Arc Dome, Mount Jefferson


By: Greg Roach



Thursday night Mirna and I drove out to the town of Ione, Nevada to meet Linda McDermott who had already escaped Los Angeles earlier that week for some fresh mountain air. We camped that night off the Reese River Valley Road about 8 miles east of Ione.

According to the B.L.M. ranger in Tonopah a high stream crossing blocked the road to Columbine campground. Therefore, Friday morning we drove south down the Reese River Valley to the Cow Canyon Trailhead. Here are the directions for the Cow Canyon Trailhead taken from the Toiyabe National Forest website There are also maps of the area available at the website.

From Tonopah drive north on highway 95 to the Gabbs Poleline Road. Take the Poleline Road to the Cloverdale turnoff, to the east. After passing the old Cloverdale Ranch there is a turnoff to the east, take this road to 1 mile beyond the Cloverdale Summit where there is another turnoff to the south. Follow this road and take the first turn to the left to Cow Canyon Trailhead. If you are coming in from the north as we did the road to the Cow Canyon Trailhead is the first road north of the Cloverdale Summit. It is about 17 miles south of the Reese River Ranger Station.

We started hiking at 8:00 a.m. and got back at 8:00 p.m. Total distance was about 14 miles and 4300 feet gain.

We followed the trail from the Cow Canyon Trailhead north. It is about a mile to the Reese River. Then we walked about another mile east along the river until we found a spot where we could cross the stream in our bare feet and keep our boots dry. That spot was below some cliffs just past were Little Sawmill Creek joins the Reese River. Then we proceeded north on the ridge between Big and Little Sawmill Creeks. This ridge then turns east. A saddle is reached at about 8800 feet elevation where the map shows an intermittent stream starts and runs west into Big Sawmill Creek. Here we climbed northeast onto the main ridge and ascended it east of elevation 9390 shown on the map. The ridge continues up to Arc Dome arriving at the peak from the northwest and intersects the trail coming up to Arc Dome from Columbine Campground about a 1/4 mile before the Peak.

On the way back we dropped down to Big Sawmill Creek proceeding down the canyon from the saddle at 8800 feet. We soon found the trail on the west side of Big Sawmill Creek and continued south. There were beaver dams along the creek in among the aspen trees. It was a pleasant contrast to the high ridges we were just on. In about a mile, however we got back up on the ridge in order to keep our boots dry as the stream blocked further dry passage. From here it was less than a mile back to our Reese River crossing.

This was a fun hike. There were many wildflowers in bloom and the streams were flowing fast. The grass was green on the mountains and the hills were alive with the sights and sounds of springtime. The Cow Canyon Trailhead is a good place to camp complete with an outhouse and hitching posts for the horses. We were not alone since it was Memorial Day weekend.

The next day after our 12-hour hike we slept in, had a leisurely breakfast, and lounged around. Then we decided to visit the Ichthyosaurus-Berhin State Park. We drove back north on the Reese River Road to the signed Grantsville Canyon road and turned left (west). We drove over the mountains and visited the abandoned mining town of Grantsville. There is an old stamp mill here and a few builds left standing. We stopped and took some pictures of the mining ruins on the way to the State Park. The State Park has a campground, an old preserved mining town, Berlin (or what's left of it), and the Ichthyosaurus exhibit of dinosaur bones. Admission $3.00 per day per car.

After eating lunch at the State Park we drove well graded dirt roads not shown on the AAA Nevada map around the south end of the Toiyabe Range and back to State Highway 376. This put us a few miles south of the State Highway 377. After getting gas in Round Valley we headed for Manhattan and on to the town of Belmont.

Mirna and Linda were set on climbing Mt. Jefferson by the route in the D.P.S. guide since they were both still tired from our long hike the day before. And the route is shorter and has less gain than from Pine Creek, which is a popular route from the northeast. I was all for trying the Pine Creek route. I had talked with the B.L.M. ranger in Tonopah a few days before about the Pine Creek route. And although it has 12 stream crossings (most in the first 2 miles) he thought we could make it. But, you will gel wet for sure he said. As we drove up Meadow Canyon about 4 miles from the trailhead for Mt. Jefferson there was a huge muddy spot in the road filled with water. We didn't want to try and cross it for fear of getting stuck. Now we had to climb Mt. Jefferson by the Pine Creek route. What a stroke of good luck I thought as I turned the truck around and headed back to the main road and then north to the Pine Creek Campground. The Pine Creek Campground is 16 miles north of Belmont. There are signs for it on the Monitor Valley Road.

Pine Creek turned out to be a great route. We all enjoyed the bike. It was fun figuring out the best spots to cross the stream in the morning and refreshing in the afternoon on the way back. Some of the crossings were knee high (a little higher on Mirna). We didn't bother trying to keep our feet dry this time, just brought an extra pair of socks along. The trail goes from the campground all the way to the Peak. There are many Aspen trees in this area and the leaves had just come out, the water rushed down the canyon, and there was still some snow on the peaks in places higher up. Hail to the Mountain Gods of Springtime! Fall would also be a good time to do this hike. The fall colors would be beautiful. Distance is about 12 miles and the gain is 4500 ft. our time was 11.5 hours including stops and lunch.

That night Mirna and I camped in Monitor Valley and Linda headed south to Owens Valley. Mirna and I stopped at the Hot Springs in Dyer Valley on the way back the next day after briefly visiting the mining ruins around Belmont. This was an enjoyable trip to an area in Nevada, which is so much less populated than California's Owens Valley. It is good to know there is still some open land out there in the Great Basin.

Detailed information for visiting one or more peaks mentioned in this article can be found in the
Desert Peak Section Road and Peak Guides

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