Tall, fragrant pines, glistening sunshine on river rocks, various wild flowers and sage — it’s landscapes like these that invoke the adventure of hiking. From easy to difficult, an experienced Great Basin Group hiker shares five trails you need to explore on your next northern Nevada outing.
It’s no secret: Hiking, walking and hitting the trails is healthy and one of the best parts about living in northern Nevada. If you’re feeling the call to get outside, Holly Coughlin with Great Basin Group has shared five of the best local hikes — from easy to difficult. Or, you can join Renown doctors for a weekly walk through different parks in the area.
Easy: Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway – Sections 2 to 4
Location: West Reno to Sparks
Parking Locations: Woodland Drive, Crissie Caughlin Park, Idlewild Park, 1st Street, Rock Park and Spice Island Drive.
Time Out and Back: 2 to 4 hours (each section out and back)
Items to Bring: Water, sunscreen and hat
From west Reno to Sparks, this paved portion of the trail stretches more than 8 miles, runs along the Truckee River and is easy to find. Ranked as Coughlin’s easiest adventure, it includes numerous parking access points and you can walk as long or short as you desire.
Coughlin has led a group to and from Rock Park on S. Rock Boulevard to Cottonwood Park on Spice Island Drive in Sparks. It’s an easy walk for all hiking levels.
She’s also led what she calls a “Bat Walk” on this section to acquaint walkers with the bat population living under the McCarran Bridge. An array of birds and river views can also be found along this enjoyable path.
For maps for sections of this path, visit Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway’s website.
Moderate: Steamboat Ditch Trail
Location: To get to the trailhead, take Mayberry Drive in west Reno. Turn south on Plateau Road and right onto Woodchuck Circle.
Parking: There is a dirt area for limited parking.
Time Out and Back: 3 to 5 hours
Items to Bring: Water, layers, sunscreen and hat
This trail offers some of the best views of downtown Reno and the surrounding hillsides. Built by Chinese laborers in the late 1870’s, the Steamboat Ditch is the longest ditch in the Truckee Meadows region and the water serves as a vital source for ranchers and farmers south of Reno.
Coughlin has led several popular trips each year starting behind the Patagonia outlet in northwest Reno at the Tom Cooke Trail. You can also park off of Woodchuck Circle and head west to find the “Hole in the Wall” — a tunnel engineered through a hill so the ditch could supply water in to the Truckee Meadows.
This hike is a little over 8 miles with the half way point just under 4 ½ miles. If you’re thinking of hiking with your four-legged friend, remember to bring your leash as rattlesnakes tend to frequent the area. There’s also little shade, so plan accordingly by bringing a hat and dressing in layers.
Moderate: Thomas Creek Trail
Location: Head out on Mt. Rose Highway going west to Timberline Road. Drive 1.3 miles past the end of the pavement, stay on Timberline and you will see the trailhead on your left shortly after you cross the bridge.
Parking: There is a paved parking area on Timberline Drive
Time Out to Back: 2 to 6 hours
Items to Bring: Water, layers, food and phone with GPS or map for understanding the area
The Thomas Creek Trail, located off of Mt. Rose Highway, is a very scenic hike that winds along the Thomas Creek and into a Jeffrey pine forest. People may choose to hike to what appears to be the end of the trail (where it meets the road) or continue further up for 1/8 of a mile into the Mt. Rose Wilderness.
When Coughlin leads trips in this area, she often hikes up the trail to where the creek crosses the road and then takes the dirt road back down. This is a great way to see the entire canyon. This hike is closer to 5 miles, but can be shortened by turning around at any point.
Another option is to look for signs to turn off the Thomas Creek Trail at the junction for Dry Pond Loop. Dry Pond is 4 ½ miles out and back trail from the Timberline parking lot. Depending on the season and weather, you may see a pond or hilltop meadow.
It is possible to go anywhere from 2 to 6 miles or more based on what you choose to hike. The gain along the creek is minimal, with an 800 foot gain at the top part of the trail. Watch for mountain bikers as this is also a very popular biking trail.
Moderate: Hunter Creek Trail
Location: Go west on Mayberry Drive to Plateau Road, turn left and go up the hill to Woodchuck Drive. Turn right and follow Woodchuck to the trailhead.
Parking: Paved parking on Woodchuck Drive with bathroom and benches
Time Out and Back: 2 to 5 hours
Items to Bring: Water, layers, a snack, sturdy shoes and sunscreen
The Hunter Creek trail is about a 7-mile day hike with a little over 1,000 feet of overall gain that leads to a waterfall (and it’s totally worth the trip!). The trail is accessed off of Mayberry Drive.
The hike winds up Hunter Canyon through sagebrush, Jeffrey pines and interesting rock formations. When you reach the waterfall, you can sit on shaded logs and enjoy lunch. This trek is very rocky and narrow at times, so good trail shoes are highly recommended. Dogs should also be leashed, as rattlesnakes are common along the trail.
Difficult: Hidden Valley Loop
Location: Hidden Valley Regional Park – Drive east on Pembroke Drive and turn left on Parkway Drive. The park is at the end of the road.
Parking: Park on the east side of the park, closest to the hills.
Time Out and Back: 3 to 6 hours
Items to Bring: Water, sunscreen, shoes with good traction and a lunch or snack.
This 6 mile loop has about 1,800 feet of gain and is located east of Hidden Valley. Coughlin recommends starting the hike from Hidden Valley Regional Park: Head southeast on a dirt road and then turn east onto a very steep trail that winds over red dirt for about a half mile. This is the steepest part and is a leg burner.
Once you get past this part, the trail gradient decreases and you wind along the south side of a big bowl fringed with pinyon pine and juniper trees. The trail continues up to the ridge line where there are incredible views of the Truckee Meadows and Mt. Rose. You can hike back down from this point, but it is best to continue on the trail along the ridgeline to where it starts down along the other side of the bowl. The trail isn’t as steep and it offers incredible views to the south. There is also a great possibility of seeing wild horses in this area.
Historical note: During the latter half of the 19th century, the Great Basin region experienced a period of heavy mining activity known as the Comstock Era. The Hidden Valley hills were one of the areas where trees were cut down for charcoal as an important resources for mining. There are tree stumps along the hike you can see left over from the era.
Bonus: Discover Your Parks Summer Evening Walks
In cooperation with Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation, Renown doctors will be participating in weekly walks at various parks in the Reno/Sparks area now through August. Each Thursday you can explore a new location and learn about the history of parks in our area. Walks take place every Thursday at 7 p.m. Distances range from ½ to 2 miles. The walks are free and open to everyone. For a list of dates and locations along with park descriptions and directions, visit Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation.
Spot your favorite trail? Have one to share? Let us know in the comments below.