I'd have to agree with you, Scotty. I think that's the same approach I took, though I still couldn't get my Corolla beyond the wash without beating it up.
Judging by your photos, I see you made a recent trip down this way.
Ah, yes. During an extra day in the LV area, I sampled a collection of old piñon pine as part of a long-term Great Basin climate reconstruction project. I've been targeting Clark Mt as a collection site for a while, just hadn't gotten the time to do it.
There is a variation of the road leading to the picnic area that is much faster and easier to travel for light cars than the pole-line road. It uses the same directions for getting off the highway and going towards the tailings, but goes straight at the second junction instead of left. The key to this road is to follow the way that appears to have the most use. Stay close to the tailings, drive down a small hill, and follow the road as it goes up a sandy wash. The wash twists and turns for ~1.3mi until reaching the open hillsides above substation. (see posted map for exact route) Here it joins with the described route.
This route is totally drivable in a low-clearance car until the switchback through the wash. Actually, I drove a recent-model Pontiac Sunfire all the way to the picnic area without grinding the muffler, but unless you really know what you're doing I can't recommend this. A two-wheel-drive pickup would be fine, as long as speed is maintained through the sandy sections.
I only had the DPS guide with me when I did this, but I ended up doing what it sounds like Scotty did as well. There are many roads and junctions not mentioned in the guide. Here's an updated description and GPS waypoints. All distances are given relative to the previous road junction:
TOPO! GPS Data Format Deg NAD83 ElevFeet UTC-Time
BEND,35.47692,-115.54966,4773,11/28/2005,22:47:46,Sharp right turn in dirt road, 0.4mi after end of pavement (indistinct trails heading off here)
PWRLIN,35.48211,-115.53806,4809,11/28/2005,22:47:46,Old powerline road (ignore)--meets main road 1.2mi from waypt BEND
TAILNG,35.48263,-115.53761,4831,11/28/2005,22:47:46,0.8mi from waypt BEND, left fork at mine tailings pile (road straight ahead continues to large parking area/gate)
PYLON,35.50356,-115.54516,5198,11/28/2005,22:47:46,1.6mi from TAILNG, left fork next to power pylon (main road continues right)
FORK1,35.50389,-115.55357,5375,11/28/2005,22:47:46,0.4mi, right fork (left fork heads off towards hill with radio installation on top)
FORK2,35.50410,-115.55409,5397,11/28/2005,22:47:46,50 yards, left fork (main road continues straight), drops into wash and crosses it before reaching...
FORK3,35.50475,-115.55790,5459,11/28/2005,22:47:46,0.3mi, left fork (leads up to a couple of switchbacks)
FORK4,35.51172,-115.57126,6099,11/28/2005,22:47:46,1.1mi, left fork (right fork initially looks better, but deteriorates rapidly)
PICNIC,35.51580,-115.57819,6176,11/28/2005,22:47:46,Picnic area, 0.6mi from junction
I hiked this mountain in July and it was a lot of fun. The terrain was relatively easy with a lot of loose stone toward to the top.
It was quite possible that I was the only person on the mountain during the hike. The place was absolutely desolate and peaceful.
I took a two wheeled drive Dodge Journey rental on the back roads to the base. The crossover has a pretty high wheelbase; however, there were a few times I got pretty nervous about going off the side of the trail (road). There were many potholes and washouts along the way and some being as deep as two feet.
I would definitely do again if I was in the area.
Clark Mountain took it's name from the nearby Clarke Mining District which was formed in 1869. It was named for William H. Clarke who was a saloon keeper in the town of Visalia.
See page 135 of Death Valley and the Amargosa by Richard Lingenfelter
As of November 2016, there are easy to follow signs that point the way to the picnic area - white signs saying "right of way access" get you through the mine to an unlocked gate. After the gate there are posts marked "Clark Mountain Road."
As far as the route, I think people who mention difficult climbing or 5th class aren't finding the correct notch in the wall. It was a couple of class 3 moves and mostly 2nd to get through the break in the wall (my non-rock-climber buddy downclimbed it with little difficulty).