My first hint that this was no ordinary outing came at the cafß in Great Basin National Park. A New Age-ish local with years of exploring the Snake Range under his belt made no bones about it: "Wheeler Peak is okay, but the real power peak around here is Mt. Moriah." It turns out that fellow knows his mountains.
Mt. Moriah (12,067 feet) and the surrounding Snake Range form a massive reef of high country wilderness that rises from a sagebrush ocean. Hendrys Creek Trail, the best access route into the 82,000-acre wilderness, plunges you into what I consider the garden spot of the Great Basin. The canyon is filled with mile upon mile of aspen groves, and a chorus of birds and falling water provide a nice soundtrack to any hike. Good thing, too, because you'll want some distraction during the 5,000-foot climb to The Table, Moriah's sky-high plateau. I spent a memorable day moving around the 11,000-foot-high rim of The Table, observing stands of twisted bristlecone pine and absorbing panoramic views through air so clear I could see for 130 miles. The remoteness and solitude at Mt. Moriah are rarely equaled in the Lower 48.
Where: 242 miles west of Salt Lake City. Take US 50 west to the Nevada border, where you turn north on Silver Creek Road in the direction of Gandy. After about 8 miles, be on the lookout for a sign indicating a left turnoff to Hendrys Creek trailhead.
Maps: You'll need the USGS quads The Cove, Oldman's Canyon, and Mt. Moriah ($6 each, Map Link, 800-962-1394). Hiking Great Basin National Park, by Bruce Grubbs ($9.95, Falcon Publishing, 800-582-2665), is a useful guidebook.
Trail Info: Humboldt-Toyabe National Forest, (775) 289-3031.