"follow Ironwood Road, which is a partially paved road that is covered in dirt"
Actually there's no pavement once you start on Ironwood Rd. The major dirt roads in the valley are treated with an oil-based coating once or twice a year to keep dust down.
The directions to the summit are excellent btw. I would only add that Microwave Rd is periodically graded and often any vehicle can drive up there. I managed it in a low-clearance van all three miles to the top.
I made the change. I have been there twice actually. What you said makes sense.
First, thanks for the excellent description. It was easy to follow, and made my weekend to be able to explore such an empty area.
I did this late April, 2013. I'd like to add that the bushwhack over the ridge had a lot of ticks, so take usual bushwhacking precautions.
Also, they may have redone the roads; I wanted to report slightly different distances. Car odometer, GPS, and Google Maps all somewhat agree that If you park 700 yards up Microwave road as suggested, total on-road distance is 5.7 mi to summit. Starting up higher from the base of ridge (again staying on the road) the distance to the doppler on summit is 3.2 mi.
Hope this helps others. Thanks for your helpful post!
I did this hike last weekend (4/19) solo and thought I would add a few things I thought/noticed for those that are thinking of doing this one.
Once you pull off of pyramid highway the dirt roads are marked pretty well so as long as you have a high resolution map with you (I just used my phone), you should be set.
To make it more clear: the entire hike is up microwave road. Wherever you decide to park, you then have to hike the remaining distance up the road. I pulled off by a fork in the road that led to the scattered residences in a small valley (kind of by a larger ranch).
You can definitely drive up it the whole way in a vehicle. I'm pretty sure my 2 wheel Xterra could make it up )but where is the fun or exercise in that?). Also the wear and tear on your car would be not-so-great.
From where I parked it was about 11 miles round trip (5.5 each way). In my opinion it is a good candidate for a solo hike since you get extremely good cellular reception the entire time. Also it's similar to Peavine (for those of you in Reno) in the sense that you are essentially just walking up a steep dirt road the whole time.
In reference to the "bushwhacking" segment I'm not sure where one would even do that. I kept my eyes peeled the whole time and didn't see anything worth leaving the road for in terms of a short cut. It's even more straightforward than they made it seem in the description.
Also one should note that if you want more of a "rustic" vibe to your hike this wouldn't be a great candidate. You can tell it's heavily trafficked by vehicles (one even drove past me on the way up). But if you don't mind that it's a wonderful time.
Once you get to the almost-top you have two options of peaks to go to (visible weather stations on each one). I would advise going up both (time-permitting) since they both give spectacular and unique views. The second one (with the giant ball) has an unlocked port-a-potty in case you made any bad pre-hiking meal decisions.
Overall I would highly recommend this to someone looking for a nice day hike, definitely a good workout. Also keep your eyes peeled for wild horses around the trail!
Excellent comments. I made some changes. Thanks!