Mountain Pass Peaks
(Clark Mtn, New York Peak, Castle Mtns)

Revised 23 Apr 2013 - please send updates to the webmaster

home See Driving Directions > Mojave Desert for context and how to get here.
info view GPS waypoints: simple Waypoint+ format, download GPX file, or overlay on interactive map.
Scroll down for detailed maps of Clark, New York, and Castle below.
Click here for a 2009 trip report on Clark and New York.
Click here for a 2012 trip report on peaks in the Castle Mountains.

About half way from Barstow to Las vegas, I-15 crosses the Clark Mountain Range. At cleverly named Mountain Pass there is an exit for what used to be the world's largest rare earth metals mine. There are no services here, but there are lots of dead end and gated and re-routed mining roads that don't match the USGS maps.

An interesting side note from The Atlantic magazine's May 2009 issue,
in an article titled "Clean Energy's Dirty Little Secret"
:
Mountain Pass’s mine contains a rare-earth ore that yields neodymium, the pixie dust of green tech—necessary for the lightweight permanent magnets that make Prius motors zoom and for the generators that give wind turbines their electrical buzz.
...
until 1989, the expanding pit at Mountain Pass supplied most of the world’s rare earths
...
Rare earths are actually fairly common. What’s rare is finding deposits that can be mined profitably, in part because most contain radioactive thorium.
...
Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water carrying radioactive waste spilled into and around Ivanpah Dry Lake.

Overview Map:   Labels on all maps are in the waypoint file.


Clark Mountain - 2009 trip report - GPS Route CLARK 2WD - scroll down for two topo maps

Most of this road is suitable for passenger cars (except the 4WD alternative part). I was there with the DPS in 2009 and we had both the DPS Guide and SummitPost directions, neither of which was right. The group wasted almost an hour driving and stopping and going back. I've tried to describe a simple route that's OK for any vehicle - look at the shape of the red GPS track log on the map below, it should make sense of all these words!

In May 2009 Steve wrote: There may be an alternative to the worst part of the road, but since I was there with a group I didn't have a chance to explore it. Anyone with more/better info please contact me so I can update this page!

In Sep 2009 Doug Shaw responded: I have been up Clark Mountain 2-3 times, but not recently. My motive was birding since some extremely rare birds have been found up there. Anyhow I once took my Toyota Corolla that I had in the late 1990's all the way to the small bullet-ridden camp. As for the gate on the dirt road I have always found it open. Apparently, the road is all public property as long as you don't leave the road while passing through the mining area. The dirt road follows the powerlines in rollercoaster hills and ends up in Nevada. There are several nice reports on Clark Mountain on the web from birders describing routes taken. Once, I and a friend hiked up shortly before dusk in May and spent a chilly night just below the fir bowl with a nice sunset and later Common Poorwills flying by.

In April 2010 Steve went back with a passenger car and a GPS. As noted below, center clearance makes it a bit dicey to take a regular car all the way to the trailhead, but any vehicle can certainly bypass the 4WD section originally described and get close enough to dayhike the peak.

Exit I-15 at Bailey Road for Mountain Pass (waypoint MTNP15) and go north on Bailey to Clark Mtn Road (a frontage road parallel to I-15). Between the freeway and the frontage road there's a shoulder where the CHP said we could leave cars for the day. Turn west on Clark Mtn Road (waypoint CLKRD1) and follow the freeway west for a mile.

The road bends NW and crosses a cattle guard where the pavement ends (waypoint CLKRD2). Go straight (northwest) on a good dirt road which parallels small telephone poles for half a mile with a huge mine tailings pile to the right (east). Where the road turns right about 1.5 miles from I-15 (waypoint CLKRD3), the USGS map incorrectly shows something going straight. Follow the road as it turns 90 degrees and go northwest about 3/4 mile, still with the huge tailings piles on your right.

Ignore a left turn or two until you cross under much bigger powerline poles (waypoint CLK4WA). Continue straight for the passenger car road, or if you want a more challenging alternative, turn left and follow the low voltage powerline access road with your 4WD vehicle. Just to be clear: The red line is the good road, the green line is the 4WD alternative. Most people will want to continue 100 yards past the powerlines, turning left on another dirt road (waypoint CLKRD4) about 50 yards before a gate marked "private property". This road is not as good, but is still a graded gravel road suitable for all cars.

Drive north up a wash until the road bends left and crosses under high voltage power lines (waypoint CLKRD5, 1.6 miles from the low voltage powerlines). Ignore junctions here, follow the main road 0.5 miles west to a cluster of intersections (waypoint CLK4WD) northwest of a power substation. This is where the low voltage powerline 4WD alternative route bumps back into the passenger car road. Bear right (at CLK4WD) and then immediately bear left at a second fork (waypoint CLKRD7). The effect of these two turns is to keep going exactly the same direction you had been going.

Labels on all maps are in the waypoint file.

NOTE: That second fork (waypoint CLKRD7, 4.4 miles from the freeway) is NOT QUITE where the USGS map shows it and is NOT mentioned in the DPS Guide. You'll bear left there rather than heading for a chain link gate - so if you end up at a gate, turn around and turn sharp right as soon as possible.

Passenger cars should park at CLKRD7, because it will soon get narrow and rocky and steep with more center clearance problems. It might be possible to get all the way to the trailhead with a passenger car, but high-clearance 2WD would be preferable. There is no need for 4WD unless you're doing the alternate route (green line) just for fun (in which case you'll need to pay attention as you jog around the power substation to reach CLK4WD).

Less than a quarter mile later there's a place (waypoint CLKRD8) where you can charge straight up the hill (with 4WD) or jog left for a lower angle switchback. Keep going NW. Less than a mile from CLK4WD the road enters a wash leading to the mouth of a canyon. Don't be confused where the canyon starts and the road leaves the wash to stay on the left (waypoint CLKRD9) about 1.4 miles from CLK4WD or 5.7 miles from the freeway.

A trash can has been turned into a cairn at the final turn (waypoint CLKRDJ). Go right and a tenth of a mile later you'll arrive at a great campground (waypoint CLKMTH) with trees, tables, pit BBQs, and trash cans shot full of holes. The other road from the cairn goes a few feet higher and shortens the hike by a little bit, but the picnic area (waypoint CLKMTH) is the preferred trailhead. It's pretty and it's isolated and I wish we had spent the night before the climb here instead of out in the desert by Baker! (see the Atlantic article on radioactive contamination of that dry lakebed)


New York Mountain - 2009 trip report - GPS Route NEW YORK

Detailed New York Mtn Map:
See also overview map above.

Labels on all maps are in the waypoint file.
Most of this drive is shown ONLY on the overview map!

5 miles east of Mountain Pass there is an exit for Nipton Road (waypoint NIPT15), as the freeway turns north and continues to drop. Exit and go east to Ivanpah Road (waypoint NIPIVA, 3.4 mi from I-15), which is marked with both a yellow intersection sign and green street signs. Turn right (south) and follow Ivanpah Road past Morning Star Line Rd (waypoint IVAMOR, 6.6 mi from I-15) and southeast to railroad tracks and a powerline (waypoint IVANPA, 13 mi from I-15). The road turns left (east), then bends southeast again (waypoint IVANP1) before the pavement ends (waypoint IVANP2, 15.4 miles from the freeway).

Ivanpah Rd is now a wide gravel road, sometimes quite rough and rocky, which zigzags south to a cattle guard at IVANP5, about 23 miles from I-15. Continue south to the intersection with New York Mountain Road (waypoint IVANYM, about 28 miles from the freeway), which is marked by going through a fence and gate, seeing a big windmill on the left (east). Oh, and there's a green street sign that says New York Mtn Rd!. Turn right (west) onto a narrow but still excellent dirt road. All the way to the 4-way intersection where you turn north into Caruthers Canyon (waypoint NYMCYN, just over 33 miles from I-15) this dirt road is trivial for any vehicle.

The further north you go into Caruthers Canyon, however, the worse the road gets. One mile north of New York Mtn Rd (waypoint NYMCC1) there is a water tank and some confusing paths where you should stay right to go straight. Stay right again at another fork 1.6 miles from NYM Rd (waypoint NYMCC2). The final fork is 1.7 miles from NYM Rd (waypoint NYMCC3), where the right path is a sandy narrow brushy dead end. Passenger cars might get into trouble here. Instead, stay right at NYMCC3 and head across the wash into a nice stand of trees just under 2 miles from New York Mtn Rd (waypoint NYM2WD). Here there are fire rings and lots of good campsites with a cool rocky backdrop. Passenger cars are OK to this point, but high clearance is needed to go on.

Less than half a mile later (waypoint NYM4WD) there is a turnaround and limited parking. Serious 4WDs could drive on, but it's probably not worth it. In 2009 we all walked from the campground. You should leave the 4WD track at waypoint NYMEND, 2.9 miles from New York Mtn Road and marked by some corrugated steel litter in the wash, and head up the gully going west.


Castle Mountains - 2012 trip report - GPS Route CASTLE MOUNTAINS

See also overview map above.
Labels on all maps are in the waypoint file.
Most of this drive is shown ONLY on the overview map!

5 miles east of Mountain Pass there is an exit for Nipton Road (waypoint NIPT15), as the freeway turns north and continues to drop. Exit and go east to Ivanpah Road (waypoint NIPIVA, 3.4 mi from I-15), which is marked with both a yellow intersection sign and green street signs. Turn right (south) and follow Ivanpah Road past Morning Star Line Rd (waypoint IVAMOR, 6.6 mi from I-15) and southeast to railroad tracks and a powerline (waypoint IVANPA, 13 mi from I-15). The road turns left (east), then bends southeast again (waypoint IVANP1) before the pavement ends (waypoint IVANP2, 15.4 miles from the freeway).

Ivanpah Rd is now a wide gravel road, sometimes quite rough and rocky, which zigzags south Barnwell at waypoint CASJCT, about 20 miles from I-15. Continuing straight here goes to New York Mountain Road but for Castle Mountains turn left (southeast) on a smaller dirt track.

Detailed Castle Mtns Map: (directions above are the same as to New York Mtn)

Matt Hengst provided the track log and description from Ivanpah Rd to this trailhead:

We had my Rav4 loaded down despite there being only three of us so I had to watch the ground clearance once or twice. Passenger cars are definitely out but I'd say any sort of high clearance vehicle should be just fine if care is taken.

Things get a little rougher past the last earth dam visible on the topo (waypoint CASM06) so if you're having clearance issues to that point I'd stop there. We pushed on and briefly regretted it as the ruts in the road became much more pronounced causing a few scrapes.

A little further on the road ends at wilderness sign (waypoint CASMTH, at 5000') and there's a rather nice campspot off to the right complete with a fire ring. The wilderness boundary was right next to camp though the road continues on the other side. It was apparent from the fresh tire tracks that not everyone was letting the posts stop them.


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