Best Hikes in Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest (NV)

Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Overview

The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest offers a setting of classic Western beauty and is known for its many recreational opportunities, scenic vistas, and wild places where visitors can still find solitude. The Forest does not resemble most other National Forests in that it has numerous fairly large but non-contiguous sections scattered across most of the state of Nevada and a portion of eastern California. It is also the largest national forest outside of Alaska. The Forest’s landscapes range from towering snow-capped peaks to wide-open sage steppe. Below you will find the best hikes in Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest! Consider the size of the forest before planning your visit as drives to trailheads could be 7 hours or more apart.

StateNevada; California
Nearest Metro AreaLas Vegas, NV
Area Size6,289,821 acres
EstablishedJuly 1, 1908
Hiking Trails1,741 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest

(*** = best hikes in Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest)

Cathedral Rock Trail – 2.8 miles out and back
Cathedral Rock
Cathedral Rock, Photo by Intermountain Forest Service, USDA Region 4

The trail begins in Mazie Canyon amid ponderosa and white fir, but soon enters a stand of aspen. This is one of the most colorful areas in the summer when the wildflowers are blooming and the butterflies are around. About halfway up is a waterfall just off the trail to the left. There is a short, old road leading to it. Although three falls flow down early in the season, there is usually only a trickle by the end of the summer. As the trail ascends out of the canyon toward the back of Cathedral Rock one gets a view of the avalanche chute below. When the trail reaches the saddle, keep to the right. The trail climbs a few short, steep switchbacks before reaching the summit. On top is a spectacular view of Kyle Canyon several hundred feet below.

Dry Pond Loop – 6.5 mile loop
Dry Pond Loop in autumn
Dry Pond Loop in Autumn, Photo by Mitch Barrie

The Dry Pond Loop is a combination of trails including Thomas Creek and Jones/Whites Creek Trails. The creeks run all year long and the trails are heavily shaded. You can take the loop in either direction though most start from the Thomas Creek Trailhead and go counter-clockwise.

Fletcher Canyon Trail – 4.0 miles out and back
Fletcher Canyon, Photo by Stan Shebs

Fletcher Canyon Trail begins with an easy ½ mile ascent up to a peaceful spring where wild rose, columbine, shooting stars and ferns thrive in the lush, cool environment. The path then drops into the streambed and may require some rock scrambling to continue. This is the end of the maintained trail. Hikers willing to explore and find the path continue on further. Use caution when climbing over the rocks, many are worn smooth by the water and are dangerously slick even when dry. The 1.4 mile Eagles Nest Loop makes for an optional add-on as you return to the trailhead.

Hunter Creek Trail – 6.2 miles out and back
Hunter Creek Canyon, Photo by Mitch Barrie

This is a widely popular trail just southwest of Reno. Sun-exposed most of the way, it travels south at a gradual incline leading to several creek crossings and a small 30′ waterfall. This is a great option for the entire family all year-round.

Mary Jane Falls Trail – 3.2 miles out and back
Mary Jane Falls Trailhead, Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, Nevada
Mary Jane Falls Trailhead, Photo by Ken Lund

Moderately difficult climb up to a beautiful canyon and waterfall in the Spring Mountains NRA just west of Las Vegas. The trail is heavily trafficked and has graffiti in some spots but it is still worthwhile. The trailhead is typically open from April to December depending on the weather. Two springs can be seen cascading down steep terraced cliff walls. The falls flow year round, but they are most spectacular in early spring when they are flowing at their peak. Early in the season water may be seen flowing over Big Falls in the distance from Mary Jane Falls Trail. The path to Big Falls is also worth exploring but is not maintained by the NFS so it can be difficult to locate.

Mount Rose Trail*** – 12.2 mile loop
Mount Rose, Photo by Mr. Richard

The highest peak on the north shore of Lake Tahoe Basin (10,778’), this 5.2 mile each way hike offers excellent views of the lake, the city of Reno and the surrounding area. The route is challenging but the steadiness of the elevation gain and switchbacks make it doable for most skill levels. On your way back, tack on a little more mileage by looping around Tamarack Peak taking the Tahoe Rim Trail back to the trailhead. If you’re looking for a less challenging hike, the 4.6 mile out and back trail to Galena Falls from the same trailhead is much more mild. This is widely considered one of the best hikes in Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, if not the entire state of Nevada.

North Loop Trail to Mummys Toe*** – 8.1 miles out and back
Mummy Mountain, Photo by Stan Shebs

This hike offers the ultimate Spring Mountains views as hikers can see all the major peaks in the area from the top. The first few miles climb steadily up the North Loop Trail to the 3,000-year-old bristlecone pine called Raintree. Once at Raintree, your destination is the 1000′ cliff standing directly in front of you. The last 1/2 mile is extremely steep on the climb up to Mummy’s Toe but the payoff is worth it.

Ruby Crest National Recreation Trail + Island Lake*** – 11.6 miles out and back
Liberty Lake and Lake Peak SE from Ruby Crest Trail, Ruby Mountains, Nevada
Liberty Lake, Photo by Jim Morefield

This is a combination of 2 trails both beginning from the Lamoille Canyon Trailhead in the Ruby Mountains Wilderness in northeastern Nevada. The trail north to Island Lake is only 1.8 miles long but well worth it. The Ruby Crest National Recreation Trail heads south from the trailhead for close to 40 miles and makes for a great backpacking trip if you have the time and stamina. It is a beautiful trail along a mountain range featuring several high alpine lakes. Day hikers have options to turn around at Liberty Lake or Favre Lake (4 – 5.5 miles from the northern trailhead). Backpackers can also start at the southern Harrison Pass trailhead though it is not as popular as Lamoille Canyon.

South Loop Trail to Griffith Peak*** – 9.6 miles out and back
Griffith Peak Summit, Photo by Stan Shebs

This is a strenuous hike up to the summit of Griffith Peak (11,059′) offering panoramic views of the surrounding area. There are plenty of shaded spots to stop and catch your breath along the way. 39 switchbacks on the way up to the saddle take a little off of the steepness; however the last 500′ or so to the summit is the real test. If you’re a peakbagger or have some extra energy, continue 4.25 miles up to Mt. Charleston (11,916′). This is the easiest route up to Mt. Charleston but make sure you plan ahead and start early. If you hit both peaks, you are looking at 18.1 miles roundtrip.

Upper/Lower Bristlecone Loop – 5.9 mile loop
Great Basin Bristlecone Pine, Photo by Famartin

The beginning of the Upper Bristlecone Trail winds through a picturesque forest abundant with fir and large quaking aspen. As you climb out of the canyon, the vegetation becomes sparser due to harsher conditions and shorter growing season found on these more exposed slopes. It is here that you reach the rugged stands of ancient Bristlecone pines. After two miles the trail widens and follows the abandoned WPA road. Follow this road for the remainder of the Bristlecone Trail. The route passes the junction with the Bonanza Trail then descends into a canyon as the Lower Bristlecone Trail. Stay on the abandoned road, pass through a small grove of aspen, and continue on until the roadbed ends at the lower Bristlecone trail head. Walk south up State Route 156 for ¾ mile to return to the upper parking lot of Lee Canyon Ski Area.

Featured Image: View of Charleston Peak, Photo by Famartin

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