There are a scattering of old trails in the lower elevations of the highland Ridge Wilderness between Murphy Wash, Big Spring Wash, and Decathon Canyon. These trails, however are poorly marked, not maintained, and difficult to find and travel. At the upper end of the cherry stem road in Decathon Canyon is the only maintained trailhead in the Wilderness, the south end of the Highland Ridge Route. This trail leads north into Great Basin National Park where connections can be made with the park's central trail system. The road's end of John's Wash (accessed via Murhy's Wash Road) offers another opportunity for following an aspen filled canyon into the highest country of the South Snake Range. Exploring this remote and wild landscape off-trail requires advanced Wilderness navigation and orientation skills. The rewards of exploring this trackless wilderness include stunning views of a scenic corner of Nevada and the amplified solitude of traveling through a landscape empty of other users. Nothing can compare to the stark beauty of a twisted bristlecone pine clinging to a rocky summit while endless basins and ranges recede into the distance.
Note: Any explorer who follows either John's Wash Canyon or the Highland Ridge Trail into the the high country will be broken-hearted to discover that the 1,581-acre Phillips Ranch Fire, which started in pinion-juniper by lightning in 2000, became an active crown fire and raced upslope stopping only at the top of the tree-line (10,900 feet) on the summits of Mount Washington and Lincoln Peak. This high-intensity burn resulted in the nearly complete tree mortality of what was the largest bristlecone pine-Englemann spruce stand in the South Snake Range.