 93 heads southeast out of town. 26 miles down that road you will find Major's Place, a junction where U.S. 6 and 50 meet U.S. 93. Should you want to do Wheeler Peak later on, remember this junction and take the other highway. For our purposes however, turn south at Major's Place on U.S. 93 where the road sign says Pioche and Caliente. It is roughly 27 miles to the White Pine / Lincoln county line and should you travel past the sign marking the county line, you will still be in the area as there are two roads that can provide access to Mt. Grafton,
one is 1.3 miles north of the county line (North Creek road), the other road, just beyond it as you travel south (Geyser Ranch road). Neither road are marked but you will notice a stop sign for traffic that might need to access the highway from those dirt roads.
When the area that comprises Mt. Grafton and the county highpoint spot were included as part of the Mt. Grafton Wilderness area, the road access originally listed on this page changed. Now you can only drive in two miles on the Geyser Ranch road (see Buzzdainer's comment) and 3.3 miles on the North Creek road. (see Moapa Peaks comment below)
The road that is 1.3 miles north of the county line, is the north creek road and you turn west onto it. It is a rough road, very rocky and not recommended for passenger vehicles or vehicles with low clearance. It is not necessary to have 4WD but high clearance is a must.
Follow this mainly rough and rocky dirt road to where the new wilderness boundary stops vehicles from going further on the old road, 3.3 miles from U.S. 93. You'll pass several BLM spots marked for Wildlife viewing and continue on till you reach the new wilderness boundary. You can walk the old road until you eventually reach the end of the road, located at 7600 feet elevation and a second stream crossing. (UPDATE by Moapa Pk: "The North Creek access is now (post-2006) closed about 3.3 miles west from us-93, at ~6850'. As of June 2010, the road was deeply eroded in the center by a stream, but I was still able to drive my 2003 Outback (7.3" clearance), by positioning the wheels on each side of the stream.) A newer report mentioned that the road had been graded and improved to the BLM boundary but a good rainstorm may change it dramatically. Be prepared to walk from where you find the road condition worse than you expected and if you don't have a high clearance vehicle, park it near the highway and you can walk the extra 4+ miles."
2nd water crossing
Some talus to enjoy
looking up at summit from the south
From Las Vegas, Reno or Salt Lake City, check state road maps as
they would be the best resource in helping you to find this truly isolated
mountain in the middle of nowhere. Still, driving through Nevada is one of my favorite things to do. I never tire of the beauty of this amazing yet unknown state. There is a lot more to Nevada than just Las Vegas or Reno. Check this state out, it is a wonderful place.
Dennis signs the register
No permits necessary. The North Creek road is on BLM land. Be sure to close any gates you may find closed as cattle is allowed to roam this area.
As of 2010, it has been reported that the Mount Grafton area is now included in a Wilderness study area. This means the roads that used to take you close to the mountain are now closed to vehicles and add about 2-4 miles roundtrip to your hike. More information can be obtained from the BLM office in Ely.
BLM Ely District Office
702 N. Industrial Way | HC 33 Box 33500 | Ely NV 89301
Phone: 775-289-1800 | Office Hours: 7:30 am - 4:30 pm M-F
Looking NW at Mt. Ward
Looking to the south
Dutch John Mountain
When To Climb
Nevada? You might be able to climb this mountain at any time of the year. Should you go in winter time, consider taking snowshoes, crampons and Ice axe. I actually think it might be easier to do this mountain in the winter time but that is just a guess. You might want to consider the fall as summer will be very hot although be sure to be aware of the hunting season and wear orange for protection (and a bullet proof vest).
Summer: Carry extra water. Don't climb solo, no cell coverage on any of the slopes.
South towards the county highpoint
We car camped just off of U.S. 93. There are many places to camp along the north creek road and the BLM has them designated. We found most to be occupied by hunters as this is a popular area during the fall hunting season. At night we heard the distinct sounds of Elk bugling and coyotes a howlin. Great stuff. The night sky is spectacular as there is no light pollution of any sort in this area. Bring your 6 or 8" telescope if you are an astronomy buff.
Great Basin National Park has several nice campgrounds and Ely has a KOA a couple of miles on the east side of town off of U.S. 93 and plenty of good motels and facilities.
If you'd like to see an interesting map which graphically shows where the 177 Nevada prominence peaks are located, click here.
Lincoln County Highpoint information
See the routes to get more information on how to access the LIncoln county highpoint.
One of the main attractions of Mt. Grafton is for those who are interested in finding the Lincoln county highpoint which is a liner on the shoulder of the ridge that extends south from Mt. Grafton
Despite the fact that the highpoint is on the side of a mountain as Mt. Grafton itself is in White Pine county, the importance of the liner as the highest spot in Lincoln County is not changed one iota. So, what about this county that is impacted by this indistinct spot on the side of another counties mountain. Here we go, a bit about Lincoln County itself.
Thanks to the census of 2000, we know that the population is 4,165. Its county seat is Pioche. (pee-owch) Mining was the big attraction and most of the early towns were boom towns with Pioche being one of the most lawless in the west. Lincoln County was established in 1866 after Nevada moved its state line eastward and southward at the expense of Utah and Arizona territories. It is named after Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States. Original legislation called for the creation of a "Stewart County", after Nevada Senator William M. Stewart, however this was later changed in a substitute bill. Crystal Springs was the county's first seat in 1866, followed by Hiko in 1867, and Pioche in 1871.
A LVMC report of a visit to Mt. Grafton by Joel Brewster and Eric Kassan can be found HERE. They approached via Patterson Pass road. Here is an excerpt from the Ascender report:
"After car camping off the Patterson Pass Road, we awoke to a beautiful day. We made our long day a bit shorter by driving up a side road for a bit over a half a mile before the road got too rocky and muddy.
From there we anticipated about 16 miles roundtrip and about 5000' gain. As it turned both were nearly correct, although with accumulated gain, it was closer to 6000' gain. However, the terrain turned out to be much tougher than we planned. We expected to follow an old road for the first few miles, then have an easy ridge walk over to the summit. as it turned out, once we left the road it was a combination of bushwhacking through dense aspen groves, climbing over deadfall, wading through fields of thistles, and boulder-hopping on somewhat unsteady talus all the way to the summit. There were several times during the day that Eric and I got separated in the dense foliage, and just had a plan to meet at the next saddle along the ridgeline.
After many sub-peaks along ridge, we finally came to the county line and highpoint. From there we climbed one last sub-peak and scrambled/bushwhacked our way up to the top of Mount Grafton at 10,990'. The views were quite spectacular in all directions. We enjoyed the scenery and tried not to think of the long journey back to the car!" For them it was a 12 hour day with 16 miles and nearly 6000' of effort involved.