There's Really a Glacier in Nevada!*

There's Really a Glacier in Nevada!*

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 39.00730°N / 114.311°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Aug 2, 2007
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Summer

*Though Some Would Argue Whether It's A "Real" Glacier

My son, Curtis, and I were on the return leg of our latest, annual camping trip to visit the U.S. national parks. This time we’d traveled to Yosemite, Lassen Volcanic, Redwoods, and Crater Lake. Looking at the map (we never plan the route in detail until we’re actually on the trip, then we plan it day-by-day), we saw that we could drive U.S. Highway 50 from Reno into Utah (often called "The Loneliest Road in America"), then take I-70 and work our way down to Moab. That routing would not only take us through some of the prettiest highway scenery in the west, but it would also take us very close to Great Basin National Park. We decided that an overnight stop there would be a good idea. And, since we like to get off the roads in the parks we visit, we decided that we’d spend a half-day hiking to the rock glacier on the cirque between Wheeler Peak and Jeff Davis Peak.
Jeff Davis and Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National ParkAbove the clouds are Jeff Davis Peak (to the left) and Wheeler Peak
(to the right). The glacier we were hiking to is slightly right of center.

The morning of the hike we arise early, eat a little breakfast, and then pack the gear into the Jeep. We took the dramatic drive from our campsite at Upper Lehman Creek Campground to the trailhead at Wheeler Peak Campground.
Near Bristlecone Pine Tree Trail Trailhead

Not too far from the trailhead.

Although the road should normally provide great views of the summit of Wheeler Peak, this day the mountain is shrouded in low-hanging clouds.

Gathering our gear, we headed up the trail at about 8 a.m. Starting at 9800 feet, the initial 1.4-miles of the trail is actually the Bristlecone Pine Trail. It isn't too long before we are hiking through the bristlecone pine forest. We enjoy the quiet brought on both by the fact that no one else is on the trail, and by the very damp weather. As we traversed the bristlecone pine forest, we wondered if there was a tree older than Prometheus. It was the oldest non-clonal organism ever discovered and once grew nearby the trail we were hiking.
Hiking to the Glacier on Wheeler Peak, NV

The craggy face of Jeff Davis Peak.

Then, in 1964 and at over 5000 years of age, a hapless research student sadly cut down this marvelous specimen.

After reaching the end of the Bristlecone Pine Trail, we took the Glacier and Bristlecone Trail another 2.3 miles. At this point the trail became more of a depression in the talus slope than a hiking trail, making it a class 2 endeavor. It was about this time that the only other person we’d see during the ascent passed us: A trail runner who was making remarkably good time, considering he looked to be quite a bit older than me (57)! As we hiked higher the trees gave way to just the talus and an occasional rocky outcropping.

Soon we reached the part of the glacier that is almost completely covered by talus (hence it's called a rock glacier).
The Glacier on Wheeler Peak, NVThe rock glacier.
When we’d stop and listen we could hear both the occasional crack of the ice as it made its slow journey down the mountainside, and the gentle sound of water flowing beneath its frozen surface. The glacier is in a large bowl below the summit of Wheeler Peak. We had been warned to not expect a traditional glacier with large crevasses. But, who would have guessed that Nevada had any glaciers at all (much less a 13er peak)?

After about 1-1/2 hours total hiking time we reached the end of the trail at elevation 10,900 feet. We turned around and, during the descent, passed several groups of hikers on their way up. It took us about an hour to complete the descent. After our return, we loaded up the Jeep and headed on to Moab!

Here are a few other images from our hike:

Bristlecone pines on Wheeler Peak.

Close-up of Bristlecone Pine.

Hiking to the top.

Listening to the glacier melt.

Looming cloudcover.

Back to the bristlecones.


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-13 of 13

Scott - Sep 24, 2007 3:19 pm - Voted 10/10

Wheeler Rock Glacier/Glacier

Nice TR.

Rock Glacier on Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Park, NV, is the most southern glacier in North America.

Definately not true. The glaciers in Mexico are much farther south and much larger and are in North America.

Rock Glacier

Rock glacier (non caps) is the generic name for the rock glacier. The proper name is Wheeler Rock Glacier, which is the talus covered or cemented ice that you see.

The ice above that is variably known as the Wheeler Icefield or the Wheeler Glacier (different sources will use different names and opinions vary between geologist as to whether it's a true glacier or "glacierette") or Wheeler Icefield. I like your photo since it shows a crevasse in the Y Couloir which indicates moving ice.


cp0915 - Sep 24, 2007 4:00 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Wheeler Rock Glacier/Glacier

Good stuff. I was fortunate enough to see a couple of small crevasses myself when I was on the glacier a few falls ago.

Mark Doiron

Mark Doiron - Sep 24, 2007 5:50 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Wheeler Rock Glacier/Glacier

Thanks for the comments, Scott. Looking back through my pic's, it looks like I misinterpreted two signs in the park that clearly label it as "Rock Glacier" as being the name rather than a descriptor. I think I've fixed all of the incorrect references in my trip report and image captions. As for the "southernmost glacier", I rechecked my source (Fodor's Guide to National Parks of the West) and it clearly says that. But, I defer to your likely greater knowledge of the subject and have corrected that as well. Again, thanks for helping me to keep SP's info correct. :-) --mark d.

Mark Doiron

Mark Doiron - Sep 24, 2007 5:51 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Wheeler Rock Glacier/Glacier

Thanks, Cp0915, but I'll bet nothing like in your profile image! --mark d.


cp0915 - Sep 24, 2007 5:55 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Wheeler Rock Glacier/Glacier

True. I suppose these were a -tiny- bit smaller!


Scott - Sep 24, 2007 8:00 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Wheeler Rock Glacier/Glacier

I think I've fixed all of the incorrect references in my trip report and image captions. As for the "southernmost glacier", I rechecked my source (Fodor's Guide to National Parks of the West) and it clearly says that.

Interestingly there are a lot of books claiming that, but for different places. One says St Vrain CO is the southern most glacier in North America. Another says Palisades in CA. Of course they are all ignoring Mexico which is farther south!!

Nice TR. Looks like you had a good time.

vancouver islander

vancouver islander - Sep 25, 2007 12:46 pm - Voted 10/10

Nice page

Interesting area.

One odd thing - the primary image links to the SP image page - all gazillion of them!



Mark Doiron

Mark Doiron - Sep 25, 2007 1:09 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Nice page

Thanks for looking, VI. Yeah, I don't know what's going on with that primary image. I've seen that on some of my other recent TRs, too. Go figure. :-) --mark d.


rmjwinters - Sep 28, 2007 3:07 pm - Hasn't voted

Nice TR

Thanks for submitting your TR!

Mark Doiron

Mark Doiron - Sep 30, 2007 5:01 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Nice TR

And thank you for reading and commenting, Randy! --mark d.

Alex Wood

Alex Wood - Jul 7, 2008 1:11 am - Voted 10/10

Nice trip report, but...

did you climb the peak?!? Also, I read this some where, but I think it said that a few of the peaks in the Ruby Mountians (still in Nevada) up north were glaciated.. i don't know if thats true or not...

Mark Doiron

Mark Doiron - Jul 7, 2008 6:29 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Nice trip report, but...

Woodzy--No, we did not summit the peak. That's actually a different trail (though there are some more hardy souls who have climbed from the glacier). It may be there are other glaciers in Nevada. As Scott pointed out above, the guide I had was incorrect in saying that this is the furthest south glacier. So it may also be incorrect about this being Nevada's only glacier. I'll check into that and edit as appropriate. Thanks! --mark d.

P.S.--I see you've done Philmont. You might also be interested in my Philmont trip report here on SP (Philmont, Itinerary 24).

Alex Wood

Alex Wood - Jul 7, 2008 10:26 am - Voted 10/10

Re: Nice trip report, but...

ahh I see. Well that makes sense...I'll try and find something out about it too... And yup, I have done Philmont. Hopefully next year I will be stafing there. I'll check it out, thanks.

Viewing: 1-13 of 13



Parents refers to a larger category under which an object falls. For example, theAconcagua mountain page has the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits' asparents and is a parent itself to many routes, photos, and Trip Reports.

Wheeler PeakTrip Reports