Humphreys Peak – 12,633 – Arizona Highpoint

RT Length:  10.55 miles

Elevation Gain: 3649’

Last week I saw a post indicating someone had successfully summited Humphreys Peak from the summer trailhead, so I decided to give it a go.  (Humphreys Peak Trailhead / Kachina Peaks Trailhead / Snow Bowl)

I woke up at 2am, worked out for an hour on the treadmill, and then drove to Arizona, stopping along the way for a few work calls.  I’m not a big fan of the New Mexico city of Gallup:  Nothing good has ever happened to me there.  This time, as I was getting gas, a man was sitting in front of the gas station entrance cleaning a knife with a blade at least 8 inches long, swinging it around every few minutes like he was practicing martial arts moves.  Also, all of the bathrooms in the gas stations and fast food establishments in NM and AZ are closed due to covid.  So was the bathroom at the Bookman’s I stopped at in Flagstaff. I had a voucher for Bookman’s I’d received in 2016, and since I was in the area I decided to use it.  I got this very appropriate book

Then I drove to the Snow Bowl, where the trailhead is for Humphrey’s Peak.  There were a lot of skiers driving down the mountain, but I was the only one going up.  On the drive in I saw a sign that said “Skiing Open 10am-4pm, TH-SU”. 

I made it to the parking area and found a place to park.  This is the trailhead

I walked around the trailhead, and noticed the beginning part of the trail goes right under a ski lift.  I also saw this sign:

Ugh.  That was unexpected.  I’d driven all the way from Colorado only to be thwarted by a technicality.  As I was standing there, I noticed two female hikers walking towards me, directly from the ski area where it said pedestrians weren’t allowed.  They told me they hadn’t had any issues (indeed, at least 5 more hikers came down after them, and all said the same thing).  I decided to hike the following morning, early, and try to make it down before the 10am skiing session began.  Side note: these women were badass, and had a great list of mountaineering accomplishments.  We talked for a bit, and I gave them some fireside stickers.

I sat in the back of my truck and started making dinner.  A young man pulled up with a similar set-up and got out to enjoy the sunset.  He spent his time sitting in a chair enjoying a beer, alternating drinking with doing push-ups. I went over and talked with him for a bit, and we ended up doing a few whiskey shots together (both of us had various bottles in our rigs).  He was a nice young man (reminded me of my son) and this was his third time this week at the trailhead.  He hoped to summit the next day as well.  After the sunset I wished him good luck and told him I’d see him tomorrow on the trail (either up or down). 

My view tonight

I went to bed and had a peaceful night’s sleep, waking up to my alarm at 2:45am, I was on the trail at 3am.  Interestingly enough, as I was leaving a vehicle pulled up:  it looked like there was another hiker hiking with me this morning.  We ended up leap-frogging each other on the trail. The trail starts at the north end of the parking area and heads northeast, across the slop and into the trees, before zig-zagging up the west slope.

Plot twist:  When I started out at the trailhead it was dark, all except for a really big light, accompanied by a loud buzzing sound.  Turns out they groom the trails at 3am, and there was a snow groomer working this morning.  Drat!  I decided to turn off my flashlight and wait until the groomer had passed me, then darted across the field to the safety of the trail in the trees, where I turned my flashlight back on.  I’m sure this would have been comical to watch. 

There was another trailhead once I entered the trees.  Note: I wore microspikes for the entire hike, and didn’t need snowshoes.  If hiking later in the day, they would have been necessary.

Once in the trees there was a lot of snow, so I had a hard time following the trail.  There were several downed trees covering the trail, and a lot of social trails.  If you’re doing this peak in summer it will be a straightforward, class 1 trail.  If you’re doing it with snow on the ground expect some route-finding.  I switchbacked northeast to the saddle.  The saddle you’re aiming for is the one that’s directly east of you from the parking area (it’s a clear, skiable path). 

As I neared treeline the snow declined and there was no longer a trail.  I kept heading northeast to the saddle

Once at the saddle I turned left, and followed the ridge north.  (Going right will take you to Agassiz Peak) There’s a faint trail here that picks up as you go along, as well as wooden posts to guide the way.  Stay to the left while on the ridge.

There’s also a trail sign here, indicating the way

I followed the ridge north/northeast as the sun began to rise

The girl I’d been leapfrogging with took a different route up (there were several snowshoe tracks to follow), and when we hit the ridge she got out a sleeping bag and decided to watch the sunrise.  She never did go to the summit, and was gone when I made my way back down. 

I continued on, following the ridge

I made it to the summit at 6:20am.  There were a lot of windbreaks at the summit

I found a buried summit register, left it there, and took a picture with the broken summit sign

Humphrey’s Peak:

It was cold and windy, so I decided to head back.  Here are a few photos of the route down.  I (mostly) re-traced my steps.

Here’s the saddle I was aiming for

And the ridge to get there

Once at the saddle I did my best to follow my tracks back down

Taken from the saddle, the parking area is circled.  Here you can see it’s a straight shot west from the saddle, but that area was all skiable and off limits, so I did my best to switchback down the mountainside, following the summer trail.

I lost the trail several times, but was able to follow snowshoe tracks down.  If you’re blazing your own trail, you can stay in the trees and parallel the ski area by heading west, which will lead you to the parking area.

Here’s the exit route back to the parking area

I was still really early, and there wasn’t anyone on the slopes.  I was making tracks on the newly groomed snow however.

I made it back to a still empty parking lot at 9:00am, making this a 10.55 mile hike with 3649’ of elevation gain in 6 hours. I never did see that man I met in the parking lot last night.  I can only think he had more whiskey than he could handle and had a hangover.  That’s what he gets for drinking with a pro. 

Here’s a topo map of my route

Ormes Peak – 9727’

RT Length: 1.91 miles

Elevation Gain: 606’

Last on my list of peaks for the day was Ormes Peak.  I drove 1.7 miles further than where I parked for Notch Mountain, turned right onto 303, and continued as far as I could before the snow took over the road.  There were several mud puddles here, and I had fun running my truck through them and getting mud on my tires.

This puddle was particularly satisfying, as it was covered in ice and all of it broke when I crashed through it with my truck.  Also, the windows were open and I may have accidentally got some mud inside my truck (I closed my windows on the way out)

About half a mile from the trailhead the road became impassible. I parked, and was on my way.

I followed the road for half a mile to an obvious turnoff, and turned left.

Here’s an overall view of the route:

Here’s the junction where you turn left and follow a ‘trail’

This is an area you could disperse camp for the night.

What there was of a trail was covered in snow, which made the cairns helpful.  I just kept heading east

I came across some turkey tracks

And continued heading east until I made it to the ridge.  Once at the ridge I headed north, ascended a small class 2 gully, and was at the summit!

There was a summit marker here, but no register, so I left one

And took a summit photo

There was a great view of the back side of Blodgett Peak

And also of Pikes Peak

I headed back the way I’d come, but quickly became disoriented:  in fact, I never saw a cairn.  I went too far south, but it was easy to correct my mistake:  I headed west and soon came to the dispersed camping area.

Which led me back to the road and my truck

It was still early, and there were several other peaks in t he area I could have attempted, but I also had to get to work, so I stopped my tracker and was on my way

I kept driving north, towards Woodland Park to make sure the road was clear:  I may just attempt a few more peaks out this way next week…

“Notch Mountain” – 9665’

RT Length:  .64 miles

Elevation Gain: 359’

Second up for the day was Notch Mountain.  This was a very quick hike, and I’d recommend linking all three up together (or more).  Just for reference, I hiked Tuesday Peak, Notch Mountain, and Ormes Peak today.  From where I was parked for Tuesday Peak I drove 1.15 miles further north on Rampart Range Road.  If you’re starting from Rampart Range Road in Garden of the Gods it will be 13.15 miles total to the parking area for Notch Mountain.  As I was driving, I could see “Notch Mountain” ahead of me.

I parked at the base of the ridge and started hiking.  This is a quick and easy ridge hike, starting in the burn area

The most difficult part of this hike was navigating all of the deadfall.  I just kept heading northeast along the ridge.

This brought me to a rocky area

And then, I was suddenly at the summit. The summit is relatively large and flat.

I took a photo to prove I’d summited, and left a summit register (no marker on this peak)

The views aren’t that good here, because the trees on the summit obscure them.  The good part is there are actually trees at the summit that made it through the fires

Here’s a view of Tuesday Peak from the summit of “Notch Mountain”

I turned and headed back down the ridge.

And my truck

The entire hike probably took 20 minutes.

Here’s a picture of the route from Tuesday Peak

Now, on to the next trailhead!

Tuesday Peak – 9620’

RT Length: 1.49 miles

Elevation Gain:  323’

It’s springtime, and in the spring I either travel to state highpoints, or stay local and hit county highpoints.  They traditionally open Rampart Range Road every year on April 1, and when I heard the road was open, I decided to take advantage of a beautiful (if windy) day and hit some highpoints. This is the first of 3 El Paso County highpoints I hiked this day.

I started at the southern entrance to Rampart Range Road, near balanced rock inside Garden of the Gods.

As the sun rose, I was able to see a lot of the Waldo Canyon burn scar.  It doesn’t look like much has grown back in the 9 years since the fire.

I drove along the 2WD dirt road for 12 miles, and parked at a small parking area for trail 644.  There’s a plaque here commemorating the road

I gathered my hear and continued hiking along the road to the trailhead.  It was a short distance (less than a quarter of a mile), and in the summer, you might be able to park at the actual start.

The trailhead starts at a bend in the road, marked by broken barbed wire and hot pink surveyor’s tape.  On a topo map it says this is 4WD road 300Q.  It’s been a very, very long time since this was ever a road.  Now it looks like a teenage hangout/camping area, littered with broken glass and discarded remnants of campfire circles.

I headed northeast, following the ridge to the right

I came to a small dip, where I could clearly see the peak

Now I stayed to the left (north) side of the ridge. There were a lot of downed trees, but nothing that kept me from making it to the peak.  There was snow here, but not enough to need traction.  I did posthole a bit. I aimed for the small saddle

Once at the saddle there was some class 2 scrambling to do to make it to the summit. This is much easier than it looks.

Here’s a picture of the summit

I knew I was at the summit because there was a summit marker.  I left a summit register at the marker

And took a picture at the summit with Pikes Peak in the background

It was very windy, so I didn’t stay long, and quickly retraced my steps back to the saddle.  Here’s the overall route

And step by step

Back down the dip, where there are some very faint tire tracks that have now become social/game trails

And following the ridge southwest to the road

I then followed the road back to my truck.

This was a quick and simple hike.  Here’s a topo map of my route (I parked just before 644):

Now, on to the next trailhead!

Panorama Point – 5429’ – Nebraska Highpoint

This highpoint is a drive up, and something I did on the tail end of hiking the highest points in North Dakota and South Dakota.  I hiked Black Elk Peak in South Dakota that morning, then drove to Panorama Point in Nebraska. 

The drive was simple, until I made it to the cattle guard / gate that gains you access to the actual high point. Here’s what the gate looks like:

They have a very informative sign at the entrance.  Read it before you go in, and pay the $3 per person fee (there were no envelopes, so I just put 3 dollars into the slot). Also, in case you missed it, NO FOOT TRAFFIC. 

There were warnings of bison, but at this time of year they must have been in another area.  There was a lot of evidence they’re here regularly however, in the form of established game trails and lots of bison chips.

I passed the gate and put my truck into 4WD:  there wasn’t a lot of snow in the area, but all of it seemed to be drifting directly on the dirt road.  At this point I wasn’t sure if there were bison present or not, and I didn’t want to get stuck with no way to get back.

I drove along the road for a mile to the highpoint (circled in red).   

There isn’t much around here but open grassland and windmill farms

Here’s the ‘summit’

I got out of my truck, left a sticker in the register, and took a few pictures

Panorama Point:

It was windy and I really wanted to get back home after a lot of driving in the past 2 days, so I turned around and drove back to the gate. 

When I got there, my GPS told me to head out a different direction than I’d driven in, which wasn’t odd because I’d driven from South Dakota and was heading back to Colorado.  I was a bit nervous some of the dirt roads wouldn’t be passable, but I had plenty of gas, so I crossed my fingers and said a prayer to the GPS/cell service gods and was on my way.

As I was driving somewhere between Nebraska and Colorado, many, many miles from a paved road, I actually saw a cow give birth! I stopped my truck in the middle of the dirt road and went over to check on mama and baby. I was a little worried because the calf initially didn’t move, but mama licked him a few times and he started stirring. I congratulated mama and left them alone. So cool!!!

Mama and Calf:

What a fantastic way to end a great road trip/highpointing weekend!

Black Elk Peak – 7242’ – South Dakota Highpoint

RT Length:  7.65 miles

Elevation Gain: 1732’

The drive from North Dakota got easier as the miles went on.  It started out with lots of snow, but by the time I made it to Custer State Park the snow had ceased.  Once in the Black Hills I stopped at a Subway to get a sandwich, and a Starbucks to get my mug.  I was surprised at how many establishments in South Dakota were closed.  I’m hoping they were closed because it’s off season, and not due to Covid.  I stopped at the Ranger Station to pay the entrance fee, and was surprised to find it was $20 (that seems kind of steep for a day visit). 

I had wanted to ask if it was ok to sleep in my vehicle overnight, but there was no one at the Ranger Station.  There was an information pamphlet, and I scoured it, looking for information on camping, or if I could stay overnight and boondock.  It said curfew was 10pm-6am (strictly enforced) but other than that, no rules on sleeping in my truck.  I paid the $20, which gave me entrance to the park for 1-7 days, and drove to the Sylvan Lake picnic area.  I drove around looking for a spot, only to find the parking lot almost full.  The dirt lot was inaccessible due to mud, and there seemed to be an awful lot of people walking around.

I finally found a spot I could back into, and realized why the lot was full:  the local police were handing out food and supplies (laundry detergent) to local Lakota.  I saw them with boxed up meals, lining up to receive them and eating them in their vehicles before driving off.

Sylvan Lake appeared frozen, and I was astonished to see a family, 2 parents with young kids, walking single-file over the ice.  It’s currently spring and because it was so late in the season I was worried for their safety, but they weren’t the only ones doing this:  I saw several more parties venture out onto the ice, and all left unscathed.  They made me nervous. 

I sat in my truck and ate my sandwich and people watched as I jotted down the day’s notes in my journal.  I got out and walked around to find the start of the trailhead, and it started to snow.   Here’s a look at the trailhead entrance in the daylight

I went back to my truck and decided to read until it was time for bed.

I watched the snow, and turned on my heater for a bit as I read

I have a heavy-duty indoor heater, and it usually works so well I only keep it on for a few minutes before turning it off.  I also lit a candle because I like candles, and even learned a little something:  When the heater burns up all the oxygen the candle will go out.  Also, matches won’t light.  This reminded me a bit of a canary in a coal mine, and I found it useful information.  I turned off the heater and was able to re-light the candle about 5 minutes later, using a flashlight in the meantime.  I used the turned off heater to dry my socks (I LOVE this heater!!!)

As the sun began to set the snow picked up and the parking lot emptied.  I heard a couple of Canada geese fly in, and then honk to each other for a good half hour.  I enjoyed some whiskey and thought to myself how cool it was to be inside of this metal box, deep in the Black Hills, as it was snowing.  With the heater off I could now see my breath.

I went to bed prepared to face the frigid night, and also the hike in the morning:  I was wearing my fleece lined pants, puffy and outer jacket, mountaineering gloves, balaclava, and wool hat.  I snuggled under my 3 sleeping bags and crocheted blanket, and fell asleep.

I didn’t wake up until my alarm went off at 5:30am.  I peeked outside, and the moon was just setting over the ridge behind Sylvan Lake.  Also, there was much more snow than I’d anticipated!  I was glad I’d decided to park here overnight, because I’m not sure what the drive in would have been like this morning (but I could guess:  not fun). Funny how a 20% chance of snow can turn into 4-6 inches. 

I went to open my back window, and it wouldn’t budge.  Hmm. I must have locked it last night?  I turned the handle to unlock the window, and it still wouldn’t move.  That’s when I realized the ice and snow had frozen the window shut!  Oops!  I just needed to make sure it was indeed unlocked, and was then a little more forceful.  I pried open the window, and stepped out into several inches of fresh snow.  I actually got in from the passengers’ side door, so as not to get snow on the front seat while I got ready. I turned on the truck, blasted the heater, and had my windshield wipers clear away the snow while I put on my hiking boots and ate a few dried mangoes for breakfast.  The truck’s thermometer said it was 23 degrees outside.  Not bad:  I’d been warm all night.

When I went to bed there were still dozens of vehicles in the lot, but now, my truck was the only one.

I was waiting for the sun to rise, but as soon as it was light enough for me to see without a flashlight I hit the trail, around 6am.  But first, I used my scraper to clear off my truck, to make my exit easier later in the day.

I took my snowshoes and ice axe just in case (they weren’t needed) and headed out to find the trailhead

The trail to Elk Peak has several different names:  Elk Peak Trail, Harney Trail, and Trail #9.  They all go to the summit.

The trail was covered in snow, so I wasn’t sure if it was a trail or a 4WD road, but one thing was for sure:  it was easy to follow, even with snow.

The views were beautiful as the sun began to rise

I continued following the class 1 trail, and came across a bench

Directly across from the bench you can see the summit tower (Harney tower).   This is the 1 mile mark of the hike.

I continued on, and started seeing Lakota tobacco ties/offerings on the trees.  Tobacco ties are basically prayer ties. They are to be thought of as a physical manifestation of a prayer. Each color of cloth represents something. Within the Lakota culture, a white cloth is used for a prayer for healing, a red cloth is used for our ancestors and a yellow cloth is used for giving thanks. Blue and green cloth can also be used. 

I continued on, breaking trail

Until I came upon this sign.  From here the trail lost 250 feet of elevation, before gaining elevation again

One thing about this hike:  I loved being in the trees, but all the views were obscured.

The trail was very clearly marked, just be sure to stay on the Elk Peak Trail, Harney Trail, and Trail #9. 

I came to a small plateau with a view and more prayer offerings.  This is where the wind started picking up

Now I was headed north

Note, go LEFT at this sign, as going straight won’t take you to the summit

I rounded the west side of the peak

And then had a clear view of the tower

To get to the tower I headed northeast, going through this rock, and up the stairs.  This is where it got really icy:  the ice was over a foot thick, and slippery, similar to a metal slide covered in ice.  Microspikes and good balance are required here

This led me to some slippery steps, and the summit tower.

Just below the summit area was a pole with a lot of offerings.  It made for a great summit photo

It was really, really windy on the summit area.  I’m guessing 40-50mph winds.

I continued on, climbing up the tower stairs.  Just for reference, the true summit is here.  I scrambled there and sat on top just to say I’d summited.  (For anyone thinking the true summit is across the way, click here).

Here’s a video from the Harney Tower

More views of the summit area.  I was all over that summit, and let me tell you, the wind just kept getting worse.  

Time to head down.  I was careful on the snow/ice filled steps not to slip

Then I followed my footsteps back down

After hiking for about half a mile I was surprised to encounter another hiker!  He’d started at about 6:30 this morning, and had been following my tracks the whole way.  He said the roads were terrible, and I hoped they were plowed before I made it back.  I wished him luck and continued on my way.

From here in areas the wind had covered both my tracks and those of the other hiker, but the trail was still easy to follow

When I made it back to the trailhead there was a snowplow there, clearing the parking area.

The area around my truck was nice and clean! 

I made it to my truck at 9am, making this a 7.65 mile hike with 1732’ of elevation gain in 3 hours.  Not sure why the sign says it should take 4-6 hours to complete?  I did it in 3, while breaking trail through the snow, and spending quite a bit of time on the summit taking pictures.  Also, it’s longer than their stated 6 miles (closer to 7.5 miles round trip).  Here’s a topo map of my route

All in all, I was really pleased I’d chosen to take this road trip!  It was still really early, so I started my drive south to Nebraska, for my third highpoint of this trip.  I only hoped there wasn’t too much snow…

Raspberry Mountain – 10,605

RT Length:  6.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 1579’

I arrived at the trailhead to find the roads icy but plowed all the way to the winter closure.  I was actually kind of surprised to find the gate closed, and this altered my plans just a little bit:  I’d planned to drive down the road to other peaks after this one.  With the road closed I didn’t have enough time.  I parked my truck and gathered my gear, noticing there was a light on in the vehicle next to me.  No one was inside the vehicle, and the doors were locked, so I couldn’t turn the lights off for them.  I’m guessing they were hiking Pikes Peak today, and would most likely run down their battery.  Luckily this is a popular trailhead, so they should be able to find help nearby.

It was a cold morning (once again, below 12 degrees) so I put on all my gear and set out just as it was beginning to get light.  I love hiking without a flashlight!  I walked past the gate and followed the road for .7 miles

After .7 miles I came to the Raspberry Mountain Trailhead

From here on it was a very simple hike: I just followed the bootpack.  In summer months this would be an easy to follow trail.  I had on microspikes, and didn’t need traction.  From the trailhead it was 2.5 miles of hiking north to the summit, following the Ring the Peak Trail

I passed through a small meadow

And then gained and lost some elevation as I rounded the west side of the mountain.  At the top of this small saddle there’s a trailhead of sorts.  Turn left here

As I followed the trail I could see Raspberry Mountain in the distance.  You actually summit from behind

I curved around the north side of the mountain and came to a rocky outcropping

This was class 3, but without any exposure and easy to navigate.  I just heel-toed it up this ramp

And I’d made it to the summit.  The summit had large rocks, but no exposure

There was also a nice view of the west side of Pikes Peak. This side doesn’t get much attention, I’m afraid.

There wasn’t a commit register, so I left one in an obvious place.  This is a Teller County Highpoint, so I found it odd there wasn’t a register.

My camera stopped working about now.  It froze, and I was told to replace the battery (this is what happens when it gets cold), and then when I tried to clean the lens the water instantly turned to ice.  So I started using my cell phone. Did I mention it was quite windy and cold?  Time to head back, first down the rocky area

Then re-tracing my steps back to the upper ‘trailhead’

And back to the lower trailhead

Following the dirt ‘road’ back to the gate closure

I made it back to my truck at 9:15am, with much of the day still ahead of me.  There were quite a few vehicles parked at the trailhead at this time. Today had been much easier than I’d anticipated, so I drove home and hopped on the treadmill for an hour.  Here’s a topo map of my route

Mt Sunflower – 4039, Kansas Highpoint

We live 3 hours away from this highpoint, so I’ve been saving it for a bad weather day, or a day in which I wasn’t able to hike but didn’t want to waste staying at home.  Imagine my surprise when I asked my daughters if they wanted to go with me, and they said YES!

Since my oldest was going we decided to make this a write off (we’re starting a business) and get some pictures for our facebook page.  We collected some stickers and snacks and were on our way.

The drive isn’t very pretty.  There’s not much between where I live and the highest point in Kansas except wide, open fields.  And no gas stations (this comes into play later).  I stopped at the last place to get gas, did some mental calculations and figured I’d have just enough to get there and back without seeing a gas station, and we were on our way. 

Also, we brought the cat.  Westley is quite the road tripper. He likes to look out the window, and has no problem snuggling up on various laps during the drive. He’s not fond of getting out of the vehicle though.

Finally, after almost 3 hours of driving, we made it to a 12 mile dirt road that took us to the ‘summit’.  It’s not a true summit, just the highest point, which was relatively flat.  I drove 65mph down those dirt roads, kicking up dust.  There was no one to see…

We pulled up and were the only ones at the site.  Yep, THIS is the highest point in Kansas

I came prepared with all my gear, but was able to summit in just sandals. I got Rebecca to wear a helmet, and Emily felt confident summiting without gear, while also holding the cat. 

We took a few photos just for fun, and then put one of our stickers into the mailbox (busines launch isn’t until next month).

They also have a nice little free library for anyone interested (bring a book to swap!)

Mississippi Highpoint – Woodall Mountain – 806′


RT Length: 320 miles (by vehicle)

Elevation Gain: negligable

When work sends you to Nashville and you have 7 hours between appointments you go highpointing in Mississippi. I’d have loved to make it to the Tennessee or Alabama highpoints, but they were all out of my time range, so last week I made a reservation for a rental car pick-up that was thankfully half a mile from the hotel I was staying for work.

I was on the road by 7:20am, following google maps for guidance. One of the cool parts about driving to highpoints is taking county roads instead of interstate highways. I didn’t see a lot of people, but those I did were mowing their grass on riding lawn mowers. There were homes, barns, and vehicles in various states of decomposition. Moss covered stone walls marked boundary lines. I followed the Natchez Trace trail south, which was covered in overhanging trees.


I love traveling through the south! I passed through Tennessee and Alabama before entering Mississippi


This highpoint has a lot of good signage.


I turned off the main road onto a dirt road and was a little apprehensive with my rental vehicle, but it stays at 2WD the entire 2 miles to the top.



To my surprise, the road brought me all the way to the ‘summit’. There was a mailbox with a trail register (which needs to be replaced), a sign, a rock, a bench, and a summit marker.


There was no one else around so I took a ‘summit-selfie’


And a close up of the sign and summit marker



I’d been told this area was ‘a dump’ but it looks like it’s been cleaned up recently. Time to head back (it was 3 a hour drive which didn’t give me time to dawdle)


I got stuck behind a tractor for a bit, which was annoying, but par for the course, considering I was visiting the south. Also, I don’t think he realized I was behind him. It was frustrating because he drove in the middle of the road and I couldn’t pass him until he turned off the road onto a side street.


I google searched the nearest Starbucks, which was only 15 minutes out of the way in Alabama. This was perfect because I needed an Alabama state mug (I have the rest in the area, and I’m not a fan of their coffee). I was hoping to get an espresso mug, but settled for a coffee mug when they were out. I stopped by Subway for lunch.

On the drive back I swerved to avoid buzzards, armadillos, and small deer (the deer in the south are REALLY small). I made it back to my hotel at 3pm, in plenty of time for my 4pm meeting!

Nevada Highpoint Boundary Peak – 13,140


RT Length: 13 miles

Elevation Gain: 5144’

After hiking Mt Whitney I drove my rental vehicle to a Subway, got lunch/dinner, and paid too much for gas


My goal was to drive as close to the Boundary Peak trailhead as I could get in the Toyota Corolla I’d rented. I’d heard a lot of different things about the drivability of this road and since I didn’t have a 4WD or even a vehicle with much clearance (5.2 inches) I was a little worried. About 30 miles from the turnoff my cell phone lost service, and I knew I’d be on my own if I got a flat tire or damaged the vehicle on the 4WD road.

I was pleasantly surprised when I turned off US 6 and this is what I saw


I knew the Queen Canyon Trailhead was about 6 miles from here, and it looked like I’d be taking a well maintained 2WD dirt road for at least the first few miles. The first two miles were flat and relatively easy, and with each passing mile I became more confident and a little more excited to be getting closer to the trailhead.

Around the 3rd mile the road became one lane and entered the canyon.  I was a little skeptical about the road because I couldn’t see what was ahead of me, but I figured if I couldn’t turn around at least I’d be able to back up.  Here the willows brushed both sides of the vehicle as I drove past, and the grass growing from the middle of the road made whooshing noises as it hit the underside of the vehicle.


I was beginning to think I’d be able to drive all the way to the trailhead when around mile 4 I came to a roadblock: the road had washed out a little bit and with the low clearance vehicle it became too difficult to navigate.  I got out of the car and walked up and looked for a fancy way around that wouldn’t require bottoming out and was unsuccessful.  I was a little bummed because this section was so short and the road looked clear if I could just make it past this section about 10 yards long, but I didn’t want to get stuck and I seriously didn’t want to get stuck with paying for damages to the rental vehicle.


So I made a 10 point turn and looked for a spot to park. I was able to find a small pullout (thankfully the vehicle was small) but unfortunately it wasn’t in the shade (there wasn’t any).


I relaxed, ate my sandwich, and pulled out my altimeter: I’d parked at 8220’.  I did the math and figured this would add a little over 2000’ to my hike tomorrow and 2 miles each way.  I liked those numbers, but they meant I’d only be hiking Boundary Peak and not adding on Montgomery Peak (because I had a plane to catch).  I really wanted to get some sleep, but it was 4pm in Nevada in September and 95* outside.  I tried to lie down in the back of the Corolla in my sleeping bag but it was just too hot to sleep. Rolling down the windows just invited the flies in, so I tossed and turned for quite a bit.  The last thing I remember before drifting off to sleep was seeing a red Jeep race down from the road above and pass by my vehicle.  It was the only other car I saw the entire time I was there.

I woke up at 1:30am and was on the trail before 2am. I started up the 1N146 road, forgot to turn on my tracker, stopped, turned it on, and was on my way.  The road was very easy to follow to the trailhead; just stay on it and don’t take any turns.  In the dark I passed a mine (I noticed on the way back there was a light on inside and wondered at why I hadn’t seen it on my way in).


This mine is at 9010’ and provides a great place to camp before the road becomes 4WD


After the mine there’s still a mile left to go, and the road indeed becomes 4WD, although you could probably do it in a high-clearance vehicle that isn’t 4WD as well. The Corolla never would have made it.


You can see how easy it is to follow the road to the trailhead


As I was walking along the road something bobbled past me and flew like an awkward cross between a bat and a bird. It landed in the grass in the middle of the road, so as I approached it I aimed my flashlight at it to get a closer look.  It looked up at me with a round face and large, yellow eyes.  It was a fledgling burrowing owl.  “Oh! You’re a baby!” I said to the owl.  It hopped twice, jumped about 6 feet in the air, and once again awkwardly and silently glided into the brush on the other side of the road.  That had been a fun encounter!

The trail starts at the right (south side) of the saddle around 10,000’.


As I made it here I thought to myself “I should have brought my bivy with me”. It doesn’t weigh that much and it would have been a  great idea to have hiked up here last night, slept, and started the trail from here.  Oh well, next time I’ll add it to my pack on trips like this because it only weighs 1 pound.

I followed the trail a short distance to a trail register that was lacking a lid, arriving at 3:55am. I signed the register, replaced it in the ziplock bag and was off.


The trail begins with about 1000’ of elevation gain as it heads south and switchbacks easily up the hillside


From the top of the hillside it’s a little disappointing as you then spend the next mile and a half losing 300’ in elevation, aiming for the saddle between Trail Canyon Saddle Peak and Boundary Peak.


Here I started seeing horse manure, and quite a bit of it. Initially I thought how crazy someone must be to take a horse up at this elevation, but then I noticed there was a lot of it off trail as well and figured there must be wild horses in the area.

Once at the saddle there’s a cool wind shelter made out of bristlecone pine and rocks and an obvious trail that goes up the mountain.


This is the path the trail takes. It’s obvious in the daylight, but in the dark there were a lot of social trails and I kept getting off trail, yet stayed pretty much on course


Oh, and the top of this hill is NOT Boundary Peak.


Around this time is when my tooth started hurting again. I took some ibuprofen and thought to myself “well, isn’t this fun?”

Once you reach the top this is the path before you


The trail splits a lot in places, but basically follows the ridge to Boundary Peak. It doesn’t matter which path you follow, they all stay at class 2 or below.  This is the path I took


The last little bit to the summit has larger rocks but still stays at class 2


I summited at 6:45am, and the sun still hadn’t risen. My glasses are on to hide the crows feet…


Boundary Peak Summit:

It was very cold at the summit, and since I still didn’t have my new camera I had to keep taking off my gloves to get pictures on my iPhone: my hands were freezing!  I took a few pictures and (again) actually signed the summit register.   I figured I should eat something so I got out some dried mangoes, took one bite and felt the most intense dental pain I’ve ever felt in my life!  Oh no!  This was NOT good!  Tears came to my eyes and I decided right then and there I was going to see a dentist as soon as I got home.


I sat here for a minute and contemplated watching the sunrise, but it was just too cold (and I figured I’d have a great view of it as I hiked back down). The moon was full and extremely bright, so I got a shadowselfie in the moon-glow


I also took some pictures of Montgomery Peak and the summit I was currently on (I lightened them up a bit so you can see detail)


I headed back down, and within about 10 minutes there was enough light to see the path ahead of me. It was so nice to be able to see an actual trail instead of guess where it was in the dark!



I sneezed and my teeth bumped together in the process. The pain was so intense I stood there for 3 full minutes waiting for it to subside.  The sun finally rose at 7:35am (which I thought was late, but maybe that’s normal for Nevada?)


I followed the trail back down the same way I came up


Back down to the saddle and then up to regain those 300’ I’d lost



Regaining the elevation actually wasn’t that bad, but I was also lucky the sun had gone behind the clouds and it wasn’t that warm out. It felt like I was hiking in the shade, and at this point my dental pain was more of an annoying dull ache and I was beginning to think the pain was directly related to elevation.


I came across a few deer near the trail, and as I rounded the last bit of hillside I saw a small herd of horses, grazing in a semi-circle on the hill.


Boundary Peak Horses:

I made noise but they didn’t really seem to care I was there. Once again I wished I had my good camera with me and not just my cell phone:  these could have been awesome pictures!


From here it was all downhill back to the trailhead


I signed out of the register and headed back down the road to my vehicle.


I made it back to the car at 9am, making this a 13 mile hike with 5144’ in elevation gain in 7 hours 15 minutes.



Once back at the car I cleaned up and got ready to head out, saying a silent prayer I didn’t do any permanent damage to the vehicle in the next 4 miles. I knew I’d be ok as long as I just drove slow, and since I hadn’t seen any vehicles since that Jeep last night I wasn’t too worried about the need to pass another car in the tight spots.  In the daylight I saw an abandoned house


And a really neat view of Boundary Peak


I made it back to US 6 without incident, but the vehicle was quite dirty and had pinstripes from the willows. It was a 5 hour drive from here back to Las Vegas.  I spent it with the radio turned up to avoid the constant “not in your lane beeping”.  Once in Vegas I looked for a car wash to try and buff out he streaks.  It was surprisingly difficult to find one that was open and operating (I found a bunch of closed or non operational car washes however).

After driving around for half an hour I was finally able to find a car wash, paid the $7 and was extremely happy with how everything turned out: no scratches left on the rental car!  Woot!  Now it was off to return the car (I didn’t have any issues) and to get to the airport early, hopefully to change my flight to an earlier one so I could hike again tomorrow.

My flight didn’t leave until 9pm and I was at the airport by 3pm. I went to the desk to try and get an earlier flight but even on standby they wanted more than double what I’d paid for both tickets combined to take an earlier flight home.  I was not ok with this, so I decided to take a shower and eat instead (yes, the Las Vegas airport has showers, if you know where to look).


I spent the next few hours relaxing before my flight home, listening to others talk about what they’d done during their Bachelor/Bachelorette parties that weekend. I was a little upset I’d get back to late to hike the next day, but all in all considered my birthday weekend a win!