Friday, October 23, 2015

Toiyabe Crest Trail, Nevada

Great Basin road trip part one of three: October 16-17, 2015

Ben’s been in my rear-view mirror for the last four hours. I’m sure he needed to stop for gas about an hour ago, but we’re still driving. Ten long years since I’ve been on a real road trip; the sun is setting behind the Santa Rosa range north of Winnemucca, Nevada and the Basin and Range topography is lit up in its continuous namesake pattern. The 850 miles it takes us to travel from Seattle to the Toiyabe Range in west-central Nevada is not a quick trip, but with high, remote mountains surrounding us even the fatigue of straight-line highways hardly dampens spirits.


The Toiyabe Crest Trail is a National Recreation Trail traversing the range from the South Twin River at its southern extent to Kingston Canyon, about two-thirds of the way up the Toiyabe. Starting on the southern end at 6300’, the trail maintains an average elevation of 9300’ and dips briefly below 8000’ only once. Opting to try and stay on higher terrain and summit the range’s high point (Arc Dome, 11,773’), we took a cross-country shortcut by climbing Arc Dome’s southeast ridge from the 9100’ pass above the South Twin’s headwaters. We also summitted Cirque Peak (11,290') a few miles later. Our two-day route was ~56 miles with 15,200’+ of gain. We only saw one group of two local hunters on horseback.


Quaking aspens flared from yellow-gold to burnt copper and even red, their colonies populating the moisture-collecting ravines and valleys across the Toiyabe. The dying grass, sage, scrub plants and pines stand by in near grayscale compared to the aspens. Cottonwoods going yellow, though slightly less dramatically, play a supporting role at lower elevations.   

Ben's single file and my files (day 1, day 2)
Surprised to find a privy at the remote trailhead
South Twin River canyon

South Twin River canyon
Mining relics
Upper South Twin River
Ascending Arc Dome from the southeast
Upper southeast ridge of Arc Dome
Ben on Arc Dome's summit ridge
Looking north along the Toiyabe Crest, from the summit of Arc Dome

Descending the trail on Arc Dome's north ridge
Cirque Peak summit register
Unfortunate shoe color coordination
The two local hunters; the only humans we saw
On the TCT; Ben's photo
A basin on the Toiyabe's west side, with the Shoshone Range

Toiyabe Crest at Ophir summit
Ben at the end of day 1, starting to look for a camp with water
Morning of day two; we camped in the Aspen basin at left, the only running water we found in 22 miles
Lower-elevation aspen-filled basins on the northern half of the TCT
Cat print

I didn't even need to ask; Ben dons a cow pelvis at will

A few fancy signs show up on the northern half

Looking south down the Toiyabe, from the final high point
Descending to Kingston Canyon, below Bunker Hill at right
Time to drive to the next destination...


  1. Great post! I completed the trail solo in early July. Water sources were better than I anticipated, and at times I carried as much as 5 liters thinking I would need to but I kept hitting water sources every so often. What was the longest waterless stretch in October?

    1. Nice Jonathan! Hope you had as good of a time as we did? We had a stretch of ~20m without water from the pass above the South Twin River, over Arc Dome and all the way until we dropped west off the trail to camp at one of the springs feeding into Marysville Canyon. On day two there was a decent amount of water in the first 10-15 miles and then a long dry stretch (10+ miles?) until dropping into Kingston Canyon.

    2. It was amazing. I skipped Arc Dome since I took a wrong turn up and lost about half a day. I made it to Kingston in 4 days and 3 nights. I can't believe how fast you did it. Cheers.

  2. If you happen to notice this comment - it looks like you got a regular passenger vehicle to at least one of the trailheads. What were the roads like?

    1. I drove to the South Twin River trialhead. The road was unpaved but good enough for a low clearance vehicle. Are you looking to hike in that area? I'm looking for a hiking partner for this trail again and other Nevada peaks/trails. boarini2003 (at) gmail dot com.

    2. Thanks for the info. I have driven across Nevada many times, but rarely stop and spend any significant time there. I am planning another cross country trip this fall, but this time with a more relaxed schedule to stop and smell the sagebrush a bit. Will likely be doing more hiking trips in the future.

  3. Great trip report. Loved the photos and your description. Had this on my list for a while, I need to get out there. Cheers!

    1. Thanks! It's a cool area; would also highly recommend the Ruby Range and Great Basin National Park if you haven't already been there and enjoy the basin and range terrain.