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Hike of the Week: Toiyabe Crest Trail

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Welcome to Paria's “Hike of the Week” series. Each week, we highlight one of the best backpacking trips from around the U.S. and Canada. Our goal is to inspire you to get out there for yourself and see all of the amazing trails and regions North America has to offer.

This week we're focusing on the Toiyabe Crest Trail located in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in central Nevada.

Featured Photo: Toiyabe Mountains (Photo by Terry Feuerborn)

Why This Hike?

If you're looking for a truly remote, week-long backpacking trip in the southwest U.S., you can't go wrong with the Toiyabe Crest Trail. From desert to marshland to mountains, this secluded wilderness, which houses the longest mountain range in Nevada, is located in one of the longest road-less areas of the state.

  • 62 miles, point-to-point (longest footpath in Nevada)
  • We've highlighted a 7-days, 6-nights trip, but this can be shortened, depending on how much time you have and/or your physical condition.
  • The trail travels mostly along, you guessed it, crests of the Toiyabe's, affording great views of over 100 miles away of Nevada's protruding mountains and basins.
  • Elevation range: 6,345′ to 11,775′ 
  • Rated moderate to difficult
  • Best time to visit: June and July are best if you want to avoid the rainy spring, but still have more water sources available.
  • Dispersed camping is allowed.
  • With such varying terrain, the Humboldt-Toiyabe NF is home to a surprisingly diverse population of plants and flowers. There is a plethora of wildlife too, including bobcats, moose, deer, bighorn sheep, pika, owls, and hummingbirds. 
  • Arc Dome and Ophir Summit are just a couple of highlights along the trail.

Before you pack your bags, keep the following in mind:

  • Make sure your navigational skills are up to par. The trail can regularly be hard to find/follow.
  • Be prepared to beat back the brush in some areas.
  • The rocky slopes can make for interesting campsites.
  • You will need to arrange for transportation back to your vehicle.

How Do I Get There?

Reno-Tahoe International is the closest major airport to the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. From here, use the left lanes to merge onto I-580 N. A little over 1.5 miles, stay right to merge onto I-80 E. Continue for 33.5 miles. Take exit 48 and merge onto I-80Bus W after a half-mile. After another 0.7-miles, take the third exit at the traffic circle and continue on US-50 Alt E for 16.9 miles. Continue on US-50 E for 131 miles. Turn right onto NV-376 S and continue for 15.7 miles. Turn right and continue 2.2 miles before continuing onto Kingston Canyon Road for another 5.1 miles. The trail will be on your left. Total drive time is 3.5 hours and 209 miles.

Map

The following map outlines our recommended route. For more detailed mapping, including being able to print a copy for yourself, we recommend opening the map in CalTopo.


  • Day 1 - Kingston Trailhead to Washington Creek (9.8 miles)
  • Day 2 - Washington Creek to Tierney Creek (10.9 miles)
  • Day 3 - Tierney Creek to Marysville Canyon (8.3 miles)
  • Day 4 - Marysville Canyon to Peak 10,375 (8.2 miles)
  • Day 5 - Peak 10,375 to Reese River (9.2 miles)
  • Day 6 - Reese River to South Twin Tributary (11.4 miles)
  • Day 7 - South Twin Tributary to South Twin River Trailhead (4.4 miles)

Trail Description

After crossing the creek, you can expect to climb steadily on Day 1. Be prepared to fight off many thick sage patches once you reach the Washington Creek basin as the trail pretty much disappears. Finding a suitable campsite for the night can also prove to be tricky, but that's just part of the adventure.

Day 2's hike will be a bit easier in the sense that the trail noticeably reappears. You'll continue your trek up brushy mountainsides and, if you're lucky when you visit, will find tons of wildflowers along the way. French Peak is another highlight of the day before reaching Tierney Creek for the evening.

If you haven't already, now would be a good time to filter some water, though you will come across several other water sources today. You'll also be blessed with some trees, perhaps a nice change to your scenery thus far.

Day 4 arguably brings some of the best views along this route as you enter the Arc Dome Wilderness area. You'll come across Ophir Summit and the remains of past mining operations. Enjoy the views for miles and miles before reaching camp at the not very imaginatively named Peak 10,375.

Your journey through the Arc Dome Wilderness continues as you pass by areas of aspens and even a pond today. If you don't mind adding some extra mileage to your trip, you can opt to climb up the Arc Dome. You'll find yourself heading downhill as the day continues on your way toward camp. Some areas can be rather steep and you'll find the trail disappearing and reappearing throughout.

Day 6 begins with more small ponds and lots of sporadic sage brush beating. You'll find an old stone cabin along the way as well as some other makeshift campsites. Come upon the South Twin River, perhaps a misnomer as small as it is, before bedding down for the night.

Enjoy your last views of the Arc Dome as you cross over the river numerous times, traversing both more brushy mountains and alongside small canyons. Keep your eyes open for an old waterwheel as well on your way to the South Twin River Trailhead.

What Will I Need?

Average highs from May through October range between 64° and 87°F, lows between 30° and 50°F. An appropriately rated down sleeping bag will suit your needs well (plus they're lighter than synthetic, making them a great option for this extended trip!). An ultralight sleeping pad with a high R-value will be your new best friend too, saving you even more on pack weight.

You'll want a sturdy, but lightweight tent to curl up in at night too. Like most mountains, it can get rather windy here!

 

Paria Outdoor Products Bryce 2P Backpacking Tent

Our Bryce 1P and 2P tents are the perfect lightweight option for longer backpacking trips.

Just because you're out in the middle of nowhere doesn't mean you can't take some extra comforts with you, right? Down pillows are very lightweight and may help you get some better shut-eye at night. Inflatable sit pads are a nice luxury too and take up next to no room (or weight!) in your pack when deflated.

Of course, you'll need a dependable backpacking stove and cooking pot. Depending on what time of year you decide to hit the trail, you may want to consider bringing an extra-large water bladder. Though there are some reliable water sources along the trail, many of them are seasonal, so plan accordingly!

For a comprehensive list of what to take on your trip, check out our Ultimate Backpacker's Packing List. Be sure to utilize the free, printable checklist to make packing easier!

Do I Need a Permit?

No permits are required.

Resources

Hiking Nevada by Bruce Grubbs
Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest

Conclusion

If you're looking for some true solitude, you can't beat the Toiyabe Crest Trail in the mountains of central Nevada. Have you done this or any other trails in this secluded region of the country? We'd love to hear about it in the comments below!

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