Virginia Peak/Pah Rah Mountain
Place Name: Washoe County
Place Description: State: Nevada
Elevation: 8,336/8,240 Feet
Prominence: 3,642/240 Feet
Elevation Gain: 1,736 Feet
Lists: Great Basin Peaks
Double Bagging On The Great Basin Peak List
Looking for a relatively easy double bagging of Great Basin Peaks? You have come to the right place. After navigating a series of dirt roads, one can drive all the way to the summit of Virginia Peak and then follow a gentle ridge line traverse to Pah Rah Mountain.
- Amazing view of Pyramid Lake
- Easy walk to top of Virginia
- Nice ridge walk
- Radio tower on summit of Virginia
- High clearance required on Microwave Rd.
Virginia Peak, is a prominent peak and the high point of the Pah Rah Mountains north of Reno, NV. With over 3,000 feet of prominence, Virginia Peak is a nice prize. Even better, it can be combined by a nice ridge line hike to add Pah Rah Mountain. Both peaks are on the Great Basin Peak List.
Bring the 4×4
The drive to Virginia Peak isn’t very bad if you have a high clearance 4×4 vehicle. After exiting Highway 445, you will be on dirt the rest of the way. Just before the wild horse corral, you will see a sign for Ironwood Rd. This road is well graded and can be driven 35-40mph, although, be careful of other vehicles because there are quite few residences out in this area. Almost 5 miles in, you take a right on Amy Rd. Shortly after, it curves left and becomes Wilcox Ranch Rd. Follow that well graded road for a shade over 2 miles where you will make a left on Quaking Aspen. Three miles later, take a left up Microwave Rd. This road deteriorates quickly and becomes very rocky. The rocks aren’t bad and I didn’t engage 4×4 in my Tacoma for a couple miles when the road started to steepen.
Eventually you will pop out into an upper valley below Virginia Peak and you will follow the road to the right. We parked at the spur road to the lower radio facility, but could have easily driven to the summit. The road was not any worse past this point, but we are there to hike!
The hike up to Virginia Peak was easy. We could have followed the main road up, but we went up the lower spur road. Just before reaching the tower, we went left and cross country across the brushy slope to the top. Virginia has been decimated by a lot of radio equipment, including a giant soccer ball looking tower. There is a giant rock pile that serves as the summit marker and also contains the register.
Views here are fantastic. You can barely catch a glimpse of Pyramid Lake, however, the view up towards the Winnemucca Dry Lake Bed is beautiful. Views extended out to all across the Great Basin and northeastern Sierras.
Traverse to Pah Rah Mountain
Next up, our target was Pah Rah Mountain which lies about 3 miles to the north. Starting out, there is a road that goes maybe a 1/4-mile towards Pah Rah. This is a good road and has room to turn around should you want to cut down the hike.
There terrain is gentle with low laying brush. In fact, we only encountered one area with higher than ankle high brush and I could have avoided that easily. For the most part, there are little game/use trails along the ridge. There are minimal ups and downs along the way making it rather pleasant, minus the 40 mph winds we encountered.
The only stuff we came across all day was pile of horse bones. We didn’t see live horses or fresh sign.
The summit pile is rocky and offers amazing views of Pyramid Lake. It’s actually pretty spectacular. There are also good views of Tule Peak and State Line Peak.
Walking back was easy and we followed the road back down to the truck for the drive out.
This turned out to be a very enjoyable hike and is a great way to escape the city if you are in Reno. The area offers a great hike, 4×4 drive, or trail run and is an easy way to get in some early season elevation. This would also be a good hike to introduce kids to cross country travel. We completed this with two kids (ages 9 & 7). Great Basin hiking is always quite the adventure and you are likely to have the area to yourself.