Summit Wheeler Peak

Rate this Adventure 16 miles 5500 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Mike Quine

Wheeler Peak is the second highest point in all of Nevada, standing at a cool 13,064ft. Where does it come from? Well by comparison to its hyper-flat neighboring terrain, the South Snake Mountain Range  really does tower over the landscape.The peak offers an unmatched view of one of the United States most unique but hardly-ever talked about features - its Great Basin (National Park). This hike can range in difficulty depending on weather conditions. Hiking in the snow adjusts the required mountaineering skills from Be to Advanced. In intermittent winter conditions, particularly along the steep peak ridgeline's jutting boulders, mountaineering can be tricky, therefore consider the use of ice axes and crampons wisely.  

Not a feat for the faint of heart. You have to want this one. Especially if you are dealing with intermittent patches of snow. The Upper Lehman Creek Trail, the Wheeler Peak Trail, and the summit are not overly challenging when done on their own, but the sum of it's parts makes this combination trek one for the books. 

Before getting along, its worth noting that since this is a long haul and high elevation trek, it is advised to get a very early head start in the winter seasons to avoid hiking on an unstable mountain. Anyway, starting at the trailhead on the west end of the Upper Lehman Creek Picnic Area, proceed  westbound along the trail. Along these trail you will hike through a well-wooded landscape with occasional breaks in the forest occupied by glens and meadows - often provided glances at the Wheeler Peak Summit and ridgeline. The trail follows along the Lehman Creek and ultimately begins to switchback as the elevation begins to increase as you approach the Wheeler Peak Campground - approximately 2900ft elevation gain at this point.

3000ft to go from here and now it gets interesting. The trailhead for the Wheeler Peak Trail is located in the west end of the campground parking lot. Proceed southwest along the trail keeping Wheeler Peak predominantly on your left (excusing the occasional switch back). Once out of the timberline, and the forest thins out, you will find yourself on the exposed ridgeline. In the summer and spring, expect a series of switchbacks to usher you towards the peak. Do not expect such advantages in the winter or fringe seasons.

In the fringe seasons when the snow is high enough to conceal the trail, but low enough to expose the mountain's vast boulder fields, it becomes the hiker's choice to either opt for or against the use of snowshoes or crampons. Damage your gear or soak your feet - either way, its going to be a rough go. Though as always...the risk is worth the reward. Happy climbing.

On the return hike, consider camping around the Wheeler Peak Campground (open only to backpackers during certain times of the year). Makes for a great view of the mountain to fall asleep to.

For a shorter version of the hike, see Summit Wheeler Peak from Wheeler Peak Campground

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