Kumiva Peak: One of Many Isolated Hiking Adventures in Northern Nevada

If you are like us, sometimes you just want to get away it from all. It is a wonderful feeling to escape from roads, people, and most other aspects of civilization, including cellular reception. Fortunately, there are many places in Northern Nevada that meet these criteria.

Looking north on the slopes of Kumiva Peak towards the Black Rock Desert and beyond

To satisfy our desire for isolation, last April, we climbed Kumiva Peak in the Mount Limbo Wilderness Study Area, located about an hour and a half north of Reno. We spent the evening before the hike car camping at an unnamed pass off an unnamed road, several miles off of Nevada Highway 447. As the sun set, the horizon filled with orange bands of light that filtered through the dust of the surrounding playas. As twilight gave way to night, the dry desert air cooled quickly, and the lights of thousands of stars intensified behind the scepter of the Milky Way. There, as we rested in the starlit silhouettes of juniper trees, the stresses of our busy urbanite lives faded away, and we slept soundly in anticipation of a strenuous climb the next day.

As a Wilderness Study Area, the 20,000+ acres surrounding Kumiva Peak are a prime contender to become officially protected wilderness lands. Indeed, there are essentially no roads in this portion of the Selenite Range. The closest town is Empire, NV, an isolated gypsum mining hamlet. The only reason you might have heard of Empire is that it is the home of the protagonist in Nomadland, a 2020 film.

No roads also means no trails. Fortunately, off trailing through the low grasses was easy, and we were able to orienteer a route that led us through a series of progressively higher plateaus. Each of these plateaus was scattered with impressive granitic outcroppings and afforded excellent views of the surrounding valleys. The final ascent though was moderately steep and slippery due to deep tracts of old snow. By the time we reached the summit after 3 miles of hiking and 2,600 feet of climbing with children on our backs, we were sufficiently tired!

At the top, we (especially, the kids) were enamored by the thousands of convergent ladybugs at our feet. These beetles are common visitors to isolated peaks, and they are brought to summits by the action of thermal gradients. Of course, we were also treated to outstanding views of all of the region’s mountains and playas. These playas included the Black Rock Desert to the north (of Burning Man fame), the San Emidio Desert to the west, the Poito Valley to the east, and the enormous dry lake bed known as Winnemucca Lake to the south. Without a doubt, the desert landscapes within view of Kumiva Peak’s crest will provide us with years worth of novel hiking adventures in the future.

Christopher and Elizabeth Barile

Christopher and Elizabeth Barile

Christopher and Elizabeth Barile have developed a passion for the natural world through hiking. They have hiked thousands of miles together while carrying their two young children on their backs. In addition to summiting over 150 peaks in the Greater Reno area, Christopher and Elizabeth have visited 40 U.S. national parks. Some of their other favorite outdoor activities include backpacking, camping, snowshoeing, and birding. Both Christopher and Elizabeth have advanced degrees in chemistry from Stanford University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Christopher is a chemistry professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, and Elizabeth is an artist and educator. "Base Camp Reno: 101 Hikes From Sage to Snow" will be in bookstores and everywhere online April 5, 2022.

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