“What’s the name of this canyon again? Molly-buh-dendite?” “It’s pronounced Molib-uh-nite. No…wait…Mo-lyb-denite. Yeah, that’s it. With a D in there. Molybdenite is a mineral of molybdenum disulfide, says Wikipedia.” Variations of this conversation repeated prior, during, and after the hike. As it turns out, pronouncing the name of this canyon is much harder than hiking it.
Molybdenite Canyon is located on the northeastern side of the Hoover Wilderness, and is accessed at the top of the Obsidian Campground along the Little Walker River Road. Look for the Obsidian Campground sign just east of the Sonora Pass junction on HWY 395. Little Walker River Road is a well graded dirt road, and the campground road, even though a little bumpy, should be accessible by low clearance vehicles. There is ample parking at the trailhead at the end of the road, and horse trailers have good parking just outside the campground entrance.
The trail begins next to the Wilderness Information sign frame, which at the time of this writing, does not contain a sign or any information. The Hoover Wilderness boundary, though, is about 2.5 miles up the trail. Wilderness permits are not required for day hiking.
We began our hike around noon on Columbus Day, a perfect Fall day with lots of sunshine and mild temperatures. The grade starts off easy for some pleasant hiking. The trail at this time of year was dry and dusty, made silty from the many horses that use this route. Our little dogs were covered in dust in no time.
It looked like we may have been a little late for peak Fall color in the canyon, as many of the aspens had already lost their leaves. The trees along Molybdenite Creek, though, were still glowing gold in the bright sun. The trail transitions frequently between these aspen, open brush, and pine forest.
Eventually the trail comes to a stand of old majestic junipers, many with massive trunks. They dominate the hillside of Hanging Valley Ridge as you pass into the Hoover Wilderness.
The trail climbs up as you pass the junipers, but then flattens out again as the valley opens for great views deep into the canyon beyond. Easy hiking resumes as you pass by the creek and small pools probably caused by beaver dams. Lots of small trout would flee up and down the creek when we’d peek over the grassy banks.
I brought my water filter for this hike, but was glad we didn’t need it. Although it would’ve been fine in a pinch, the water was pretty shallow and looking a little green with algae in some spots. There weren’t too many swift moving sections between the beaver ponds either. I bet this creek is flowing pretty good in the Spring and into Summer, though.
After crossing the creek, we headed into the woods again. About 4 miles in now, it looked to be a good sheltered area to setup a camp if one was backpacking. Soon we spotted a big quartz outcropping on the east canyon wall. We set this as our destination for the day. Kristy would relax by the creek with the dogs, while the boy and I climbed up to investigate the rocks.
Although not far up, the quartz outcropping took some bushwhacking through brush, thorn bushes, downed trees, and thick aspen. Kristy knew better than to follow us. When we finally got up there, though, it was a pretty interesting sight to see. It looked like many of the talus slopes we’ve hiked before, but it was all quartz. We hunted through the rock, looking for crystals or any sign of molybdenite (although we weren’t sure what it looked like). Finding nothing precious looking, we still marveled at all the sparkly rocks before heading back down to the creek.
We regrouped with Kristy and the dogs, and prepped for the hike out. Shadows were starting to appear on the west canyon wall, so we made haste back down the trail. The easy downhill made for some of the fastest hiking we’ve done all year, and we covered the four miles back to the car in no time. Even the dogs were tearing it up.
Once back at the car, we made for Walker Burger in Walker, CA. It’s our customary stop after adventuring in this area before heading back to Carson City. Apparently they close earlier this time of year, though, so our stomachs were very disappointed as we drove by the dark building. Trail-mix would have to do until we arrived home.
Molybdenite Canyon is a great hike. The easy grade allows for fast hiking and a lot of exploration. By the time we turned around, we were very close to McMillan Lake, and weren’t too far from the end of the canyon. We’d like to come back and explore these areas further. Having hiked most of Burt Canyon earlier this year (the next canyon over), we’d especially like to come back and combine the two canyons for a three day backpacking trip next summer!
- More photos from this hike on Flickr here.
- Recommended guidebook for this area: Exploring Eastern Sierra Canyons – Sonora Pass to Pine Creek
- Recommended map: Hoover Wilderness Trail Map from Tom Harrison Maps