Mount Houghton Direct


Difficulty 5 Advanced
Length 7.2 miles round trip
8850 feet
+1750, -1750 round trip
Navigation Road and map
Time Full day
Season Late December through April
Snowmobiles Not permitted on first mile of road nor on route beyond mileage point 2. Low elsewhere on road. [Please report illegal use of snowmobiles in this area.]
USGS Topo 7.5' series, Mount Rose
Start Highway 431, 7.8 miles northeast of Highway 28 and 0.3 mile southwest of Mt. Rose Summit. A building and snow-covered road are located on the north side of the highway. Parking is limited; as an alternative start the tour at the parking area located 0.4 mile to the west.


Mt. Houghton, with the shape of a whale’s back, is prominently located at the north end of Relay Ridge and provides a commanding view of the Galena Creek drainage, into the Mt. Rose Wilderness, the mountains and panoramas that include Lake Tahoe and the snowcapped peaks beyond. It is only 286 feet lower than the summit of Mount Rose, but reaching its summit is much easier than Mount Rose because the total distance is shorter, the steep section is much shorter, and the winds tend to be less.

The descent back to the headwaters of Galena Creek is exciting — sections are steep and depending on your exact route sections can be narrow. The "advanced" difficulty rating comes solely from the 900 feet of elevation change in the upper-most 0.6 mile.

Mount Houghton can be reached more easily via Relay Road and the radio tower to the south of the peak as described in the Mount Houghton Via Radio Tower tour. The two tours can be combined to form a loop.

Mileage Log
Numbers in parentheses
correspond to mileage points on map

Miles: 0.0 - 2.4
Elevation change: +550 feet

From the trailhead (1) ski west on the snow-covered road, which gradually turns north up the Third Creek drainage, for a total of 2.4 miles until you reach a saddle (2). The saddle separates Third Creek and Galena Creek.

Miles: 2.4 - 2.7
Elevation change: -100 feet

Descend gradually north for 0.3 mile into the meadow-like area (3) in the headwaters of Galena Creek. There is no landmark here.

Miles: 2.7 - 3.3
Elevation change:+900 feet

Turn northwest (left) and begin to climb, at first gradually and then at a very steep angle, for a total of 0.6 mile until you reach the south ridge (4) of Mount Houghton.

Miles: 3.3 - 3.6
Elevation change:+300 feet

Climb north on the ridge for 0.3 mile until you reach the summit of Mount Houghton (5).

Alternative Ascent Route

An alternative ascent route via the southeast plateau of Mount Houghton is also shown on the map. It is shown going farther north than necessary, but doing so affords a view down into the canyon containing the Mount Rose Trail. The alternate is slightly less steep than the main route described above.

Miles: 3.6 - 7.2
Elevation change: +100, -1750 feet

Retrace the route for 3.6 miles back to the trailhead (1).

Elevation Profile
Elevation profile
Link to elevation profile
Link to waypoint data
Link to full page map
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