By Michael Lanza
Under a hot sun, but with a nice breeze keeping us cool, on our second day backpacking the Ruby Crest Trail in Nevada’s Ruby Mountains, we made the slow, 1,700-foot climb from the North Fork of Smith Creek to a pass at over 10,000 feet. It was a grind and my family spread out along the trail. But reaching the pass, we all stopped and smiled, mesmerized by a breathtaking view of the small basin that cradles Overland Lake and the mountains extending for miles beyond it (photo above).
Although our trip’s first two days had already been very scenic from the first steps, that pass heralded the upcoming character and magnificence of the Ruby Crest Trail, which does largely hew to the crest of this very alpine mountain range. I had long had the Ruby Crest Trail on my radar, but it exceeded expectations, with almost constant, long vistas and some mountain lakes that are among the prettiest I’ve seen in more than three decades of backpacking, including the 10 years I spent as the Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog.
My family backpacked a four-day, approximately 36-mile, south-to-north traverse of the Ruby Crest Trail, from Harrison Pass to Lamoille Canyon, in mid-July—a perfect time of year in the Rubies, with wildflowers blooming, moderate daytime temperatures and comfortably cool nights, and not as many mosquitoes as you’d see in many mountain ranges in July. But like many Western mountain ranges, the Rubies can be backpacked from sometime in July, when the highest sections of trail become mostly snow-free, well into September and sometimes into October.
If you are looking for a trip to take this summer or early autumn, the Ruby Crest Trail offers easy logistics, with no permit reservation required and a relatively short shuttle between the north and south trailheads. And I can help you plan a trip on the Ruby Crest Trail. See my Custom Trip Planning page for details.
And it’s a beautiful hike. But I’ll let the photos below make that case.
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In many respects, the Ruby Crest Trail compares favorably with some trips on my list of the top 10 best backpacking trips in America. And our campsite by Overland Lake in the Rubies earned a place on my list of top 25 favorite backcountry campsites of all time.
Read my feature story about this trip, “Backpacking the Ruby Crest Trail—A Diamond in the Rough,” at The Big Outside.