Carson City Highpoint Trip Report

Snow Valley Peak (9,214 ft)

Date: July 28, 2004
Author: Peter Maurer

This was done as a combined mountain bike and hike ascent. Begin at the Spooner Lake entrance to the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park (entry fee $6), just north of the US 50/NV 28 intersection on the east side of Lake Tahoe. A dirt road leads you up North Canyon, which is relatively well marked and very well used. In the first 1 or 1 1/2 miles there is a long steep grade, then the road levels off to a gradual climb for the next 2-3 miles. With the exception of sandy conditions on the road, this is very enjoyable cycling, especially on the ride back down, which was a hoot! The last half mile, beginning just after crossing a small creek that flows through a large meadow at the base of the peak, again gets very steep, and I had to give up my pride and walk the last part.

The road to the summit is gated, and bikes are not permitted (although by the wheel tracks, clearly those rules are not meant for all). I stashed my bike behind some willows just the other side of the creek, and began the final hike up. So far I had covered about 4 miles and gained 1,000 feet of elevation in about an hour.

The road to the summit is 1.1 miles, gains about 1,100 feet and is sandy, dusty, rocky, torn up by horse hooves and vehicle traffic accessing the communications facilities on top, and for the most part is without shade. I'm used to these kinds of challenges but, for those more susceptible to the heat, an early morning ride/hike would make it more enjoyable. As it was, I hit it in the middle of the afternoon and the sun was baking down on the west facing slope. The road switchbacks up through sagebrush and a surprisingly wide array of wildflowers, then crests out on the ridge a couple hundred yards north of the summit. It then continues to the top, where a register rests inside a cinder block, set inside a small wind-break near the top of the rock outcrop that is the high point, just southwest of the communications junk. I made the summit in less than 2 hours.

The view is spectacular! Most of Tahoe is visible, along with all of the mountains ringing the basin: Mount Rose to the north, Freel Peak to the south, and the crest of the northern Sierra to the west, including the Crystal Range and Granite Chief. The outlying areas of Carson City and Reno, along with most of the Carson Valley could be seen to the east and on towards the seemingly never-ending basin ranges of Nevada. It was a surprisingly clear day for mid summer (usually the haze limits visibility) and there were no fires burning at the moment (although the large "waterfall fire" just to the east had just been put out the week before).

The descent went quickly. The creek at the junction is icy cold and very refreshing to cool off with a splash before jumping on the bike for the rest of the descent. The return trip took less than an hour, and the total time was about 3 hours, elevation gain 2,200 feet, round-trip distance 9 miles.

An alternative, for those hiking the whole distance, is to start at the Spooner Summit trailhead to the Tahoe Rim Trail on Highway 50 (I helped build this section of trail about 20 years ago) which follows more of the ridge line and runs just below the summit. The distance is the same as the North Canyon Road but less steep. Bicycles are not allowed on this part of the TRT. Also, for someone with a full day in Tahoe, this could easily be combined with Douglas County's East Peak.