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Hayford Peak
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Desert National Wildlife Range
Hayford Peak
Hidden Forest Cabin
Hidden Forest Cabin (view NE)

Overview

There are several routes up Hayford Peak. The strenuous route described here runs from the trailhead to the Hidden Forest cabin, climbs onto the ridge west of Wiregrass Spring, and follows that ridge to the summit (9,912 ft). This 17-mile round-trip route makes for a very long day trip or a nice overnight backpacking with a night spent at the Hidden Forest cabin. Water is available at the cabin, but it should be treated.

Link to map or elevation profile.

For general information on camping, regulations, other issues, and the natural history of the Wildlife Refuge, see the Desert National Wildlife Range -- Area Overview page.

wiregrass spring
Wiregrass Spring (view NW)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this is a relatively safe, off-trail route. There are no cliffs or other obstacles to climb, although there are some to get around. Always use extra care when hiking off-trail because the logistics of rescue are more difficult. Treat the spring water. Stay off ridges and mountain tops if thunderstorms threaten. Hiking in gravel or sandy washes is tiring, more tiring than might be expected; so don't underestimate the time it will take to hike up the canyon to the cabin. When dry, the trailhead should be accessible with a 2WD-HC vehicle, but inquire locally if you have questions.

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 long hike, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials.

hayford peak
Hayford Peak (view NE)

This is a wildlife refuge, so pay extra attention to respecting the land. Please, don't bother the bighorn sheep. They have a hard enough time making a living in these desert lands; they don't need extra stress from people hanging around the spring.

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located on the Desert National Wildlife Range, about 2 hours north of town. From town, drive out to Corn Creek Field Station and continue east 50 yards to a T-intersection. Turn left onto Alamo Road and drive north for 14.5 miles to Hidden Forest Road. Turn right onto Hidden Forest Road and drive east for 3.8 miles to a parking area at the end of the road. There are no turns, and the road ends against the first set of hills. Under normal conditions, these are good, well-graded roads. Park here; this is the trailhead.

Hayford Peak
The route follows mostly open ridges (view N)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), the old road continues past a gate and drops steeply into the wash. A sign at the trailhead says that Wiregrass Spring is 4 miles out, but the cabin is 5.7 miles, and the spring is about 0.15 miles past the cabin.

Hike up the old road through Deadman Canyon for 5.7 miles to the old cabin (Wpt. 05). For details on this part of the hike, see the description of the Hidden Forest Trail. The cabin is an interesting place to sit on the picnic tables, rest in the shade of tall ponderosa pines, listen to the birds and the wind, and contemplate the history and life during simpler times.

hayford peak
Resting in the shade (view NE)

The lay of the land around the cabin is a bit confusing, perhaps because the tall trees block views of the hillsides. The cabin is located in the mouth of a side canyon that comes into Deadman Canyon from the north. The cabin is on the east (right) side of the side canyon, right at the confluence with Deadman Canyon, which continues to the east (farther right) and eventually hits the crest of the Sheep Range. If you stand on the porch of the cabin and look out, Deadman Canyon is to the left (south), and the side canyon is to the right (north). This distinction is important for hiking farther up the canyon and finding your way back to the cabin. Wiregrass Spring is located in this side canyon, high above the streambed on the west side. If you stand on the porch of the cabin and look out, the spring is off to the right.

hayford peak
Hayford summit as seen from just west of the main saddle at the base of the southwest ridge. Follow the ridge, then angle off to the north (left), staying away from the rocky crags on the ridge (view E)

From the cabin, there are several routes up Hayford Peak. The route described here runs up to the spring, climbs the ridge above (west of) the spring, and follows ridges to the summit.

After refilling water bottles at the cabin, the route runs up to Wiregrass Spring (Wpt. 06). The start of the use-trail to the spring can be seen from the front porch of the cabin, and the spring is about 5-8 minutes up the hillside, northwest of the cabin.

From the spring, the route continues climbing to the top of the ridge (Wpt. 07). There are several possibilities for getting there, but hiking through the barren area just north of the spring is a reasonable route. The ridge is fairly open, and following it uphill and northward is fairly easy, at least in the less-steep parts. There are scattered cairns along the ridge, but not really enough to call it a marked route. Some parts have more cairns, suggesting people might have started marking the route, got tired, and quit setting up cairns.

hayford peak
Near the higher crags on the steep, southwest ridge. Try not to get tangled up in these rocks and fallen trees (view S)

Initially, the ridge is forested with ponderosa pine and a few white firs, but these give way to bristlecone pines higher up. Ponderosa pines generally grow straight and tall, they have long (5 inch) needles that grow in bundles of three, and cones that hang down from the branches. White fir also grow tall and straight, but they have short, flat, unbundled needles that tend to grow laterally from the sides of the twigs, giving the entire branch a flat appearance. Firs also have cones that grow up from the top of the branches. At about 8,700 feet, hikers encounter the first bristlecone pines, which have short, thick needles that grow in bundles of three, the needles tend to grow thickly on the ends of the branches, and they grow all the way around the branch, giving it a bottle-brush appearance. On high-elevation ridges and steep side slopes, bristlecone pines grow twisted and gnarled, and some live for 2-3 thousand years.

Before long, the peak and much of the remaining route comes into view. The route can be seen to stair-step up the ridge towards a high point southwest of the summit, then drop into a saddle, and finally climb the steep southwest ridge to the summit. The stair steps are fairly steep, but the vegetation is sparse and the route is clear, plus the flat areas provide nice places to rest in the shade.

As the route nears the highpoint on the ridge, the peak and the saddle to the east come into view. Here, the route contours across side-slopes to avoid climbing onto the highest point, which actually is a bit off route, and drops into the saddle (Wpt. 08). This saddle marks the base of the steep southwest side of Hayford peak.

hayford peak
Communication facilities on the summit (view E)

From the saddle (Wpt. 08), several possible routes run up the ridge, all of which are steep. I tried two routes (one going up and one going down), and from this experience, I would suggest staying on the north side of the ridge, as far from the rocky outcrops as is convenient (which is not where I went). I found no real use-trail or cairn routes. The south side of the ridge is covered with dense thickets of mountain mahogany, which can be worked through, but I would simply avoid that side in the future. The ridge is blocked by two cliffy outcrops, and staying too close to the cliffs results in too much scrambling. From the saddle, I would angle up and northward across the slope to some convenient distance from the cliffs, and then cut straight up the steep hillside to the summit (Wpt. 09).

hayford peak
A room with a view (view south towards of Sheep Peak and Las Vegas (off in the haze) (view S)

The summit is bald on the south side and forested with bristlecone pines on the north side (probably the result of a centuries-old fire). On the bald, the vegetation is alpine, growing low and prostate to the ground. The plants are mostly sagebrush, with a few grasses and annual flowers. The wildlife refuge has a communications tower and support facilities on the summit, so it isn't exactly a wilderness, but you can sit on the south side, look south, and feel like you've climbed to the top of the earth. Without trees, the southern views are spectacular, extending west to Indian Springs and points into the distance, south along the spine of the Sheep Range to Las Vegas and mountains in the far distance, and east to the Arrow Range, Virgin Range, and points beyond. Looking through trees that block the view, hikers can get tantalizing glimpses of interesting peaks and mountain ranges to the north.

When you are ready to depart, follow your route back to the cabin or take one of several other routes back. Perhaps the simplest route back to the cabin is to hike back down to the saddle (Wpt. 08) at the base of the steep west face, and then drop off the south side of the saddle into a canyon, and follow that canyon back to Deadman Canyon, which you hit a few minutes east (upstream) of the cabin.

Table 2. Hiking Coordinates Based on GPS Data (NAD27, UTM Zone 11S). Download Trail GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Wpt. Location Easting Northing Elevation (ft) Verified
01 Hidden Forest Trailhead 653158 4054877 5,833 GPS
05 Hidden Forest Cabin 660324 4055281 7,943 GPS
06 Wiregrass Spring 660246 4055432 7,927 GPS
07 Top of the ridge 660148 4055685 8,146 GPS
08 Saddle 660390 4057731 9,143 GPS
09 Hayford summit 660891 4058220 9,912 GPS

 
Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
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© 2014 Jim Boone; Last updated 140225

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