Nevada History
by John C. Evanoff

Visitreno.com is excited to present this series of articles by noted author and poet, John C. Evanoff. John will tell us about Nevada history and cover some of the more remote and unusual things to see and do in Northern Nevada.

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The Mount Rose Trail

Favorite Treks fo Reno # 1 of 10
February, 2010
By John Evanoff

My top pick for treks in the area goes to Mount Rose. The reasons include: There are more than a dozen individual hikes you can partake in while visiting this one area; the views are spectacular in every direction; and you can hike, bike, cross country ski or snowshoe many of them throughout the year depending on the season

The trail begins on the Mount Rose Highway, State Route 431 nine miles west of Highway 395 South. It’s just west over the summit at an elevation of 8,800 feet on the right near a shed used to house a snow grader truck and a snow cat. You can park along the side of the road or across the highway a bit further down the road at the Tahoe Meadows Tahoe Rim Trailhead parking area. The trail/road has a barrier which precludes you from using any vehicle larger than a mountain bike. Since this radio tower access road acts as the primary access for a microwave transceiver unit based near Relay Peak a couple miles up, you can casually walk it, ride a mountain bike, cross country ski or snowmobile the entire length before you actually reach the trail going to Mount Rose. Snowmobiles are heavily restricted in the Mount Rose Wilderness, so it is best to check with the Nevada Forest Service on the regulations governing their use. The first mile gives you a visual of Tahoe Meadows and Lake Tahoe’s Incline Village area. The road is wide and a fairly easy walk. You’ll encounter mountain bikers and other hikers all along the roadway to the Mt. Rose Trail. Most of the trees along the first couple miles are Ponderosa, Sugar Pine, Jeffery Pine, White Pine, Aspen and a few Lodgepole Pine.

There is a small snow melt pond we used to call Frog Pond on the left about the half way point to the top of Mount Rose just before you begin the climb to the radio tower on the main access road and about a hundred yards before the Mount Rose Trail which forks off to the right of the road to the east into Galena Canyon. We’ll come back to the Mount Rose Trail, but let’s take the Rose Knob route first. The access road moves northwest and then west up a grade to a chairlift which is used by technical crews if they cannot get past this spot due to heavy snow, possible avalanches or rockslides. From there, you move south on a steep grade along a cliff and then north again along the same ridge cliff to the radio towers. At this point, you can view all of the reservoirs below Truckee and the northern expanse of Lake Tahoe. The trail past the radio towers goes along another ridge to Mount Houghton or what used to be called Rose Knob. The elevation at Mount Houghton is 10,490 feet and gives you views of Mount Rose to the east, Tahoe to the west and Truckee to the northwest. This Radio Tower Road hike is only about three hours roundtrip but be sure to take your time to enjoy the surrounding sights.
If you take the Mount Rose Trail just past Frog Pond on your right, be prepared for a much more strenuous hike. The Mt. Rose Trail is marked on the right by a small Forest Service sign. This trail leads over a small hill into the top end of Galena Canyon. You then venture downhill along some power poles before reaching a creek running to the north where you will then begin the ascent to the top. This trail zigzags much of the way and you should pause to enjoy the spectacular views and wildlife including squirrel, marmot, mule deer, chipmunk, Clark’s nutcracker, blue jay, woodpecker, mountain quail, snow partridge, goshawk, falcon, golden eagle and vulture. If you visit often, you’ll see many of these along the way. The entire roundtrip trail from the highway is about four to eight hours in duration depending on your level of experience, endurance or the time you want to take to explore and enjoy. Mount Rose stands at over 10,776 feet in elevation. With the trail gaining 1,900 feet of vertical elevation measured over less than a mile and a half from the base of the climb in Galena Canyon, you should bring plenty of water and a back pack. At the ridgeline before you begin the ascent east through a multitude of switchbacks, another marked trailhead shows the path down into a long valley heading north to Verdi. That hike is much longer and ends in at the Forest Service Fire Station at the Garson Road exit on I-80 and should only be attempted over the course of an entire day or two. The ascent to the top of Mount Rose from the ridgeline continues through many switchbacks and once on top of Mount Rose, you will have the opportunity to take some great pictures. The rock shelters at the top are sometimes used by overnighters who visit for the great astronomical views or just to stay out of the wind.

Many decades ago, a scientist and University of Nevada Professor named James Church used to hike the area and used both Mt. Rose and Slide Mountain as research into forecasting snow and water melt for the area. He often brought along a small telescope to view the dark skies at the time, but his primary interest was to develop a method of predicting water resources and in 1909 he gained international acclaim in producing the first valuable approach to solving the snow to water measurement prediction system still in use today all over the world. Church was active in the arts and was influential in cofounding the Nevada Art Gallery in 1931 with his friend Charles Cutts who over several decades had accumulated a vast collection of art and an extensive and distinguished library. A pond at the top of the White’s Creek Trail and the 10,600 foot peak just north of Mount Rose are named after him. A historical sign notes the founding of the Mount Rose Meteorological Observatory at the summit of the Mount Rose highway. If you ever have an opportunity, take the hike from Church Pond to the summit of Mount Rose for a different and much more difficult long hike.

Church Peak can be accessed from a small trail heading off to the left and north ridge of Mount Rose just before you go the last few hundred yards to the top of Mount Rose. If you want to hike Church Peak, be prepared to climb a couple rock overhangs to get to the top of the peak, but the views northward are worth the effort. Hardly anyone hikes Church Peak because of the additional difficulty and thus you will be without neighbors if you plan to spend the night observing the stars from there.

At the top of Mount Rose, a logbook is usually kept in a plastic wrap which gives you an opportunity to write your name, date and opinion of the tremendous views. Logs and journals from the past are kept at the Forest Service Ranger Station at the south end of Carson City. The peak of Mount Rose avails you the occasion to relax for an hour or two to breathe in the high altitude and impressive scenery. The view east to Geiger Grade and SR431 meandering its way up the hill towards you is fascinating. To the southeast you can view most of Washoe Lake, the top of Slide Mountain, the Mount Rose Ski Area, Carson City, Minden and Gardnerville. To the south, you can make out the rims of Marlette Lake and Hobart Reservoir and the Sierra ridgeline south to Jobes Peak and Jobe’s Sister. On clear days, you can see Dunderberg Peak (Castle Peak) at 12,374 feet above Conway Summit southwest of Bridgeport. To the west, you can view almost all of Tahoe, Brockway Summit, Mt. Baldy, Rifle Peak, Houghton Peak (Rose Knob), Martis Peak, Truckee, Boca, Prosser and Stampede Reservoirs, Highway 80 West and the Donner Lake area and Donner Summit. Northwest you will see Dog Valley, Peavine, Verdi Peak, Crystal Peak and on a really clear day, the top of Shasta Mountain and Lassen. North you can see all of Reno, Sparks, the North Valleys, Red Rock, Sun Valley, Spanish Springs and the mountains encircling Pyramid Lake. A good set of binoculars afford you a better view of the entire area. Don’t forget to bring a camera to show your friends the trail and views.

The winds at the summit can be treacherous at times reaching speeds of more than seventy to eighty miles an hour or more. The rock shelters can afford you some protection if those conditions exist but the walk up to the peak is windy enough most times to warrant the use of a wind jacket or heavy ski jacket to brace against the cold gusts. Bring enough clothes to layer up for the climb to the top and for any change in the weather. Take your time walking back to your car so your shins don’t heat up causing you pain the next day. Always wear good hiking boots and be prepared for sudden storms. I’ve said this before, but can’t stress it enough. Be especially careful in the mountains. The weather can change in an instant and because you are hours away from the highway, you need to be aware of how treacherous Mother Nature can be at times. I’m reminded of a few hikes, but one in particular to the top of Mount Rose in October 1997. Storm clouds surrounded the mountain as I reached the summit and the ever-darkening skies moved me to make my descent as soon as possible. In less than thirty minutes, the snow began to fall and the wind picked up. Thunder and lightning rolled in and the hair on the back of my neck stood up as I hurried down the hill, thunder clapping at my heels all the way through Galena Canyon. Exhilarating as the experience was, I believe I was very lucky not to be hit by lightning or stuck overnight. Six feet of snow fell in less than twelve hours at the highway summit.

For all its challenges and diversity, I think you will agree this hike is definitely number one on the bucket list of anybody who hikes the area with any regularity. Pack for a day hike of six hours or more and include a camera, binoculars, first aid kit, lunch, snacks, a wind breaker or ski jacket, extra socks, sunscreen, additional water, a cell phone and a pen and note book. The note book is to jot down your experiences for your trek journal. If you plan to stay overnight, get a permit so people know where you are or at least tell your neighbors and friends where you are off trekking. You’ll need at least double everything you would bring for a day hike plus a warm sleeping bag and sturdy nylon tent to protect you from the Washoe Zephyrs.

All these trails are in the Mount Rose Wilderness and as such are protected by the Forest Service. Be sure to pack out your trash and stay on the trail to safeguard plants and wildlife. For more information on these trails, call the Carson Ranger District Station at 775-882-2766. Have fun and send pictures to me.


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