Spectacular, awe inspiring, unique – These are words that best define the Sugarloaf rock formation in Six Mile Canyon outside of Virginia City, Nevada. Situated in the Flowery Range, and offshoot of the Virginia Range of Northwest Nevada, it is located about 9 miles east of the Steamboat Geothermal Complex, site of seven geothermal power plants that power cities in Northern Nevada. This is an area of significant hydrothermal activity, where steam escapes from the surface. Thus, it is not surprising to find this volcanic remnant nearby.
South face of Sugarloaf
Sugarloaf is a volcanic plug rising just over 300 feet above its shoulder with nearby Flowery Peak
6,581' and Emma Peak 6,442'.
Sugarloaf rises about 775 feet above the Six Mile Canyon Road. At only 5,921 feet, Sugarloaf is dwarfed by neighboring mountains. Most of its neighbors range from 6400’ to just over 7,000’. But Sugarloaf outclasses them all.
Climbing Sugarloaf is a quick, but fun endeavor. It is not for the faint of heart. The easiest route to the summit is class 3, and there are numerous class 4 routes. This page will briefly discuss the class 3 route, although I hope over time others will add more information about other climbing options.
Climbing Sugarloaf is not recommended during the summer. The heat in the area can be overwhelming during that time, and rattlesnakes may greet you as you climb up the rocks. The best time to hike is probably late fall (November, December) and late winter/early spring (February, March, April).
From Reno take 395 to exit 57B, or take exit 61 (Virginia Street) and drive south. Either way leads to Highway 341, the Geiger Grade. The Geiger Grade is a mountain pass road from Reno to Virginia City. It winds through the hills of the Virginia Range for about 15 miles after leaving Virginia Street in South Reno. Once in Virginia City, look for signs to Six Mile Canyon Road. This is a narrow paved road that leads from Highway 341 to US Highway 50 in the Dayton Valley. Sugarloaf can be climbed from a few different spots, but the primary parking area is about 1 ½ miles down the road from Virginia City.
The parking area is a dirt road, on the north side of the road (left side of the road if coming from Virginia City). Find a place to park on the dirt road, just past the pavement.
Approach and Climbing
Having parked on the dirt road, it is time to walk to the base of Sugarloaf. Hike up the dirt road for about ¼ mile, and then follow a dirt road heading uphill in opposite direction (south). Sugarloaf isn’t visible for the first ¾ miles. Follow the road until it ends. At this point Sugarloaf is visible. Walk down a faint use trail down to the base of Sugarloaf. It is about 5616’ at the base. The climb should be done from the east (backside) of the peak. The climb to the summit requires route finding. Basically, head towards the left, where climbing routes are more accessible. After a few minutes, the rock climbing begins. The difficulty varies from class 3 to class 4. However, Sugarloaf can be climbed via class 3 routes. Getting down isn’t much more difficult, but climbers need to be careful. There are loose rocks along this climbing route.
Climbing below the rock face
If parking in the area discussed, the total distance to the summit is only about 1 ½ miles one-way. However, there are numerous dirt roads winding through the mountains to the north. This includes nearby Flowery Peak 6,581’. So, there is plenty of hiking to do in this area.
View of Virginia City from the summit
There is no red tape to climb Sugarloaf. Drive slowly down Six Mile Canyon Road, because the speed limit is 20 MPH for the first ½ mile or so. The road is also pretty windy. The parking area described above is on public lands. There is a sign warning people not to target shoot in the area; and interestingly enough, there are plenty of empty shells not far from the sign.