Hiking & Biking
For hiking, biking, or horseback riding on scenic trails, Carson Valley is unsurpassed. There are trails for the both the neophyte and the serious hiker, biker, or rider. Hiking opportunities range from flat trails bordering the valley’s Carson River to alpine trails topping 10,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada to the west. Easy trails of two to three miles in length such as Spooner Lake, Curtz/Summit Lakes, and Hot Springs Mountain beckon the recreational hiker. For the more advanced, there are seven to ten mile trails like Marlette Lake, Horse Thief Canyon to Willow Creek, and Burnside Lake to Charity Valley. Serious hikers will want to try longer or more strenuous trails such as Job’s Peak, Mount Ralston Peak, or the Five Lakes Trek. And hikers can travel all or portions of the breathtaking 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail. There are also hiking events such as the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge that takes place each year on the Saturday nearest the summer solstice. Completing this 34-mile one-day endurance hike on the primitive Rachel Carson Trail is a badge of honor for hikers.
Cycling opportunities abound in the Carson Valley and surrounding area. Road riders can choose a number of century (100 mile) rides, including the Carson Valley Century that features 5,500 feet of climbing and travels over Kingsbury Grade, along Foothill Road, to Diamond Valley, Turtle Rock, Jacks Valley, and the Pine Nut mountains. You can also take any of the loop rides that comprise this century, from the relatively flat East Valley Road to the up and down Emigrant Trail/Diamond Valley trainer. A bit farther afield, rides like the 85 mile Lemond loop that includes 8500 feet of climbing challenge even the most experienced road rider. Mountain bike aficionados will also find both easy and challenging trails in and around Carson Valley. A loop from Spooner Summit along Lake Tahoe’s eastern ridge to Marlette Lake and Incline village is one of the more famous trails, and the Pine Nut mountains on the eastern side of Carson Valley offer miles of lesser-known but highly enjoyable winding bike trails. The 13-mile McClellan Peak climb challenges cyclists’ endurance, while the Carson River and V&T railroad line loops provide more relaxed riding experiences.
Traveling the Carson Valley and environs on horseback is a tradition that stretches back over 150 years. You can transport yourself back to the days of “Bonanza” and picture yourself riding alongside Ben, Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe Cartwright on the valley’s many equestrian trails. Carson Valley horseback riding ranges from short organized trail rides to horse camping on rides that last a week or more. To the west, you can ride portions of the Tahoe Rim Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, or the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail. To the east, the Pine Nut mountains beckon, with opportunities to ride along sand washes, explore old mining trails and jeep trails, or head out cross-country. Sheep Camp and any number of small valleys provide water and grazing, and camping is free on BLM land. However, it is advisable to carry a GPS for cross-country riding, and take care not to trespass on posted private land parcels. You can find stables in Carson Valley, Carson City, and Zephyr Cove that conduct trail rides and riding lessons.