Emigrant Peak

Services, Getting There

Hikes & Trails

Related Areas

Map Information



Wilderness Area Status

Inventoried Land with Wilderness Character in the Battle Mountain BLM District

Year Designated
Act or Law: 

Acres: 25,719

State Region: West Central Nevada

County: Esmeralda


Managing Agency: Bureau of Land Management

Local Districts: Battle Mountain District Office

Contact Info: (775) 635-4000 50 Bastian Rd. Battle Mountain, NV 89820 Visit the website (will open a new window)



Area Description

The Emigrant Peak Area presents a wide diversity of natural terrains and habitats where nature integrity still abides. Natural processes as old as the earth continue to carve and sculpt these mountains into a spectacular complex of rugged canyons and colorful ridges surrounded by vast alluvial fans.  The pure scale of this landscape swallows-up the visitor and makes one feel immersed in the desert. Rainfall in this area averages only about 5 inches per year and summer temperatures can rise to more than 110° F.   The plant life reflects the struggles of survival in such sever conditions.  The alluvial fans on the north and south side of Emigrant Peak reach all the way down to the white alkali dust of the dry lakes of Columbus Salt Marsh and the Fish Lake Valley respectively.  Elevations vary from 4500 feet adjacent to the dry lakes up to almost 6800 feet atop Emigrant Peak. The sparse vegetation leaves the colorful formations bare and exposed to the catastrophic effects of the infrequent but violent storms.  Dry washes provide avenues for exploring deep into the chaotic labyrinth of hills that form the heart of the area. Every twist and turn reveals new and surprising variations of color, texture, and rock formations.  And within those formations a visitor can be completely alone and isolated from the frenetic activities of the human world. 

Sparse, salt-tolerant plants dominate the lower reaches of the alluvial fans. But on the upper reaches, particularly on the southwest side of the area, the vegetation increases in diversity and Mojave cacti enters the mix.  These upper fans create spectacular natural gardens with a diversity of desert plants artfully arranged by nature with colorful
rocks slowing being transported down to fill the basins below. 

The broad, gently sloping fans provide a visual contrast to the jumbled peaks of the uplands.  These alluvial fans also provide a canvas for the daily paintings of sun and shadow as the sun rises and sets over the mountains. The Emigrant Peak area retains its treeless, desert aspect all the way to the top of Emigrant Peak where the Mojave vegetation transitions to sagebrush steppe on the highest peaks. 

The marshes and pools of water in the Gap Spring region on the western edge the Emigrant Peak area represents one of the most outstanding natural resources for the region.  These water resources offer a welcome oasis for a broad spectrum of wildlife and for human visitors alike.  EmigrantP12_S2_PetersonK.jpg

The Emigrant Peak area presents opportunities for primitive and unconfined recreation that are limited only the imagination.  The desert aspect of the area provides visitors with access to nearly every part of the region, provided that they have sufficient skills to navigate the varied and often challenging terrain.  Every corner of the area offers spectacular opportunities for photography, from intimate portraits of plants, animals, and enigmatic rock formations to sweeping landscapes encompassing not only the dramatic terrain of the area but endless backgrounds of distant mountains and valleys beyond.  Sketch artists and painters can also find outstanding subject matter within the area.  Gap Springs and several guzzlers within the area provide focal points for watching wildlife and assure that game species will be plentiful for hunters.  Small, bare-rock plateaus and walls along the eastern edge of the area provide opportunities for rock climbing and slot-canyon exploration.  Emigrant Peak itself provides a destination for those visitor who climb and “collect” desert peaks.   Opportunities abound for hiking, horseback riding, and, for the person willing to carry his own water, backpacking.  Burro packing could provide a visitors with a welcome companion in the empty landscape of the Emigrant Peak area and help make a living-history connection with the challenges the earliest prospectors faced in the region.

For the amateur geologist, the rocks of the Emigrant Peak area span more than 400 million years. The oldest components belong to seafloor sediments, scooped-up by the unrelenting march of the North American continent across the pacific. But the 17 to 20 million year old rhyolite-based volcanic rocks characterize the greatest mass of the materials exposed in the area.  Prehistoric and historic use of the Emigrant Peak area by humans have left compelling traces and clues to how these people lived.  Chert is common in the sedimentary rock and provided an important source for the raw material for early lithic cultures.  And the northeast corner of the Emigrant Peak area offers access to adjacent historic mining operations including the early 20th century mine that gave Coaldale junction its name.  Rockhounding combined with geological and historical sightseeing present additional outstanding recreational opportunities within the Emigrant Peak area.

To see more photos and explore this Unit on Google Earth, visit Panoramio (will open a new window) 

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