Words by Joey Crandall
Trails dart across Carson Valley’s high desert adventurescape, roving over rolling plains and shooting back and forth up lush mountainsides, carrying navigators from shadow to sunlight, flatland to forest often in a matter of moments.
In this place, this gem of a year-round outdoor paradise tucked away against the majestic barrier retaining the eastern shores of Lake Tahoe, the conditions can run the entire spectrum of seasons in a single afternoon. Whatever the whimsy of the weather, though, these trails — traveling more than 50 miles across rideable terrain and epic views –have been etched as deeply and concretely as the roots put down by those that built them.
Valley native and self-professed mountain biking addict Kate Blake knows these Sierra Nevada passageways like the back of her hand. She was there for the sweat and toil as some of Valley’s the most popular routes were laid out. “Everyone jumped on board with the effort,” said Blake. “We got an e-mail asking for volunteers to help build trails, so my parents, my brother and I went up one Saturday and helped put the Clear Creek Trail together.” The trail was built in sections by volunteers from the trails association and local businesses.
A moderate-for-all-levels trail, Clear Creek runs approximately 10.5 miles from bottom to top and back and is rideable year-round. The trailhead is located next to Jacks Valley Elementary School just south of Carson City. In trail speak, it’s “not very technical,” but worth every mile. Clear Creek opens in a high desert environment, sparsely populated by trees which allows for year-round sun.
“The reward is when you reach the top and you’re in the trees at Spooner Summit,” Blake said. “It’s like hitting the jackpot — great views of the entire Carson Valley and nearby peaks.” Blake’s dog, Cash, often makes the journey with her. “When you’re on the trail, there are several portions where you cross over creeks. Cash loves to play in the creek — that’s her reward for making the 2,500-foot ascent.”
Local government affairs professional Carlo Luri finds himself on the Valley’s trails during much of his free time, serving as the Carson Valley Trails Association’s director at large. “For me, it’s all about the flow on Clear Creek,” Luri said. “The terrain takes you through the woods and, as a multi-user trail, it allows for a great variety of bikers, hikers and trail runners to share the space and experience.”
Luri’s favorite part of Clear Creek must be hiked to be seen. “About seven miles from the bottom is Knob Point,” he said. “It offers one of the most beautiful vistas of any trail around here.” A popular turnaround point for many, Knob Point overlooks a large ranch with sweeping vistas of the Valley, making it an ideal resting point.
Aside from the stunning natural beauty, the Carson Valley trails system distinguishes itself with a diverse range of difficulties and seasonal navigabilities. The Genoa Trail, for example, runs 9.6 miles with 4,200 feet of climbing across 28 switchbacks — though it isn’t rideable year-round. The view from the top includes a panorama of Carson Valley on one side of the peak and the pristine Lake Tahoe on the other.
Luri points toward the gentler West Fork Trail, located at the Nature Conservancy near Genoa, or the five-mail Bently Heritage Trail running along the Carson River among his other favorites. “One visit here and it’s easy to see we’re passionate about our trails,” Luri said. “Come for a hike or a ride and reward yourself with lots of good cheer.”
Joey Crandall, lives and breathes all things Carson Valley. Plan you adventure at VisitCarsonValley.org.