Explore Nevada: Bag this high point and be home by dinner
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Hiking is supposed to be all about the journey.
Unfortunately I haven't yet reached the stage of enlightenment that allows me to head out on my own with no goal whatsoever.
There must be a reason. To go from here to there. To go over or around something. Or to go up.
That's what's so great about peaks. Find a peak and it's instant motivation. And lately I've been finding lots of peaks thanks to "Hiking Nevada's County High Points," by Bob Sumner.
The book is a guide to the highest point in each of Nevada's 16 counties plus Carson City. It's a handy guide when you've decided to make time to do something but are having trouble deciding what, exactly, to do.
On a recent weekday I turned to the guide to see if there was anything I could knock off in no more than a half day. It led me to Snow Valley Peak, the highest point in Carson City at 9,214 feet.
Snow Valley Peak hit the trifecta of a hike with plenty of exercise and great views, something that I could start in the afternoon and be home by early evening and, maybe most importantly, allowed me to cross off another high point goal.
There are many ways to reach this peak. The most popular routes are from either Spooner Backcountry State Park along Highway 28 and from Spooner Summit along Highway 50.
I chose the latter and parked at Spooner Summit around 1 p.m.
From the parking area the trail heads north into the forest, passes over Spooner Lake and starts heading up. The trail is in good condition and the trees mean there's plenty of shade even during the height of the afternoon sun.
Along the way I stopped at three vista markers placed at spots where hikers can get clear views of either Lake Tahoe to the west or Carson Valley to the east.
After about four miles of hiking the trail reaches an intersection with a sign for Snow Valley Peak. From there the trail gets slightly steeper and eventually winds its way out of the trees and onto a high saddle.
From the saddle hikers can get views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains as well as Marlette Lake. While hiking across the saddle you'll eventually reach a two track road and see signs that say "horse and foot traffic only."
From here had up the road to the peak. At the peak there are some small buildings and communication towers. There are also fantastic views of the Tahoe Basin as well as myriad mountain meadows and ranges to the east.
I returned by the same path I arrived, making for a round trip of about 12.5 miles. While I wouldn't classify the hike as grueling, it can be demanding at points. The final stretch up the road to the peak is steep. And the mileage is considerable for a day hike.
However, the cooler temperatures at the saddle and above were a welcome reprieve from 90 degree heat in the Truckee Meadows on the day I hiked.
Be sure to bring plenty of water because, aside from Spooner Lake near the parking area, I didn't pass any naturally occurring sources.
If you maintain a brisk, steady pace you could start this hike after lunch and still be home in time for dinner. This makes it an ideal escape for a day when you can get out of work early and avoid the weekend crowds.
Spooner Summit to Snow Valley Peak
Distance (one way): 6.4 miles
Minimum elevation: 7,110 feet
Maximum elevation: 9,213 feet
Total ascent: 2,316 feet
Average grade: 6.1 percent
Total distance (round trip): 12.5 miles
Total time (round trip): 5 hours, 17 minutes
Parking: Spooner Summit parking area