Commonly Backpacked · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
This trail enters the Ruby Mountains Wilderness and the usual federal wilderness area regulations and restrictions apply here. Practice Leave No Trace (LNT) backcountry skills and ethics. Camp 100 feet from fragile areas; bury human waste at least 200 feet from water, trails, and campsites. This trail is usually closed by snow between November and May. Snow may linger at the higher elevations into July.
The approximately 36-mile long Ruby Crest National Recreation Trail is located in the Ruby Mountains in North Eastern Nevada. Much of it is in the Ruby Mountains Wilderness. The trail winds its way along the entire length of the range between its trailheads at Harrison Pass in the south and Lamoille Canyon in the north (the one closest to Elko). It can be done in either direction.
The trail’s lowest point is at Harrison Pass (7,200 feet) and its highest point is Wines Peak (10,893 feet), but much of the trail is at around 10,000 feet. Starting at Lamoille Canyon puts you into an area of incredibly beautiful alpine lakes and stunningly rocky peaks almost immediately.
If you don’t have time for a backpack, then an out-and-back to Liberty or Favre Lakes from Lamoille Canyon in highly reccomended (and probably the most popular route in the range).
Need to Know
The Lamoille Canyon Trailhead has paved parking, pit toilets, and a turn-around. The Harrison Pass Trailhead is a dirt parking area with no amenities. Water is usually abundant on the trail except for the 8 mile section between North Furlong and the Overland Creek Drainage. Shuttle services are available in Elko, Nevada for those who want to run the entire trail.
For a north to south run, the trail starts at Lamoille Canyon at 8,780 feet and goes up to 10,445 feet at Liberty Pass. The view from the overlook above Liberty Lake is one of the best views in the entire range. From the pass, the trail drops to Favre Lake at 9,510 feet, goes back up to the saddle by North Furlong Lake at 10,135 feet, drops back again by North Furlong Lake, and then climbs again to Wines Peak at 10,893 feet.
From Wines Peak, the trail runs along the top of the Ruby Mountains staying close to or above 10,000 feet until it’s time to drop down to Overland Creek. This section has few trees and no water; however, you should be able to melt some snow while running this section most times of the year. You have great views of Ruby Valley to one side and Mahogany and Long Canyons on the other. There is also a great view of South Fork Reservoir and Mound Valley.
From the area above Overland Creek at 10,150 feet you drop to the creek at 8,990 feet, then climb to Overland Lake at 9,453 feet. Overland Lake is set amongst steep, rocky cliffs and slopes. From the lake, you climb over the ridge above it (at around 10,000 feet) and descend into the North Fork Smith Creek drainage. There are a number of streams that cross the trail in this area and, as a result, wildlife is more abundant here and there are wildflowers scattered along the slopes in season.
From the ridge above Overland Lake, the trail descends into and through the Smith Creek (North, Middle, South) drainages at around 8,000 feet. From there it climbs to around 9,300 feet and then drops a little into McCutcheon Creek, then heads toward Green Mountain and a slow descent to Harrison Pass at 7,200 feet. Around 4 miles before Harrison Pass, the trail becomes an OHV trail, then a 4x4 road. This section of the trail is a sagebrush-dominant landscape with very little shade so it can get pretty hot.
Some prefer to do this backpack from south to north, so that the hotter and less scenic parts are disposed of first and the trip ends with the spectacular scenery near Lamoille Canyon. For this, you can leave your vehicle at the ample parking lot at the northern trailhead and arrange a shuttle to the Harrison Pass trailhead.
Shared By: Bruce Hope