Page Type
Nevada, United States, North America
Route Type:
Hike / Scramble
Time Required:
Most of a day
Class 3

Route Quality: 2 Votes

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Created On: Feb 8, 2005
Last Edited On: Jun 11, 2009


See the directions to the trailhead on the main page.

Route Description

Moapa Peak

From the trailhead, follow the right-forking dirt road from the loop 1/4 mile as it goes through the break in the ridge, up a short incline, and then drops down to a very nice (and green when I was there) sort of valley area known as Jack's Pockets. I don't know why it's called Jack's Pockets, but it is.

From this vantage point, Moapa Peak is approximately due north and appears very large and imposing. It's rugged cliffs will be calling you. The dirt road continues off to the west, paralleling the wilderness boundary. Ignore it. Leave the road and head north cross country across Jack's Pockets.

You will find that you will soon come into a wide and very obvious wash. It's a tad brushy and rather rocky, but it's easy cross country travel. Don't become too pre-occupied with looking for a use trail or cairns - they don't seem to exist, except sporadically.

Follow the wash northward toward the base of a prominent feature in front of you. I believe it's referred to on the topo as point 4542. Stay in the wash as it starts to narrow some and wraps around the east side of point 4542. The wash then becomes more of a canyon and starts steepening and heading up around the north side of point 4542. It is during this section that you will start to encounter a little easy class 3 terrain. A dry waterfall is encountered en route. It's high, but is easily bypassed by back-tracking a short distance then scurrying up the slope on its left (south) side.

Assuming the weather is clear, you should be able to see that, once on the north side of point 4542, there is an obvious saddle above you. Follow the canyon straight toward the saddle. You may start to notice the occasional use trail popping up about now -'s unnecessary, and too short-lived to matter at this point.

Once the saddle is reached, you will see that point 4542 is immediately to your left and a ridge heads up toward Moapa Peak is to your right. Follow this ridge to the right.

It doesn't matter exactly how you follow the ridge. Assuming you stay near the crest, you will soon come to a 100+ foot headwall. It was a little more complicated (and larger) than I'd expected, so the cairns that finally started to pop up there were a welcome surprise.

Follow the cairns as they lead you up a series of class 3 ledges and ramps to the top of the headwall. It's short and sweet, and up to this point, will be your most enjoyable part of the hike.

Once the top of the headwall is reached, follow cairns that lead you to the east along a ramp system and onto a slope heading straight toward the base of Moapa Peak's summit cliffs, which are readily visible in the distance.

At this point, cairn and use trail will all but disappear. No worries though - head straight up the slope until you feel you are practically at the base of the summit cliffs. When you cannot go any further without climbing, look for a large cairn.

From the cairn, drop down along the base of the summit cliffs (they're not the actual summit cliffs, but we'll get to that later...) and follow cairns and a use trail eastward across two prominent drainages. Shortly after the second drainage, look for a prominent use trail zig-zagging straight upward through breaks in the cliffs toward a saddle above. Once the top of this zig-zagging use trail is reached, you will find yourself at the eastern end of the infamous knife-edge summit ridge!

From the vantage point of the saddle, it's hard to tell how cool the knife-edge is. Drop down onto the north side of the saddle and head westward for a short distance (maybe 50 feet) to an area that provides obvious chute-like access to the ridge crest above. Scramble up the class 3 terrain to the ridge crest.

From here on out, the route is obvious - follow the meandering knife-edge ridge westward to the summit. The exposure is moderate - just enough to thrill you, but plenty enough to kill you. Have a good time on the ridge. There are not too many of these to be found on the desert peaks.

The summit is the obvious highpoint on the ridge a short distance past the end of the knife-edge portion. The summit itself is disappointingly spacious. An ammo box contains the register.

* To descend, retrace your steps...with one comment. While traversing eastward across the 2 drainages along the base of Moapa's summit cliffs on the ascent, the route seems clear. However, when descending, you will hopefully realize that these "summit cliffs" were actually a set of subsidiary cliffs below the actual summit cliffs. Separating the two is a kinda-wide traverse of two drainages that appears remarkably similar (though a shrunken version) to the proper traverse. If you do as I did and start the traverse too early on the descent, you will find yourself eventually cliffing out. This necessitates either a) retracing your steps 1/4 mile or more over rough terrain and trying again, or b) down-climbing 5th class cliffs to the correct traverse below. The point is to descent the zig-zagging portion to the appropriate start of the correct traverse - don't be tempted to start the traverse too early.

Beyond that, the rest of the descent is straightforward...kinda. Remember where the top of the ramp above the headwall is. If not, you'll likely wander around on confusing terrain for awhile til you eventually find it. It doesn't appear so at first, but the terrain is a bit more complex than you might think. I've read accounts on the internet of parties losing hours on the descent because of route-finding issues.

Essential Gear

In typical fall, winter, spring conditions, hiking boots, sunscreen, water and some food should be sufficient.

The mountain is fairly remote, so come prepared for potential extreme hot or cold conditions, depending on the season, and for high winds.

Although the mountain gets snow and ice in winter, don't expect much of it. Crampons and axe are not needed. For those uncomfortable with exposed class 3 scrambling, perhaps bring a rope, but it's certainly not necessary.

For safety, we found that cell phones do work on the summit.