The Virginia Mountains are a mountain range in Washoe County, Nevada—not to be confused with the Virginia Range to the south that contains historic Virginia City. The Virginia Mountains rise directly from the western shore of Pyramid Lake. To the north they abut the Honey Lake Valley, Sand Pass, and the Terraced Hills, to the west by Winnemucca Valley and neighboring Dogskin Mountain, and to the south by the Pah Rah Range. The highest peak is Tule Peak (8,724 feet). This peak and the southern part of the mountain range can be seen from many places in Reno looking to the northeast. The mountains are at least partly an anticline—a geological fold that slopes away from a crest—and are formed mostly of Pyramid sequence volcanic rocks. Pyramid sequence rocks are common in Northern Nevada and their center of distribution is the Virginia Mountains but they are found in the Pah Rah Range to the south, the Lake and Nightingale Ranges to the east, and the Fort Sage Mountains to the northwest. Especially in the southern part of the range there are important instances of Oligocene ash-flow tuff (tuff is a rock type made up of consolidated volcanic ash ejected from vents during a volcanic eruption). The tuff seems to come from calderas well to the east. Tuff from calderas in the Desatoya and Clan Alpine Mountains has been identified.
The southern part of the Virginia Mountains, directly to the north of the Pyramid Lake Highway, contains the easily recognizable Painted Hills (which seem to also correlate to the tuff deposits). This area is popular with OHV enthusiasts. There are also existing rock climbing areas, and it contains the well-known Monkey Condos formation, Big Momma and Needle Rock. In early 2015 pronghorn antelope were seen in this area. Mule deer are also found in the range. Raptors are also common. The main vegetation types are pinion-juniper woodland, low montane shrub land.
Major drainages include Cottonwood Creek to the north. Hardscrabble Creek draining into Pyramid Lake and Paiute Canyon. The Pyramid Lake slopes of the Virginia Mountains are part of the Pyramid Lake Tribal Lands and there is a day use fee and certain areas are closed to visitors. There is private ranch land on the western, Winnemucca Valley side of the mountains although hiking access is easy to find.
Benchmark Maps. Nevada Road and Recreation Atlas: Third Edition, Revised. Santa Barbara: Benchmark Maps, 2012.
Henry, Christopher D., James E. Faulds, Craig M. dePolo, and David A. Davis. “Geology of the Dogskin Mountain Quadrangle: Northern Walker Lane, Nevada. Text and references to accompany Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Map 148. Available at http://www.nbmg.unr.edu/dox/m148text.pdf.
Sierra Club. “Virginia Mountains FAQ.” At http://nevada.sierraclub.org/gbgroup/VaMtsFAQ.html.
Wikipedia. “Virginia Mountains.” At http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_Mountains.
———. “Tuff.” At http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuff.
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