Pahute Peak Wilderness is one of the most visited wilderness areas in Nevada, managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The wilderness area has a lot to offer, starting from the central portion of the famous Black Rock Range that is located within its boundaries.
Pahute Peak Wilderness elevations range from 4,050 feet to 8,594 feet. The latter elevation is, of course, found at the top of its high point at Pahute Peak, also famously known as Big Mountain. The wilderness hosts a variety of vegetation with the likes of greasewood, sagebrush, saltbush, aspens, limber pines, and mountain mahogany dotting the landscape.
This wilderness has many passages and corridors that were used by some of the earliest explorers. The southern half of the wilderness boasts several badland areas and among them an area named Fremont’s Castle, in memory of the early explorer John C. Fremont, who visited here in 1843.
Rockhounding is one of the most popular activities in this wilderness using non-motorized tools. The canyons in this wilderness area provide some great day-hiking and backpacking opportunities. Hunting too is a popular recreation sport here. The rough and rugged access roads are just perfect for four-wheel driving and mountain biking. Additionally, Pahute Peak Wilderness has historical significance and all the traces left behind make for interesting hikes.
Located in Humboldt County, Pahute Peak Wilderness can be best accessed via the highly-developed Soldier Meadows Road that leads you right to the track that is wrapped around the western boundary of the Wilderness.
If you are approaching from the town of Gerlach, make sure to fill up your car’s tank and head north of Highway 34 which will take you to Soldier Meadows Road, 12 miles later. Drive past the Mud Meadows Reservoir and take a sharp right on a dirt road, which will be marked with a metal signpost stating “designated route” and head south. Follow the signs from there and you’ll arrive at your destination.
Access roads are very rugged and you’ll need a high clearance vehicle to brave these roads. Spare tires and extra gas are necessities when making a trip to this wilderness area.
The nearest campground to the Pahute Peak Wilderness is around two and a half hours away. Soldier Meadows Campground is open to the public and has 15 developed campsites to offer. A maximum of eight people can occupy one campsite.
As the name suggests, this campground is located in a very picturesque meadow near the beautiful Soldier Creek. The beauty of this campground is even more enhanced by the regal pine and fir forest surrounding it. Every campsite comes with fire grills and picnic tables. The campground also offers vault toilets.
Pahute Peak Wilderness offers extreme primitive camping opportunities for 14 days at a stretch. Pick a durable and already established surface for your campsites that will most likely be on rocks, gravel, dry grasses, lake beds, or dry washes. Make sure you camp at least 300 feet from the streams and keep a respectable distance from other campers and trails. Most people here are for solitude so make sure you give them that.
If you are bringing your pets, make sure they are behaved and in control. Bring plenty of water because streams and springs cannot be relied upon. Also, bring a satellite phone because phone connections in the wilderness are dodgy. All-Access roads in the wilderness are bumpy and rough, so make sure you bring a high clearance four-wheel drive with extra gas and two spare tires.
This is one of the most historic trails in this wilderness and considered a recreation activity on its own. The Applegate-Lassen pioneer trail is the same one that was used by John C. Fremont and many early explorers who were blindly trying to find a route through from California to Oregon. With the help of Fremont’s report, a party of fifteen, including Jesse Applegate headed towards Oregon in 1846 and reached Soldier Meadows. They also braved the most dangerous and desolate Black Rock Desert to establish an alternate route. Watch carefully and you might spot some of the old wagon trails too.
Pahute Peak Wilderness area offers excellent hunting and trapping opportunities and an overall great primitive hunting experience. Game species include deer, cougars, antelope, chukar, and sage grouse. It is required that your hunting blinds in the wilderness should be temporary and removed after you are done with your hunting escapade.
Hiking and backpacking are some of the most common recreation activities at Pahute Peak Wilderness. The portion of the Nation Desert Trail that crosses paths with this wilderness is an excellent day-hiking and backpacking spot. The murder of the famous and one of the earliest pioneers, Peter Lassen was committed just outside the boundaries of this wilderness and is a very crowded historic site to where many visitors hike to.
Numerous climbers and hikers make the trip to Pahute Peak Wilderness to summit its highpoint. Pahute Peak also known as Big Mountain is ranked #116 on Nevada’s prominence list and is located in a historically-rich area. Once you climb the peak, you’ll have a vantage point of the entire Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area. You can see exactly what the pioneer explorers walked through to pass this vast wilderness region.
Another interesting recreation activity offered by Pahute Peak Wilderness is birdwatching. There aren’t any signs or observation points helping you seek the birds. You’d have to rely solely on your skills and bird knowledge to catch sight of the native and migratory birds, and that makes it even more fun. Be prepared to be intercepted by a rough-legged hawk, red-tailed hawk, sage sparrow, chukar, black-billed magpie, Brewer’s Blackbird, and the magnificent sage grouse.
Pahute Peak Wilderness is one of the best spots in Nevada to spend time with wildlife in their natural habitat, living their life like the free creatures they are. Wild horses are one of the most charismatic animals found in this wilderness. Then there’s bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, mule deer, coyotes, and mountain lions that can be spotted by keener eyed adventurists.