Skiing in the Ruby Mountains, NV – Seitz Lake Approach

| March 13, 2016

One of the biggest cruxes of skiing in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada is access, as most of the range is surrounded by private ranches who don’t need no stinkin’ ski hippies crossing their land.  Apart from Lamoille Canyon (home to the world famous Terminal Cancer couloir), getting deep within the range on foot is problematic. However, the Seitz Lake approach is roughly two canyons south from Lamoille and offers direct access to the high, central Rubies, including lots of nice couloirs and the 11,388′ Ruby Dome, which is the high point of the range.

This is a relatively painless approach involving roughly 4 miles of travel, 2,400ish feet of climbing and about 4.5 hours.  From Salt Lake City, you can do the 3:30 minute drive to Elko, pick up the gate key, do the 4 mile approach and set up camp easily in one day.  The exit goes much faster and can be done in about 2:20, which means you can still get in a good day of skiing before heading out.  All told, a three day trip, door-to-door from SLC, will give you a good dose of skiing, travel and fun.


A key element, so to speak, of the Seitz approach is access through the Spring Creek Association‘s rifle range, which involves a daily fee and a locked gate. The Spring Creek Association (SPA) is a homeowner’s association representing roughly 5,000 lots and they have an office with semi-regular business hours. By stopping by between 9:00am and 5:00pm (closed between 12:00 – 1:00 for lunch), paying a refundable $25 key deposit and a $10, per person, per day fee, you get a key to the rifle range gate and parking privileges. The SPA office is located at 451 Spring Creek Parkway and the phone is (775) 753-6295.

The rifle range is separate from the housing area and there is parking right at the firing stations, as well as a restroom.

Adam O’Keefe approaching the locked Spring Creek Association rifle range gate.

Obviously, you only want to skirt the rifle range when people aren’t shooting.

Start the approach by skirting the rifle range to the viewers right.

Free-range booting across the Spring Creek property.  In dry conditions, about 2 miles of this approach could be done in trail shoes.

After skirting the rifle range and contouring through the open, you will reach a ridgeline.  Look for a fence line which delineates the Ruby Dome Ranch and follow it directly downhill for about 500 vertical feet to Rabbit Creek.

From the ridgeline, follow the barbed wire fence down to the creek where you will find this gate and the 4wd road/trail heading up into Seitz Canyon.  There is no public access through the Ruby Dome Ranch.

Lost again.  This is Seitz Canyon with Rabbit Creek to the left.  The main trail is about 300′ to the viewers left and well worth following.

We were lost, and then we found this bridge, but we were actually still lost as the main trail was far to the right.  Still…. nice A-OK action photo.

This is what happens if you stick to the creek bed.  

The main ATV trail is very obvious for the most part.  When in doubt, look for chain-sawed trees/brush.

Follow the ATV trail until it runs out at the confluence of the two valleys.  At this point, bushwhack across the creek to an open slope which can be skinned back up and over into Seitz Canyon proper.  From here, stick to the climber’s right above the shrubbery and below some large boulders for the cleanest line into Seitz Lake.

Seitz Lake with the Seitz Couloir at its head.  Not a bad spot to set up a tent.

The terrain around Seitz Lake is definitely advanced and there are not a lot of options if the avalanche hazard is elevated.  Access to the center part of the range is directly up and over the Seitz Couloir, and access to Ruby Dome is off to the right of this photo through excellent, but steep, rolling terrain.

Coming next: Part Two – The Skiing.

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Category: Trip Reports

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber and Mountain Unicycle rider. He and Polly Samuels McLean are the parents of two very loud little girls.

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