Needle Rock

After a few weekends “off” for home improvement projects, did a wonderful Fall hike in the Painted Hills area of the Virginia Mountains west of Pyramid Lake. Our destination was Needle Rock, the impressive if not-so-needle-like outcropping pictured above. Another goal was bagging two geocaches, the Neddle [sic] Rock cache and the Wheat Penny Cache. Hunting for the Needle Rock Cache was nearly an exercise frustration, but after much looking M. found the ammo can deep in a rock crevice a few meters from our GPS position of the coordinates at geocaching.com. The Wheat Penny cache was smaller, in an Altoids box, but I found it almost immediately thanks to the hint in the geochaching.com log. The canyon we came down includes some interesting red sandstone features locally known as the “monkey condos”. The hike back to the car was farther than planned because we got confused on the drive in (see below), so we headed cross country in the flats and arrived at the car just as the sky turned red from the sunset.

Photo Album

Track and Profile

Directions: From Reno, take the Pyramid Highway (NV 445) northeast toward Pyramid Lake to a turn-off about 1000 feet before the reservation boundary (coordinates in the GeoLocator below). Turn north and follow the roads to any suitable starting point. The road is rough with some washouts and requires a high-clearance vehicle to go far (actually the roads near the highway are worse than farther in). There are more roads now than on the USGS topo maps, with confusing intersections; we ended up at a different place than planned (not a problem going up, but made for a bit longer hike than we intended because we came down a different way). For an out-and-back hike to Needle Rock, I would recommend parking at UTM 11S 4420038N 0275686E. For the loop of the two canyons including the Monkey Condos, a good place to park would be UTM 11S 4419194N 0275452E.
Statistics:

8.9 mi (3.78 mi uphill, 3.68 mi downhill, 1.51 mi flat)
~1950 ft total ascent – 18.1 % uphill grade, 45.4 % downhill grade
6:24:42 total time (4:49:44 moving, 1:34:58 stopped)
0:27:18 pace (2.2 mph average speed, 10.9 mph max speed)
20.803 difficulty, 35.379 effort