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Mica Peak -- North Ridge Route
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Gold Butte National Monument
Mica Peak
Mica PeakMica Peak trailhead along Vermiculite Mine Road (view S)

Overview

Mica Peak, via the North Ridge, is a fun hike deep in the heart of Gold Butte National Monument. The route ascends the fairly steep and strenuous, but safe, North Ridge, which is followed south towards the summit. Parts of the upper ridgelines are rocky, but the more craggy portions can be bypassed on one side or the other. The summit is guarded by rocky crags, but the easiest route cuts across the north face just below the crags to gain the summit from the west ridge. There is no trail, and hiking poles are recommended. The hike to the summit and back is about 4 miles.

Hikers who make the summit are rewarded with what is among the best 360-degree views in southern Nevada that leaves one wanting to climb the other high peaks in the neighborhood.

Link to hiking map. See also: photos of and from the summit and photos of the descent.

Mica Peak
Route starts up old road towards the peak

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ... this area is fairly safe, but watch for loose rocks on the ridgeline. The craggy areas look like prime rattlesnake habitat, so be sure to watch carefully -- especially when using boulders for handholds. The craggy sections can be bypassed, but are minimal 3rd-class, so always be extra careful when high enough to fall and get hurt -- help is a long ways away.

This is a wild and remote area without services of any kind (no restrooms, no water, no gas, no food). Bring what you need to survive. Be prepared and be self-reliant. Law enforcement no longer patrols the area. Someone will find you eventually if you stay on a main road, but be prepared to survive alone for a day or two. Cell phones only work along parts of the paved road. The roads require a stout 2WD-HC vehicle, but a 4WD would be safer in this remote region.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, this is a very remote hike, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials.

Mica Peak
Old road runs up canyon (view S)

Getting to the Trailhead

Mica Peak is located out in Gold Butte National Monument at the northeast end of Lake Mead, about 3 hours northeast of Las Vegas in a wild, remote, and scenic area.

From town, drive out to Gold Butte National Monument. From Whitney Pocket, continue south on the unpaved Gold Butte Road for about 17.9 miles to the unmarked Vermiculite Mine Road. Watch on the left for two gaps in the fence that lines the road in this area.

Turn left onto Vermiculite Mine Road and drive south 1.1 miles to the mine site. Just past the mine site, a wide spot on the right serves as the trailhead parking and campsite. Park here; this is the trailhead.

Mica Peak
Old road climbing across hillside towards ridgeline (view W)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), the route runs south on what turns out to be a little-used road with so many wildflowers growing in the roadway that nobody would want to drive on them.

The old road starts up a canyon, but then bends right and climbs across the hillside to a ridgeline. Turning south on the ridgeline, the old road runs out to Snowflake Mine (Wpt. 02) where large pieces of mica make the ground sparkle. Passing through the mine site, the old road bends right and runs down the next hillside dropping into the sandy wash (Wpt. 03) below.

The old road enters the wash a few yards upstream from a confluence of washes. The route continues the few yards down to the confluence, then turns up the other fork (Wpt. 04). In this west fork, a spring dampens the ground and the wash is choked with saltcedar trees and shrubs.

Mica Peak
Old road runs up ridgeline (view S)

Emerging from the vegetation, the route continues up the wash. Staying to the right of the canyon bottom, the route passes a mining claim marker cairn (Wpt. 05) on a rocky ledge and continues up the canyon to the ridgeline ahead, which is the North Ridge.

Turning up the North Ridge, the route passes another mining claim marker cairn (Wpt. 06) on the hillside. From there, it is advantageous to gain the ridgeline and follow it up. The ridge is steep and rocky, but all of the rocky outcrops can be passed on one side or the other.

Approaching the summit (Wpt. 07), hikers face daunting cliffs and a decision must be made: continue up the ridgeline into 4th-class cliffs or detour below the cliffs across the steep north-facing side-slopes for a 2nd-class walk-up.

For the cliffs, see the alternative route page, otherwise angling across the side-slope, the walk-up route crosses the north facing slope to the next ridgeline (Wpt. 08) to the west.

Mica Peak
Old road continues towards Snowflake Mine site (view S)

On the ridgeline, the route runs more-or-less straight up the slope. It is advantageous to continue straight up until reaching an enormous boulder on the skyline near the summit (Wpt. 09). From the boulder, an easy scramble leads up and left to the summit (Wpt. 10).

The summit is adorned with bits and pieces of historic survey equipment (boards, broken mirror, wires, etc.) and a summit register. As is often the case for Gold Butte National Monument peaks, views from the summit are surprisingly grand, and stretch from Utah to California and include the Grand Canyon and Red Rock cliffs. For views of and from the summit, see the Summit Views page.

Regardless of the route taken to the summit, hikers should use the north-face traverse for the descent (see photos of the route down).

Mica Peak
Entering the mine area (view S; route follows the ridge ahead)
Mica Peak
Mining claim marker cairn with 4x4 wooden post
Mica Peak
Snowflake Mine (view E)
Mica Peak
Collapsed entrance to Snowflake Mine
Mica Peak
Large piece of mica
Mica Peak
Thin layers in large piece of mica
Mica Peak
Route ahead is visible from the mine site (view S)
Mica Peak
Overgrown old road departs mine site towards wash (view SW)
Mica Peak
Overgrown old road runs down towards wash (view W)
Mica Peak
Route runs down wash a few yards to confluence (view W)
Mica Peak
Route turns up wash into vegetated spring area (view S)
Mica Peak
Beyond spring, route follows wash uphill (view S)
Mica Peak
Route angles right towards the peak (view S)
Mica Peak
Route passes outcrop with mining cairn (view S)
Mica Peak
Outcrop with mining cairn (view S)
Mica Peak
Route angles right climbing towards North Ridge (view SW)
Mica Peak
Field of blooming penstemon on North Ridge (view SW)
Mica Peak
Lower down, the North Ridge is broad (view S)
Mica Peak
Route passes a second mining cairn (view S)
Mica Peak
Second mining cairn (view S)
Mica Peak
Route now follows more closely the spine of the North Ridge (view S)
Mica Peak
Gold Butte Peak -- the view already is getting good (view W)
Mica Peak
Route follows the North Ridge (view SE)
Mica Peak
Route follows the North Ridge (view SE)
Mica Peak
Passing a rocky outcrop on the ridgeline (view S)
Mica Peak
Wood and Stone: art in the wild (view E)
Mica Peak
Large white boulders on the ridgeline (view S)
Mica Peak
Passing to the right of white boulders on the ridgeline (view S)
Mica Peak
Approaching more rocky crags (view S)
Mica Peak
Passing to the right of rocky crag(view S)
Mica Peak
Standing Stone: more art in the wild (view NE)
Mica Peak
Upper ridgeline (view S)
Mica Peak
Passing rocky outcrop on upper ridgeline (view S)
Mica Peak
Safer route departs ridgeline to cross the north face (view SW)
Mica Peak
Route starting across steep north face (view SW)
Mica Peak
Route climbs across steep north face (view SW)
Mica Peak
Route climbs across steep north face (view SW)
Mica Peak
Beyond rocky outcrop, route turns uphill (view SW)
Mica Peak
Route climbs straight up steep hillside (view S)
Mica Peak
Route climbs straight up steep hillside (view S)
Mica Peak
Route climbs steep hillside towards enormous boulder (view S)
Mica Peak
Route climbs steep hillside to enormous boulder (view S)
Mica Peak
Passing left of enormous boulder (view SE)
Mica Peak
Arriving on the summit (view E)
Mica Peak
Broken historic signal mirror
Mica Peak
Summit register inside large PVC pipe
Mica Peak
Summit (view SE into Grand Canyon; zoom) [more summit views]
Mica Peak
Summit (view SW across Lake Mead into Las Vegas) [more views]

Table 1. Hiking Coordinates and Distances based on GPS Data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Hiking GPS waypoints (gpx) file.

Wpt. Location UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi) Verified
01 Mica Peak Trailhead 755303 4019149 4,103 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Old Mine Site 755433 4018647 4,288 0.40 0.40 GPS
03 Old Road Ends in Wash 755321 4018568 4,192 0.15 0.55 GPS
04 Edge of Spring Vegetation 755288 4018537 4,187 0.03 0.58 GPS
05 Mine Claim Cairn 1 755305 4018328 4,312 0.15 0.73 GPS
06 Mine Claim Cairn 2 755367 4018131 4,472 0.16 0.89 GPS
07 Depart Ridgeline 755684 4017188 5,399 0.78 1.67 GPS
08 Ridgeline 755467 4017135 5,541 0.16 1.83 GPS
09 Large Boulder 755523 4017036 5,703 0.09 1.92 GPS
10 Mica Peak Summit 755544 4017034 5,738 0.02 1.94 GPS
01 Mica Peak Trailhead 755303 4019149 4,103 1.94 3.88 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 151102

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