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Searching for paradise along the Santa Rosa Range

Chip Carron

About 40 miles north of Winnemucca is a hidden land that’s known by few. I just have to let you in on the secret.

In our never-ending exploration of the Nevada outback, Pat and I hit upon the idea of checking out the Santa Rosa Range. It’s remote and off the beaten track, but that’s just why we went there.

The Santa Rosa Paradise Peak Wilderness Area in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest is a lovely place. Its near-10,000-foot peaks may lie in a more-northern storm track and trap a little more precipitation in winter. The runoff generously supports Paradise Valley, a verdant ranchland on the eastern side of the mountains.

In 1863, a group of prospectors stumbled into the rich valley after an arduous journey from the west. Miner W.B. Huff proclaimed, “What a paradise!” and the name stuck.

We approached the range by driving up Paradise Valley and then turned west up the dirt road to the Singas Creek Trailhead. The road ends at about the 6,500-foot level on the eastern slope.

There are few campsites, but the infrequent visitor is rewarded with an idyllic setting of numerous stream tributaries in a huge basin filled with aspen. The aspen grove is so large it makes you think you’re in the Rockies rather than Nevada.

The lush environment includes a multitude of wildflowers. We stopped counting at about 30 species. The thick forest also supports a lot of birds, and as far as mammals, we saw several marmots and deer.

The area is so rarely used that our visit in mid-June appeared to the first of the season. The trailhead is only a half mile off the “Summit Trail,” which winds around canyons in a north-south track.

The trail, despite its name, does not lead to the summit of any significant peak, but it does eventually cross the lower southern crest of the range.

That early in the season, the path was so overgrown it was a little indistinct at times. However, lack of use was our gain. It made you think you had the place to yourself – and we did.

One could choose to explore the trail by heading north or south. The section through the Singas Creek basin is the most heavily forested and well-watered. Sections to the north or south are typically a sage- and-juniper landscape with areas of aspen and limber pine.

The slopes of the North Hanson Creek drainage, about 3 miles north of Singas Creek, support a rookery of ravens in an aspen grove. We were entertained by the raucous calls of several hundred of the birds during our hike to the north.

For those at ease with cross-country travel, you could spend a day following our plan: a circumnavigation of the Singas Creek drainage.

The best route would be to take the Summit Trail to the north and ascend the ridge forming the northern side of the basin, traverse over the top of 9,443-foot Paradise Peak, descend the ridge forming the southern edge of the basin, then return on the trail. If you stay on ridges, you’ll probably avoid dense brush, which can be a problem.

Our trek let us sample the many alpine environments of the basin, from the drier sage-juniper slopes, brush-covered terrain, the rocky ridge of Paradise Peak, and even snowfields in the upper basin before returning along a magical little lupine-lined lane with swallow-tail butterflies, bees and birds flitting about the aspen woodlands.

• Editor’s note: Chip Carron, of Stagecoach, is an avid hiker.