View of Balls Canyon Peak from the valley
Peak 7654, or Balls Canyon Peak, is a rounded mountain in the northern extension of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range rising steeply above the south side of the Longs Valley. Located west of Cold Springs, NV, it is actually only about 17 miles northwest of Reno, Nevada as the crow flies. The starting point is only about 20 minutes’ drive from downtown Reno.
Balls Canyon Peak is also quite prominent, rising over 1,350’ above its saddle with Babbitt Peak 8,760'
. The views from the summit area are quite nice with views of other northern Sierra mountains and views into the Nevada desert.
Sierra Buttes 8,591' from the summit of Balls Canyon Peak 3/7/2015
Despite these facts, barely anyone ever hikes to the summit. There is no summit register and there is no official name. The name "Balls Canyon Peak" refers to the Balls Canyon that cuts through south of the mountain.
Perhaps one of the reasons for this relative obscurity is that the road to the summit is behind a locked gate, so people think it is off-limits. The area is part of the Hallelujah Junction Wildlife Area
and is regulated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The area is a haven for wildlife, including golden eagles, red-tailed and rough legged hawks.
It is true that the road is closed to the public from February 1 through June 30th. However, it is open to the public the rest of the year. In a dry January, it is quite possible to hike up Balls Canyon Peak. Although, based on the restriction the ideal time to hike Balls Canyon Peak would be October through late November. Dry conditions are best.
From Reno head north on US 395 to Bordertown on the California/Nevada line. Take exit 83 and take a left on Village Parkway. Take a right and follow the road as it crosses train tracks and heads back south. Once you turn south drive another 650 yards and you will see a locked gate on the right. This is Balls Canyon Road. Because the road is behind a locked gate, you have to start here.
I recommend taking a mountain bike if don’t want to hoof it for three miles up to the access road. A 2WD car could easily make it these three miles, but unfortunately that option isn't available unless you have a key to the gate.
Three miles up the road, take a right up a side road. This is before you see an open gate on Balls Canyon Road that signifies the start of private land.
Take the access road until you see another road that is coming in from the left. I stashed my mountain bike here behind a tree. From the road, head west towards Balls Canyon Peak. There is no trail. It is better to stay on the left side of the east ridge, but reasonably high enough to avoid any major descent. You cross over a few drainages on the way. The southeast ridge route comes into view which heads directly up to the summit.
Southeast Ridge route
Heading up the southeast ridge
Looking up at the true summit of Balls Canyon Peak
From the access road, it is 2 ¾ miles to the summit with an elevation gain of 2,290'. From the start of Balls Canyon Road it is 5 ¾ miles to the summit with an elevation gain of 2,860’. Almost half of the gain (~1,400') is in the last 3/4 miles. While it is steep, it is pretty consistent steepness. So there isn't any scrambling required. It felt easier than I thought it would be.
Per the notice in the Overview, the Balls Canyon Road is currently off-limits to hikers, bikers, or any visitors besides the residents of the road from February 1 through June 30. A little over three miles up the road, sadly there is a section of private land with a “No Trespassing” Sign. The individual or individuals who own this property have blocked off this area, even though they are blocking access to Forest Service lands.
However, this still has to be respected. Fortunately, the access road leading to Balls Canyon Peak leaves Balls Canyon Road before entering the restricted private land.