Located within Great Basin National Park, this oft-overlooked peak offers an astounding summit view
of Wheeler Peak
, Jeff Davis Peak
, and Nevada’s only glacier, a tiny one
, in the impressive cirque connecting the two peaks, the 2nd and 3rd highest in the state.
Considering the hordes of people, okay maybe “hordes” isn’t the right choice of words to use for the few who make the long drive to this remote park, heading up the slopes of Wheeler Peak and to the stunning bristlecone grove below Jeff Davis Peak, the various cross-country routes up to the top of Buck Mountain, none of them exceeding 2nd class, make a fine alternative half-day out with plenty of solitude.
From the sporadically-treed summit, one can also clearly see Mt. Moriah
, Nevada’s 5th highest peak, as well as the ultra-cool Notch Peak
over the border in Utah.
In Oct05, a rudimentary summit register contained two sign-ins; one dated 1998 – the other…1976. I can’t imagine the peak gets that few visitors – perhaps they didn’t find the register.
*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.
Great Basin National Park is located approximately 50 miles east of Ely, Nevada, a few miles west of Baker, Nevada, and not far from highway 50 and the Utah border in east central Nevada.
The mountain is easily accessed just inside the park boundary via a paved road with obvious signage leading visitors upward toward the Lower and Upper Lehman Creek Campgrounds, and ultimately to the 10,000 foot Wheeler Peak Campground.
Follow the road up for about 11 miles or so to a parking lot signed for the Wheeler Peak Summit Trail. The parking lot is on the right side of the road and a half-mile or so before the Wheeler Peak Campground.
Although the summit of Buck Mountain can be reached from any direction via its gentle slopes, I’ll recommend a couple of obvious options:
From the Wheeler Peak Summit Trail parking lot (10,100 ft) mentioned above, simply walk back down the road ¼ mile or so to the base of a drainage heading directly up toward the saddle between Buck Mountain and Bald Mountain
, the slightly higher mountain just to the west/southwest of Buck Mountain.
From the base of the drainage, simply hike up 500-600 ft to the saddle itself. There’s no trail, so make your own way. The going is easy, there’s hardly any brush, and in the Fall, the aspen trees are brilliant.
Once at the saddle, hang a right and head up the final 300 feet or so to the summit. Route-finding is elementary, and the only conceivable route difficulty comes in crossing the loose talus below the summit.
This appears to be the shortest and easiest route to the summit – There’s perhaps 800-900 feet of gain over a roundtrip of about 2 miles.
Alternatively, one can traverse over to Buck Mountain from the summit of Bald Mountain. The traverse is class 2 at most, and the two summits are perhaps a mile and a half apart. Directions to the summit of Bald Mountain can be found on its page…
No permits are required to park or to climb the mountain; however, I would inquire at the visitor's center about whether or not a permit is needed for those attempting the summit in winter.
When To Climb
The mountain is most easily climbed from June-October when the roads are plowed and/or free of snow. During the snow months of winter and spring, the access road is not plowed and climbers will need to start their climbs much lower (and farther away).
There are several excellent campgrounds in the park.
Wheeler Peak Campground, which is located at approximately 10,000 feet, provides convenient access to the majority of the park's trails and to Buck Mountain itself.
Additionally, at lower elevations within the park, the Upper and Lower Lehman Creek Campgrounds and the Baker Creek Campground make fine places to stay.
Backcountry camping is limited to specific areas outside of the Wheeler Peak area and the park's esteemed bristlecone groves. Inquire at the visitor's center for a map outlining the specific areas that are off-limits to backcountry camping.
Outside of the park is plenty of BLM land on which to camp in a red tape-free fashion.
Call the park's visitor’s center at 775-234-7331 for current road and climbing conditions.
As always, start your ascent early to avoid inclement weather.