At 13,140 feet above sea level, Boundary Peak rises above the rest of Nevada as the state's highest point. Boundary Peak is the northernmost highest peak in the White Mountains and resides barely 3/4 of a mile inside the state boundary and its location often comes as a surprise to most Nevadans. Unlike Whitney or Denali, Boundary Peak does not dominate the skyline. Instead, it floats and blends in with its neighboring high points above the surrounding desert.
In 2009, Boundary Peak was given its own wilderness area, and given its superlative status, you can bet hikers flock here to be above the rest of the Silver State! Boundary can be climbed in a long, grueling 8-mile ascent from the desert floor in Fish Lake Valley. From SR 264, look for a road leading to "Trail Canyon, Boundary Peak" and follow it for 5 miles to the trailhead. Start early because the White Mountains create their own weather patterns in the summer. Every peak bagger familiar with Boundary will probably admit to being chased off the mountain because of its wild summer lightning!
The best profile of Boundary Peak can be seen here just over the state line in California. Boundary is the farthest peak on the left as seen from Adobe Valley off of CA 120 just west of Benton.
Team Wheeler or Team Boundary?
In a state known for its wild debates, the state's highest point does not come without some controversy. The truth is, Boundary is not a true "peak" in the definition of the word. In fact, it's a ridge of Montgomery Peak (13,441) located just over the line in California. Many enthusiasts believe that Boundary should be excluded as a true "highest point," suggesting instead that Wheeler Peak (#2 on our list) should win the state's highest-point designation. Wheeler Peak is a true mountain and located entirely within Nevada. It's sometimes even considered the highest "mountain" peak in Nevada. Ready for the kicker? Boundary is only 82 feet higher than Wheeler Peak. Cest la vie. Once again, we need to be objective here, dig deep, and look at the facts. Boundary still solidly remains the highest-elevated point, ridge, sub-peak, wall of rock, or whatever-you-want-to-call-it, in Nevada. Boundary ... here's to you!
While the highest point in Nevada can be clearly defined, the opposite can be said of the state's lowest point. The lowest point in Nevada sits alongside the Colorado River at 479 feet above sea level. Where exactly? Even state enthusiasts aren't quite positive! Here's what's interesting: the state's lowest point at 479 feet is a dramatic comparison to the state's average elevation of 5,500 feet. Unlike its highest point, there is no definitive "spot" or "point" officially marking the exact lowest point in Nevada. All we can say is the closest "point" to the absolute lowest would be around 115 degrees longitude - at the extreme southernmost tip of Nevada. This is roughly around the California and Arizona state lines, seven miles south of Laughlin. Here, you would be standing within feet of three state lines. Unlike Boundary Peak, there is no definite trail leading to the actual lowest point in the state. *Whew*
Finding the Lowest Point
- The closest the average Nevadan will get to visiting this unique superlative will most likely be at Big Bend of the Colorado State Park, which sits about 4 miles north of the projected lowest point. Big Bend State Park sits at a measly 500 feet above sea level -- close enough to dictate the location of the lowest point. However, if you're a completionist and unsatisfied with this "almost" low point, you're going to have to do some trailfinding to find the official site.
- Start in Laughlin and cross the Colorado River into Arizona, adjoining with Arizona State Route 95 where you'll find yourself paralleling the Colorado. Continue through the Bullhead City until you reach a road on your right named "Aztec Road," roughly 20 minutes south of Bullhead City. (Aztec Road is clearly marked and sometimes signed to "Needles Highway.") Turn right onto Aztec Road" and follow it for 2.5 miles, crossing the Colorado River back into Nevada ...
... Immediately after the bridge there is an unmarked dirt road on the left. (This road is very hard to spot, but discernable as it treks through the brush.) The Nevada-California state line is a half-mile south of this road, marked by a stumpy white state line monument. Either park here, or proceed the remaining half-mile on this dirt road. Park and climb down to the edge of the river. This is THE farthest south as you can get in the Silver State. Upon reaching the river's edge, approach the monument and cheer as you reach the Arizona-California-Nevada tristate point, the only such point in America, while you place one foot in California and the other on the lowest point in Nevada. How's that for a double superlative?!
Out of all the 315-named mountain ranges in Nevada, it is the White Mountains that wins the prestigious title as highest mountain range in Nevada. The Whites are a long fault-block range created at the same time as the Sierra Nevada to the west some 4.6 million years ago. This amazing range extends for 60 miles from about Big Pine, California cresting to White Mountain Peak (14,252'), the third highest peak in California, and north to Nevada's highest point at Boundary Peak (13,142') at Montgomery Pass. Although about eighty percent of the range resides within California, the Whites are very much a dominant presence in the remote barrens of central Nevada.
The highest range in the Great Basin dominate the skyline for miles around, especially here at Columbus Salt Marsh.
The White Mountains are a unique range that are separated from the Sierra Nevada by only twenty air miles. Such close proximity to the Sierra allow the Whites to capture substantial precipitation from eastward drifting storms. An average of 52 inches per year (an enormous amount in this arid region of the country) falls onto the Whites. Eight of these peaks exceed 10,000 feet and retain enough snowmelt to feed twenty six year-round streams.
Of all the ranges in the state, the Whites are easily forgotten and they still remain one of the wilder ranges in the West. If you happen to find yourself in western Esmeralda County in the spring, it's not hard to see how the range acquired its name. The Whites however are best known for the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, 26 miles east of Big Pine. Even though it's just one of many ranges that house Bristlecone Pine trees, the stands within the White Mountains are the most numerous, and arguably the most picturesque Bristlecones in all of the Great Basin! Ecologists contribute this to the range's fertile dolomite soil and harsh weather patterns that befall the range almost daily.
- The White Mountains dominate the skyline along US 95 north of Tonopah and Coaldale Junction. Closer access to the range lies directly from Fish Lake Valley on the east, or the Owens Valley in California on the west. The only two roads over the White Mountains are US 6, just west of Basalt Junction, and California Highway 168, also from Fish Lake Valley.
- If the title for highest range in Nevada wasn't enough, the White Mountains take it even further. This amazing island mountains are also the highest mountain range in the entire Great Basin!
(c) Light Rain Productions
The prestigious title of "Highest Paved Road in Nevada" goes to the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive located in Great Basin Nat'l Park.
This scenic road begins at 7,000 feet in the pinyon forests of the park and ascends 3,000 feet above the desert floor to Wheeler Peak Campground and Trailhead at 10,240 feet! The scenic drive is an all two-lane road that was constructed in 1946, long before Great Basin became an established park. Even then, visitors to then Lehman Caves National Monument adored this drive so much that the Scenic Drive became a highlight upon the park's dedication in 1986.
At 8,900 feet, Mt. Rose Summit is the highest paved mountain pass in Nevada. In fact, NDOT celebrates this pass on SR 431 with a sign stating, the "Highest Year-Round Sierra Pass." This is actually partly true. This pass is technically located within the Carson Range, a sub-range of the Sierra Nevada, and not actually within the true Sierra Nevada. Either way, Rose's elevation is impressive and the pass is quite stark! In this terrain with little trees, mostly Lodgepole and Limber Pine, Mount Rose's giant monolith dominates the skyline!
- Mt. Rose Summit lies on SR 431, 6 miles east of Incline Village.
- For those paying attention, you'll notice that this location is also home to another superlative -- the highest Nevada historical marker in elevation,  Mt. Rose Weather Observatory. The marker sits directly in front of the restrooms atop the pass at -- you guessed it -- 8,900 feet.
Historic Marker 104 sits atop the lowest paved mountain pass in Nevada.
Who would've thought?
With its overall low elevation, this superlative goes to the south. Topping at a measly 2,600 feet atop Laughlin Pass, State Route 163 wins the title for the lowest mountain pass in Nevada. Despite its low elevation, the ascent up to the pass is surprisingly steep and climbing the summit, doubled with the heavy amount of traffic on this four-lane highway, can seem like a chore. Upon leaving US 95, the highway maintains a steady 4% grade, suddenly steepening to 6% for three miles near the summit. Westbound traffic has to contend with an even steeper 7% grade upon leaving Laughlin!
On your next drive to Laughlin, tip your hat to this little-known state superlative!
I think yours truly needs a little pat on the back for securing this superlative! Let me tell you: tracking down the highest lake in Nevada was no easy task, but elevation doesn't lie. Johnson Lake, set at 10,800 feet above sea level, wins this prestigious title! Johnson is located on the east flank of Pyramid Peak in the deep backcountry of the Snake Range in Great Basin Nat'l Park and reachable only by hiking 8 miles on the Baker-Johnson Lake Loop Trail.
Hikers generally start at the trailhead at the end of the Snake Creek Road, set at 8,600 feet. From here, the eight-mile hike gains an elevation of 2,200 feet, passing the scenic Johnson Lake Mining Camp to the lake's southern shoreline. From here, hikers have the option of coursing north on the Baker Lake Loop Trail to nearby Baker Lake (the second-highest lake in Nevada) to a long 10-mile walk back to civilization at the Baker Creek Trailhead.
Seeing Johnson Lake is a true privilege as not many people will make the effort to get here. If you happen to be the lucky one, you'll be treated to some very surreal beauty accomplished only by hard work and dedication! Next time you're in Great Basin, think about making the trek to see Nevada's highest year-round lake.
- Johnson Lake is best reached from the Snake Creek Trailhead. From the town of Baker, continue south on SR 487 for 3 miles to the National Park turnoff to "Snake Creek Canyon." Turn here and continue a long 10 miles back into the park. Although the NPS has made sure the road remains open to all types of vehicles, for some reason the park service likes to keep the road as primitve as possible, therefore, making ten miles feel like twenty five! Snake Creek Road tightly parallels Snake Creek for the majority of the trip, making the road barely wide enough for two cars. Take it slow and enjoy the scenery along the way. Eventually, the road will top at a beautiful meadow set directly below Pyramid Peak at 8,600 feet. It's here where you should park. The trail to Johnson Lake is clearly marked as it follows an old jeep road up the mountain. Before making the trip, inform the good rangers at Lehman Caves that you will be hiking to Johnson Lake. This is solely for safety and good insurance in this remote park.
11 Highest Lakes in Nevada
This is a list of the 11 highest lakes in Nevada. Keep in mind that we've counted only year-round lakes and not intermittent lakes (snowmelt ponds)!
|1. Johnson Lake (10,800')||Snake Range (GBNP)|
|2. Baker Lake (10,633')||Snake Range (GBNP)|
|3. Stella Lake (10,385')||Snake Range (GBNP)|
|4. Teresa Lake (10,276')||Snake Range (GBNP)|
|5. Verdi Lake (10,220')||Ruby Mountains|
|6. Brown Lake (10,207')||Snake Range (GBNP)|
|7. Snow Lake (10,150')||Ruby Mountains|
|8. Liberty Lake (10,040')||Ruby Mountains|
|9. Cold Lakes (9,880')||Ruby Mountains|
|10. Echo Lake (9,830')||Ruby Mountains|
|11. Castle Lake (9,780')||Ruby Mountains|
For those of you familiar with Nevada, the winner of this superlative might not come as a surprise. Set at 8,378 feet, Angel Lake is the highest lake in Nevada you can reach by vehicle. This is done by the lovely Angel Lake Scenic Byway, State Route 231 out of Wells in Elko County. SR 231 winds straight up the east slope of the East Humboldt Range for 12 miles where it ends suddenly at the shore of Angel Lake. Angel provides a quick escape from the desert for those in cars and doubles as a convenient trailhead into the range's back country. Three easy-to-reach lakes sit within an hour's hike from Angel Lake, including Smith, Steele, and Greys Lake, all located right over the ridge from Angel.
A late October snowfall at the highest lake accesssible by vehicle -- Angel Lake.
(c) North Coast Photographer
Perhaps this is the lake's best quality. For people itching to get hiking, or for daytrippers wanting an easy stroll into the mountains, Angel Lake satisfies each visitor incredibly. The only downside are the camping and boating facilities. Although each is well-maitained, it's not surprising that with such beauty come very steep fees!
The hottest temperature ever recorded in Nevada occured in Laughlin on June 29, 1994. This whopping temperature tipped the mercury at 125 degrees Fahrenheit! This monster reading was due to an excessive heat-wave that ran through the American Southwest that year affecting cities throughout Arizona, southern Utah, southern California, and statewide across Nevada. What's even more interesting is when the temperature was recorded: at approximately 11:48 in the morning! That means the thousands of residents AND flocking tourists who had visited Laughlin had to contend with this heat nearly all day. It's predicted that roaring heat waves such as these occur only once every ten years.
The coldest temperature ever recorded in Nevada is -50 degrees which occurred at San Jacinto Ranch (Elko County) on January 8, 1937. While it isn't uncommon for northern Nevada to reach temperature below zero, reaching anything past -10 degrees is a little unusual. Even at the time, San Jacinto was a somewhat quiet outpost, operating as mainly a ranch, spring, and general store between Wells and Twin Falls. The shopkeeper in San Jacinto closed his store in preparation for a "monster blizzard" on the way. And he couldn't have done it a better time. Although not too much snow fell that day (2 inches), the temperature was enough to shut down all activity for at least two days. That wintery incident has since been Nevada's lowest state record for 76 years.
This superlative was actually tied with Laughlin and Lake Mead with an average annual temperature of 86-88 degrees, the highest average in Nevada. Both of these locations average anywhere between this range, with each one averaging higher than the other one day, and another the other day. This is the main reason why we couldn't designate a true winner. For you purists out there unsatisfied with this result, chew on this: Laughlin averages slightly higher temps than Lake Mead every year, but who's to say Lake Mead can't average higher three consecutive years straight?
Although it was very close, the old mining girl of Eureka has the lowest average in Nevada with average annual temperature of 55-57 degrees. Other contenders for this title were very close, but Eureka wins this superlative because of its low temperatures as well, dropping slightly lower than its contenders. Eureka was built in a shallow canyon at 6,500 feet in elevation -- an unfortunate position that funnels winds and traps cold mountain air. During the month of January, the temperature remains steady around 15 degrees, rarely exceeding 25. In addition, the town receives 28.6 inches of snowfall every year. Adding all these up, this one's a no-brainer.
The other contenders for this title were ...
- Baker -- 55-58 degrees
- Belmont -- 57-58 degrees
- Austin -- 57-59 degrees
- Ely -- 58-60 degrees
- Virginia City -- 59-60 degrees
- Jarbidge -- 59-61 degrees
- Denio -- 60-62 degrees
- Incline Village -- 61-64 degrees
- Stateline (Lake Tahoe) -- 61-64 degrees
- Pioche -- 63-64 degrees
(c) CDN Hotels
Yep. The small village of Mt. Charleston, Nevada, wins the title of the highest community in Nevada. Ironic that it's located in the mostly all-desert Clark County. Mt. Charleston started as a small outpost on the base of its namesake mountain and didn't really come into existence until around 1960, when the Mt. Charleston Ski Resort was constructed as a quick mountain getaway just outside of Las Vegas. Today, the community has a year-round population of 350, mostly long-time locals who've lived in the area for generations. Not surprising, Mt. Charleston sees the majority of its visitor base during the winter at the height of ski season, usually from about December to early April. At 7,510 feet above sea level, rest assured that it's much cooler up here than the Vegas Strip!
Find Mt. Charleston Village at the end of Kyle Canyon Road (SR 157), approximately eight miles west of US 95. Here, the Kyle Canyon Road turns into Mt. Charleston Road (SR 158) where it loops back to US 95 just ten miles north of North Las Vegas.
Here's a list of the top ten highest communities in Nevada. Keep in mind that I've only counted designated communities and NOT ghost towns or active mines!
- Belmont (7,424')
- Kingsbury (7,208')
- Manhattan (7,001')
- Ruth (6,880')
- Ione (6,758')
- Austin (6,605')
- Eureka (6,500')
- Ely (6,437')
- Crystal Bay (6,400')
- Zephyr Cove (6,400')
This one probably wouldn't conjure up that image of a ghost town that you probably had in mind. In fact, this one is probably far from it and few, if any Nevadans know of this site. Alta Toquima for whom the Toquima Range and Alta Toquima Wilderness is named for, is an ancient Indian village that was unearthed on the slopes of Table Mountain by Dr. David Thomas of the American Museum of Natural History in 1978. Set deep in the wilds of central Nevada, Alta Toquima became the highest historic site in Nevada. Not only is Alta Toquima the highest ever settlement in Nevada, it's known as the highest known Indian village in all of North America! Right here in the Silver State!
The rugged landscape of east-central Nevada was once home to some of America's earliest inhabitants; before survey and excavations were conducted at Alta Toquima, Dr. Thomas and his team believed that early American hunters avoided high altitude environments, clamining them as too harsh and barren to sustain life. Archaeologists had previously identified small, temporary base-camps as high as 11,000 feet, but which showed no indication of long-term settlement. In 1980, Dr. Thomas proved otherwise. He showed that from around 2500 BC to 0 AD, the mountains were used intermittently by small groups of hunters who seasonally exploited the range's mountain sheep. After 1 AD, he discovered that high-mountain villages were under construction! These were occupied for months at a time by families who were able to sustain themselves on the local resources: elk, sheep, marmot, fish, eagles, berries, and roots. These new large, long-term settlements at Alta Toquima represented a major shift in how ancient Americans used mountain resources, and illustrate how archaeological research continues to teach us about the past.
The valley of Alta Toquima rests at 11,000 feet in the remote Table Mountain Wilderness of central Nevada.
- The remote village of Alta Toquima is about as inhospitable as it gets in Nevada. Alta Toquima is located on a 15-to-30 percent slope, an added challenge for both the prehistoric village dwellers and the rare modern-day visitors who brave the steep slopes and long rocky climb to reach the site. The best way to find this village can only be done in the very same way of the ancient ones. Begin by retreating to the still-beating heart of Belmont, 82 miles east of Tonopah. Your trip's only begun. From Belmont, follow the unpaved Belmont Road into Monitor Valley for 33 miles. Here a sign marks its way to "Table Mountain Wilderness, Pine Creek." Turn here and continue up Pine Creek Canyon to a small parking area and campground. This lonely camp is your trailhead into the very remote Table Mountain Wilderness and home to the highest Indian village in North America. The route to Alta Toquima is unmarked! ... so please find the absolute best topo maps you can find! The best topo maps will list the site's location on the south slope of Mt. Jefferson North Summit, about a long day's hike from the northwest from the trailhead.
Fun Fact: While we're on the topic "highest" superlatives, venturing to Alta Toquima will force you to bag another "highest" superlative here in Nevada. The trek to Alta Toquima crests at 11,949 foot Mt. Jefferson South Summit, the highest point in Nye County and third highest peak in Nevada. How's that for a day of superlative bagging?!
I know all you Tahoe people are probably blown away by this one, but the facts and topos don't lie. Set at 6,437 feet above sea level, the Ramada Inn & Casino in Ely barely beats the second runner-up to this one -- the historic Tahoe Biltmore in Crystal Bay. Truckers and travelers on US 6/50/93 know the Ramada well for its brightly-lit neon, the first major hotel on the long road from Delta, Utah and Great Basin Nat'l Park. Location, location, location works in its favor, attracting thousands of people each year for a night's stay, and of course, a convenient gaming fix. In case you're wondering, the Ramada is also slightly higher in elevation than Ely's three other gaming houses, the historic Hotel Nevada and Railroad Inn, located 47 feet lower in elevation. (Guess who had too much time on his hands to find this out?)
- The Ely Ramada Inn & Casino is located a quarter mile south of Aultman Street and Great Basin Blvd, (the US 50 and US 93 junction.) Swing in here on your next trip to Ely and pay homage to the highest Nevada casino in elevation!
Here's a listing of the highest saloons in elevation across the Silver State. Many of these are small seasonal bars and saloons that do not qualify as full on casinos.
- Dirty Dick's Saloon, Belmont (7,424')
- Miner's Saloon, Manhattan (7,000')
- Ore House Saloon, Ione (6,758')
- International Hotel, Austin (6,605')
- Owl Club Casino, Eureka (6,500')
- Majors Place, Connors Summit, White Pine County (6,490')
- Hotel Nevada, Ely (6,437')
- Outdoor Inn, Jarbidge (6,418')
- Tahoe Biltmore, Crystal Bay (6,401')
- Harrah's Tahoe, Stateline (6,283')
What did you think of these superlatives?