Hiking Nevada: A Guide to the State's Greatest Adventures
by Bruce Grubbs (Falcon Guides)
© 2018 Bruce Grubbs/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.
Overall, the Mt. Rose trail is a moderately difficult hike with spectacular views. The there is a new trailhead that was recently completed. This is not included on the trails.com topo map. It does not follow the road to relay peak (the old way) and follows along ~2.5 miles to a branching point. When continuing on to Mt. Rose, the ascent becomes steeper. There are a few switchbacks to climb and once above the treeline, it will be windy. The view from the peak is wonderful and worth the hike.
After making the trip up to the top of the Mt. Rose hwy and looking at that formidable peak ahead I was wondering what I was getting myself into. I was a blast! For 2 and a half miles after you park you are hiking up a slight incline on a service road leading to a relay building. Off to the right there is the marker indicating the trail head to the top of Mt. Rose. Sign in on the visitor log and review the advice given. The trail really starts at the sign by dropping down into a small meadow giving you a real different view of the range. The trail is moderate and changes in altitude all the time. Certain parts of the trail are real narrow with steep banks off to one side so be careful. There are some small streams in the meadows which definitely adds to the experience.Once you start the steep climb you will notice yourself approaching the tree line. Look right towards the highway where it curves sharp to the right and disappears. Appreciate how far you have come. Once you finally reach the tree line the views to the west are awesome! But be advised. It gets real winding up there so bring appropriate clothes for the season. Wind burn along with sun burn can occur quickly. Once you reach the top there is a small rock observation area where you can appreciate the views.Off to the west you will get a truly unique impression of Lake Tahoe. Views of Reno are great as well. Enjoy your personal triumph. It is a hard hike!
Don't take the road at the top like everybody and their brother does. Take SR431 out of Reno to Sky Tavern, tthen go back toward Reno to the hairpin turn just below the road maintainence buildings. Park there on the side of the road. The trail enters on the old dirt road there and within a few hundred yards you will cross Galena Creek (end of the road). The trail continues up thru an aspen forest and then ascends with some seriousness, traversing a steep slope. Another aspen thicket looms. Burrow through and a acquire the occasional trail on the other side. You are in an open bowl that narrows on the top. Just stay in the bowl as you make your way up the steep, open slope. Once you crest the ridge you will be at the tree line on a beautiful open ridge. The granite here is white but as you traverse the rock turns to the brown granite(?) that is Mount Rose. Continue to the omnipresent snow patch and hike up the side. There are three peaks you will see. None of them is the summit. The summit hides behind the farthest peak and is usually populated with hikers that have taken the road. On our new route, (I've done the road 17 times!) there was a family we passed with a 10 year old child, so it's not that hard.
This is a great day hike for the average hiker...but expect a strenuous final mile and a half to the summit. The first two miles of the main route to the top is a gradual dirt road. Look for the trail marker on your right after you have passed a small lake on your left in an open meadow. The real trail starts here. After a slight descent for a mile through an open meadow, you will see the your objective - the treeless summit of the third highest peak in the Tahoe basin. Now you have to hike! After crossing a small creek and seeing a peek of the Nevada skyline, you will ascend another mile and a half to a ridgeline and a marker for the Toiyabe National Forest. Turn right at the Ralston summit marker following a number of switchbacks...now the views you've been working for start rewarding you! The final mile is tough for the average hiker, but the vistas are worth it! To the northeast, the city of Reno and all of Nevada lay before you and to the Southwest, most of Lake Tahoe, Desolation Wilderness and the tallest peak in the Tahoe basin - Freel Peak - are in your gaze. Not bad for a six to eight hour day!! Watch for high winds - there are two rock-built windbreaks at the summit - and for late afternoon storms. Enjoy!
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