The beauty of the Ruby Mountain Wilderness seems to always surprise people who are not expecting so many alpine lakes and glaciated peaks in the vast and barren desert of eastern Nevada. That is why this area received its official designation in 1989 after congress allocated 92,650 acres of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest to further protection. The glaciated area lost most of its ice after the last ice age, but ten peaks over 11,000 feet remained. Nevada's largest herds of mule deer call this place home, as do mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and the introduced Himalayan snowcock. Wildflowers are plentiful in summer thanks to the high amount of water the peaks capture, which contributes to the unusually high number of alpine lakes for eastern Nevada.
The easiest and most popular way to enjoy this wilderness is by way of Lamoille Canyon and the Liberty Lake Trail. Once over the pass you enter the official boundaries and are immediately greeted with the jaw-dropping beauty that this area contains. While many people do day hikes, you really need to bring a tent to do an overnighter. Once base camp is established you can hike further into the wilderness to Favre and Castle Lakes to get even further away from the already scant crowds. The challenging multi-day Ruby Crest Trail is a 36-mile trek through the entire length of the enclave from Harrison Pass to Lamoille Canyon. In the northern portion of the wilderness area is Soldier Lake Basin Trail, a 10-mile round trip with 2,300 feet of gain, and in the southern portion you can reach Overland Lake with a strenuous 13-mile and 3,300-foot trek.
The hike up to the highest point, Ruby Dome (11,387 feet) is a western approach of 11 miles and 5,300 feet that is technically outside of the wilderness boundary lines, but the east half of the peak is still within them. There are many other recreation opportunities that are just outside of the boundaries and are well worth visiting such as Island Lake, Lamoille Lake. Or you can ski one of the many backcountry opportunities like Terminal Cancer Couloir. Nobody cares about an imaginary line in the dirt; this entire area is stunning, instilled with a raw beauty, and ready for outdoor recreation at its finest.
Backcountry camping is an absolute must here to get the full experience and witness the wild animals that call this place home. Make sure to follow a Leave No Trace ethic and follow any regulations. The local residents of Elko do come up to enjoy this area, but otherwise visitors are usually people from Reno and Salt Lake City, meaning that there are no major population centers within a four-hour drive. With no sign of large numbers of people moving to this area, it might remain one of America's least touched wilderness areas for a long time.