This pocket of Nevada is primed for the outdoor aficionados, the lovers of fresh air, the back road explorers. Unassuming, raw and untamed, Carson Valley offers a stuffed to the brim rucksack of outdoor adventure for those who want to live life wide open. Check out what you’ll find off the beaten (often dirt) path in Carson Valley.
For the Fisherman
Whether you’re into the effort of casting a fly or prefer feet-up bobber style, a variety of friendly waters await. Topaz Lake is Nevada (and California’s) hidden gem, easily accessible from US Highway 395. Straddling the state line means a fishing license from either state is valid on the entire lake (score!) and the fish aren’t picky about the weather; they bite year-round. Stocked frequently, fisherman tout Topaz as the “Home of the Trophy Trout”. Boat rentals are available or set up shore-side and make it a weekend. Both RV and dry camping spots await as your home-away-from-home, or you can class it up with a room at the Topaz Lodge or Best Western Inn.
For a different kind of angling, take your tackle box over to the Carson and Walker Rivers. The 205-mile-long Carson River begins in Alpine County, California as two tributaries, the East and West Forks. The Walker River starts in the Sawtooth Range of the Eastern Sierra Nevada and is a vital source for irrigation as well as a hidden treasure for fishermen. For best access points, as well as fly fishing lessons, fly-tying classes and guided trips, stop by the Angler’s Edge in Gardnerville.
Whether you pull in a hogger or not, Carson Valley is the spot to cast your cares (and have a reel-y good time).
For the Trail Blazers
Discover the little known, yet extensive, Carson Valley trails system. Several unique trails combine for over 60 miles of paths to explore on foot, horseback or two wheels. Choose from several options of diverse terrain in and around Carson Valley; from easy, relaxing jaunts to more challenging elevation gains and longer routes. The Genoa Trail system is known for its many alternatives, whether it be the cool meandering River-Fork Ranch or the ten-mile long Sierra Canyon Trail, there is always the easy choice to end your day with a drink or dinner in Nevada’s oldest settlement. Further north, the Clear Creek Trail has got it all with a little left over. Enjoy yourself a Jeffery Pine party on the upper portions (from Spooner Summit South Trailhead) before popping out to a picturesque, 365-degree view of Carson Valley. If you’re into mountain biking, this one’s got whoop-de-dos and yeehaws all over the place. Or, head out to east to the Pinyon Trail, where the Nevada state song lyric “home means the sage and the pine” rings loud and clear, in the best way possible. No matter where you choose to get a little dirt on your boots, treat yourself to some wide-open space, breathtaking panoramas and a big gulp of that peaceful, easy feeling.
For the Throttle Jockey
For those who prefer to chase the horizon with a little horsepower behind them, there is a whole network of spiderwebbing dirt roads ready to be romped. Many areas can be accessed year-round. The Johnson Lane OHV area is centrally located in the valley, making it a choice spot for riders’ entry into the Pine Nut Mountain range or a staging area to unload your toys. To access, turn west onto Johnson Lane from Highway 395 and follow it down until the pavement ends and the day begins. Off-road enthusiasts have a smorgasbord of options in the surrounding area, including Sunrise Pass Road also found from eastside entry points which leads to breathtaking views of Carson and Smith Valleys, or explore the double track leading south to the Mt. Siegel area. The highest peak in the range, Mt. Siegel sits at 9,456 feet. You can’t drive to the top of the peak, but you can get to the Galena Saddle below it and hike to the top from there. Mt. Siegel also has its own staging area east from Highway 395 onto Muller Parkway, turning right at the roundabout onto Pinenut Road. Learn more about Nevada OHV here.
The end of the pavement is often the beginning of a good day, all you need is a motor and a six pack of gumption and you’re well on your way!
For the Above-Par
Choose from one of four championship golf courses and play a round or two! On the north end of the valley is Sunridge Golf and Recreations, where elevation changes make for a challenging and exciting course. They even have a 10-lane archery course and bow rentals on site for all-day play. Genoa Lakes Golf Club boasts two different options, the Ranch and Lakes courses, two miles apart but equally as enjoyable. Located at the foot of the Eastern Sierra, rugged mountain views, challenging greens and well-designed terrain is the name of the game at Genoa Lakes. On the south end of the valley (located in Gardnerville) is Carson Valley Golf. Shaded with giant cotton wood trees and kissed by the Carson River, Carson Valley Golf Course was designed for a good time. Golf is a year-round activity in Carson Valley and out here we encourage you to indulge in all the forms of celebration when you sink a 20-footer or unleash an epic drive you hope your buddy got on camera.
For the Thrill Seeker
Who knew a destination with such a relaxing pace could be so wild? Crank up the adrenaline meter and jump out of a perfectly good airplane from the Minden-Tahoe airport with Skydive Lake Tahoe. A bucket list item for many, you can experience close to one full minute of free fall at 120mph before your instructor pulls the chute, giving you a chance to take in the spectacular views of Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley as you float happily back to the ground. If you prefer to stay inside the aircraft but still experience something really special, check out SoaringNV. Carson Valley is world renowned for its soaring experience, as ideal air wave conditions and the world’s most spectacular scenery combine to create a glider haven. Oh yea, did we mention that gliders don’t have engines? You’ll be pulled into the sky by tow plane, before the cable is cut loose and you soar the skies with only the sights and sounds of mother nature filling your senses.
If floating a little more slowly is more your style, you can head over to Balloon Nevada in Gardnerville for a hot air balloon adventure. They even offer rides in the winter, so layers are a must but the combination of peaceful floating, sun kissed scenery and snow-covered peaks will warm your heart like a Hallmark movie, no matter the time of year!
Suffice it to say, the spirit of adventure is alive and well in Carson Valley! Which type of adventurer are you?