Place Name: Humboldt County
Place Description: State: Nevada
Elevation: 8,533 Feet
Prominence: 2,773 Feet
Elevation Gain: 2,017 Feet
Lists: Great Basin Peaks List, Nevada Peaks Club, Western States Climbers
A Beautiful Beacon In A Desolate Area
Donnelly Peak is not one that is often climbed. It’s way out there, and I mean WAY out there. Located off dirt roads north of Gerlach, NV, Donnelly Peak dominates the skyline in the region with its prominence and makes for a great backcountry adventure in the Calico Mountains Wilderness.
- Beautiful country
- Roads aren’t very bad
- Can combine with Division Peak
- Very long drive in
Donnelly Peak is a relatively unknown peak in Northwestern Nevada that sees very few visitors per year. With almost 3,000 feet of prominence, it looms large over the Calico Mountain Wilderness area and is quite a spectacular looking peak.
The hardest part of the trip is simply getting there. This region of Nevada is all connected by dirt roads and sees very little human traffic. A trip out here needs to be carefully planned. That said, it is quite an adventure.
This is a long journey. Unless you are coming from a very desolate area up north, your journey will really begin in the small town of Gerlach, NV. From Gerlach, head north out of town on paved NV-34. Eventually this road will turn to dirt, however, its high speed dirt and easy driving.
The next step is making a right turn onto Barley Rd. The road is unmarked, although there is a sign for High Rock Lake and a kiosk on the right side of the road. Expect a typical dirt Great Basin style road. After being on the road for about 2.9 miles, you come out to a bluff overlooking Donnelly Flat. Donnelly Peak in full view across the way.
The road requires high clearance from this point on as it drops down into the flats. It’s a bit rocky, however, I never used 4×4. Once down to the bottom of the hill the road is pretty good again.
At some point the road turns into Razor Canyon Rd and about 8 miles in you will make a left turn towards Donnelly Peak. This road climbs a bit and there is a great parking spot at an old miners cabin. We walked from here since there was a snow drift blocking the road ahead.
If you have drive this far, there would be no issue driving to the end of the road where there is a huge turnaround and a place to camp. Hiking from up here will make this a very quick hike.
If you start from the cabin, the hike will be 1 mile longer and an extra 800 feet of gain. So driving to the end of the road would save 2 miles and 800n gain, making this whole hike 2 miles and 1200 feet of gain.
From the cabin, we followed the road up and then went cross country from the upper parking area. This hike is all cross country with a few horse trails to help. The brush is all about ankle high and as we got higher, there is some easy talus to hike over.
The summit of Donnelly Peak is very broad and gives off monstrous views of Northern Nevada and all the way to Pueblo Mountain in Southern Oregon. This is some big country out here and the views extend well over 100 miles.
Granite Peak is the next closest big mountain and Division Peak sat across the valley looking very small. We would be heading over to that peak later in the afternoon
The Final Word
Donnelly Peak is an exceptional Great Basin List Peak and I would highly recommend coming out here. Combining it with Division Peak is the most logical option since they are both on the list and both way out here in the middle of nowhere.
Venturing out this far you will want to be prepared for the worst. Spare tires (friend got a flat), extra food and water, and some kind of satellite beacon. Help is a very long way away and you are unlikely to run across anyone out here. There are lots of wild horses in the area and as a result, there are lots of ticks (friend picked up 5).
If you come prepared, you are going to absolutely love exploring this area.