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U.S. Forest Service

Intermountain Region Viewing Area


Western columbine and swallowtail butterfly. Western columbine (Aquilegia formosa) and swallowtail butterfly (Papilio rutulus). Photo by Marnie Bonesteel.

Wyoming paintbrush. Wyoming paintbrush (Castilleja linariifolia). Photo by Joanne Baggs.

Mule's Ears. Mule's Ears (Wyethia amplexicaulis). Photo by Andy De Geus.

Hinkey Summit

Forest: Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest

District: Santa Rosa Ranger District

Description: The Santa Rosa Ranger District is a local favorite for extensive displays of wildflowers. The District provides excellent opportunities for solitude since few travelers venture off the highway into the heart of the district. The small campground at Lye Creek can fill up on holiday weekends but it’s possible to spend days in the area and meet only a handful of people.

The main road through the district provides a diversity of environments to view wildflowers. As the road follows Indian Creek up toward Hinkey Summit you will pass lush stands of cottonwoods and aspens. Along the canyon walls and rocks outcrops bloom penstemons, buckwheats, and globemallows. In wetter areas ranger’s buttons and larkspurs abound. As you reach the slope just below the summit you will be surrounded by a field of yellow mule’s ears. At the top of the road you can hike up the jeep trail to the southeast to view subalpine species nestled in the large rock outcrops, including the petite but eye-catching Davidson’s penstemon. If you like to watch wildlife, bring the binoculars; bighorn sheep can often be seen grazing in the rocks and cliffs. Along the dry slopes in mid-summer are abundant sego lilies. Two miles north of the summit is the turn-off for Lye Creek Campground. This is the only developed campground on the district and offers drinking water and toilets. The Martin Basin area (between Hinkey Summit and Windy Gap) boasts a multitude of flowers throughout the summer and spectacular golden aspens in the fall. Several wet meadows in the lower areas of the Basin hold irises, checkermallow, and the unusual elk thistle. The road to Windy Gap is lined with fragrant lupines and paintbushes.

Best viewing times: Flowers are at their peak in June and July.

Safety First: There are no paved roads within the District; the main road from Windy Gap to Paradise Valley is well maintained gravel and side roads vary from packed dirt to high clearance jeep trails. The roads can be muddy or rutted from spring run-off and may be blocked by snow at the summits between November and June. Please check with the District Office in Winnemucca for local road conditions. The speed limit on Forest roads is 25 mph. Please watch for other traffic and animals. Gas is available at Orovada, McDermitt, and the junction of US 95 and NV 290. Make sure your tank is full before heading into the Forest. If you plan to camp, be prepared for thunderstorms and chilly nights even in the warmest months.

Directions: The Santa Rosa District lies east of US95 from 30 miles north of Winnemucca to the Oregon border. District maps can be purchased at the office in Winnemucca or at offices in Sparks or Elko, Nevada.

To reach the Santa Rosa District from Reno or California, travel east on Interstate 80 to Winnemucca at exit 176. Continue east on Winnemucca Blvd to US 95. Turn left (north) and follow the highway 22 miles to NV 290 at the Chevron Station. This is the last gas station before you return to Highway 95. Follow NV 290 east and north 18 miles to the town of Paradise Valley. At the four-way stop turn right and then immediately left, following the signs for Hinkey Summit Road. The pavement ends approximately 3 miles from town and the top of Hinkey Summit is 15 miles. The road is steep and winding, please limit speeds to 25 mph on gravel roads and watch out for oncoming traffic, livestock, and wildlife. From Hinkey Summit you can return to Paradise Valley or continue through more wildflower viewing areas in Martin Basin to Windy Gap and return to US 95 north of the town of Orovada. To return to Winnemucca, follow US 95 south.

From southern Nevada: Follow US 95 north to the junction with Interstate 80. Turn east and follow directions above.

From Elko or Utah: Travel west on Interstate 80 to exit 178; follow Winnemucca Blvd east to US 95, turn right and follow directions above.

From Idaho: Follow US 95 south. Approximately 13 miles south of the town of McDermitt, turn left onto the Buckskin/Indian Creek Canyon Road and follow it up to Windy Gap. The road continues down through Martin Basin and up to Hinkey Summit.

Ownership and Management: Most of the area is National Forest land, though there are several private summer homes in the area. Please do not trespass on private lands.

Closest Town: Paradise Valley, Nevada, to the southeast; Orovada, Nevada, to the west; and McDermitt, Nevada, to the north are each a few miles from the Santa Rosa District boundary. The nearest large town with lodging and other amenities is Winnemucca, Nevada, about 30 miles to the south.

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