Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
1,800.00 ft (548.64 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
7.25 mi (11.67 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

An unique, though trail-less hike through Washoe County's Virginia Mountains that has a little bit of everything: stone hoodoos, abandoned mine shafts, eerie rock formations, and wide views of the Sierra Nevada mountains and Pyramid Lake.

This loop takes hikers past several features and areas of interest hidden in the Virginia Mountains about 25 miles north of Reno. These mountains are scenic and rugged, with towering dramatic features that make visitors feel immensely small amidst them. Couple that with how few visitors these roads and peaks see, and you'll likely feel much more distant from anyone and anything else.

The hike itself, however, is hard. With no marked trails, only unmarked backcountry roads in varying condition, to follow, and a good portion of the route requiring navigation and leaving all roads and paths altogether. With 1600 feet of net elevation gain, and much more total gain, much of the climbing and descending takes place on scree and soft sand that sinks beneath each step. Hikers should be aware of what they're in for when heading out for this one.

Navigation is essential, and plugging a few points into a GPS along with routefinding toward features will help on this loop. And for those who may not be up for the full experience, the hike can be done as an out-and-back sticking to the most notable areas and without leaving dirt roads, which will shorten the route.

Below are some notable GPS points, with a brief description of the route between each.

39.890489, -119.632080 - the double track to the parking area leaves the mesa and heads into a canyon.

39.893718, -119.643715 - parking / the Monkey Condos are visible immediately to the north

39.899577, -119.654933 - a spring emerges from the canyon. Here the towering peak becomes visible to the right, as the route leaves the wash and begins a steep climb

39.905546, -119.655609 - the double track ends at a cluster of rock arches and an abandoned mine shaft. This makes a good turnaround point for those wanting to take an easier route. Others leave the path here and begin climbing the peak on slippery dirt to reach the ridgleline.

39.909476, -119.660434 - a small saddle from which the ridge becomes clearer.

39.912578, -119.652865 - after skirting around the backside of the larger peak, the ridge approaches the high point of the loop hike. From here descend toward Needle Rock.

39.912891, -119.648541 - Needle Rock. Head around it on the steep dirt and the top of the dirt road that will be your descent trail becomes visible.

39.909171, -119.634969 - a fork leads to a steep scramble down the final main descent. At the bottom you reach the wash which you can follow down to the mesa before looping around back up to the parking area.

Reaching the parking area requires about 2.6 miles of driving down rough dirt road from Pyramid Highway. 2WD cars should be able to reach this under good conditions, though the road is rocky, rough and rutted. It is also possible to skip the final stretch the parking area and leave your car along the main dirt road if in a passenger car.

There are no amenities of any kind, no water, no shade, and no cel service in many places along the hike. Plan accordingly.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Unique landscape. Wide open views over Pyramid Lake and surrounding mountains.

Cons

No shade. Some sections require wayfinding. No amenities.

Trailhead Elevation

4,000.00 ft (1,219.20 m)

Highest point

5,600.00 ft (1,706.88 m)

Net Elevation Gain

1,600.00 ft (487.68 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Geologically significant

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

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