Reno and Lake Tahoe offer some of the best hiking trails in the world, drawing people from all over the country and beyond to tackle some of the most gratifying switchbacks and taluses that open to stunning views of steep mountain ranges and Lake Tahoe’s crystal-clear waters. Tahoe hikes offer quick elevation gains, and hiking trails in Reno put you in the heart of the Truckee Meadows, reintroducing Reno-Tahoe to you in a whole new light.
Some of the most popular hiking trails in downtown Reno are perfect for beginners. The Oxbow Nature Study Area Trail located off Dickerson Road, and the Tom Cooke Trail in west Reno, offer a more low-key outdoor experience. The Tom Cook Trail is part of the urban trail system, which is maintained by the City of Reno Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department.
The Tom Cooke Trail is right next to the Truckee River and is open to hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians. Motorized vehicles are not allowed. Dogs are also permitted on the Tom Cooke Trail if they are on a leash. The Tom Cooke Trail is a short hike, lasting about 1.2 miles round trip. You can add variety to your hike when you ascend on the trailhead by accessing the side loop trail. Though the trail is short, it climbs a set of switchbacks starting right after crossing the Truckee River footbridge. You will gain a couple hundred feet in elevation quickly and will be rewarded with some tremendous Nevada scenery.
Oxbow, on the other hand, is a hidden gem just outside downtown Reno and perfect for an easy hike. The nature trail is approximately one mile long and loops from the pond through cottonwoods and willows, past grasslands and back along the Truckee River. There are many opportunities to view wildlife all year long within the Study Area’s 22 acres.
Other short hikes in Reno include the Huffaker Park Loop Trail and the Mira Loma Urban Trail. The Huffaker Park Lookout Trail gives way to exclusive views of the Reno horizon, yet it’s easily accessible from south Reno. It is about 1.7 miles long and is perfect for both walking and running. You can also opt for the shorter trail that runs less than a mile long.
The Mira Loma Urban Trail incorporates Mira Loma Park’s awesome assortment of amenities like fitness courses along the trail, sports fields, a playground, picnic areas and restrooms. Mira Loma Park also has the area’s largest skatepark with several bowls, halfpipes, rails and funboxes for skateboarders, roller-skaters and BMX riders to enjoy. Follow the water’s edge along the northeastern part of the loop where Boynton Slough meets Mira Loma Park, and you’ll hit the trailhead.
With so much terrain in the valley, don’t forget about hiking some of the more popular hikes in the area, too. Located within the city limits and seen from almost every high-rise apartment complex in northwest Reno, give hiking to the ‘N’ a try. The N is directly across from Rancho San Rafael Regional Park and represents the University of Nevada, Reno. Every year, during the beginning of the fall semester, students of the university hike up the N to pick weeds and put a fresh coat of paint on the N in an effort to maintain the mountain and her beauty.
Accessed from Rancho San Rafael Regional Park, you can loop around the area and take in a wetland habitat, the historic Ranch House, Wilbur D. May Museum, the May Arboretum, pastureland, and natural sage community features. The park encompasses about 570 acres – about 25 acres of manicured turf and 80 acres of pasture (where the dog park is located), and a quick trip through the tunnel will lead you underneath N. McCarren Boulevard to the nature study area. Follow the 1.5-mile hike to the top of the hill. Although it becomes a bit steep and rocky towards the top, the views are worth it, just bring a good pair of hiking shoes. The N is best hiked around sunrise and sunset and overlooks most of Reno and Sparks.
If you’re looking for more difficult hikes in Reno, check out Hunter Creek Trail or Upper Thomas Creek Trail. Both trails offer gorgeous views of water cascades for you (and your pup!) to enjoy all year long. Hunter Creek Trail rewards those that make it through the 5.7-mile hike with a magnificent flowing waterfall, and Upper Thomas Creek, a 5.5-mile hike, does the same, but with a dazzling flowing creek for a nice, refreshing splash of water before looping back around. If you’re brave enough to hike in the winter months, some adventurers even take a polar plunge in the creek!
Looking for some of the most beautiful views of Lake Tahoe? Whether you’re considering where to get the best shot of the lake or see the stars brighter than you ever have before, Lake Tahoe hikes offer both breathtaking views and bragging rights.
On the Nevada side, conquer the summit of Mt. Rose to enjoy tons of alpine lakes, gushing waterfalls and striking features that make up the northern Lake Tahoe skyline. Mt. Rose is the second tallest peak in the Tahoe Basin, but don’t let that scare you off. The 2,300-foot elevation gain is more like a pleasant jaunt than a challenging climb. On the 10.7-mile Mount Rose Trail, you will encounter stunning wildflowers, vibrant wildlife and remarkable views once you reach the summit.
Speaking of views, if views are what you’re after, head over to the Rubicon Trail. The trail can be accessed through Emerald Bay, located on Lake Tahoe’s West Shore. The Rubicon Trail is a moderate trek that can be started from Vikingsholm and is normally hiked as an out and back. You can easily access Emerald Bay off this trail as well, making for a refreshing plunge at the end of the hike in the summer months!
As one of the access points for Desolation Wilderness, Emerald Bay as well as Eagle Lake Trail offers far-reaching forest and lake views (permit required) for those ready to tackle some steep ascending steps. Only 1.8-miles, climb the stairs to the falls and follow the short loop trail, eventually crossing the high bridge to enjoy the vista back down the canyon to Emerald Bay. If you want to go even further to reach Eagle Lake, follow the trail uphill for another half mile until you reach the fork, and take a right.
Along Route 28 near Incline Village, you will find some of the best views of the lake on the North Shore from the Tunnel Creek Trail to Monkey Rock. It is uphill the entire way, but that makes for the most picturesque and iconic views that are so sought after by the many that frequent the trail. Although the trail is open to hikers all year, it is best accessed from May until September. Tunnel Creek Trail is a 4.7-mile, moderate hike with mountain biking and trail running options. If seeing wildflowers was on your list, then head for the Spooner Lake to Marlette Lake trails. Marlette Lake Trail from Spooner Lake is a 10.2-mile, lightly trafficked, out and back trail that’s located near Glenbrook, Nevada.
For a far more difficult (but worth it!) hike, try the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) from Tahoe Meadows to Twin Lakes. At a whopping 7.1 miles, this out-and-back trail is located near Incline Village, too, featuring both hiking, trail running, mountain biking and, of course, Twin Lakes! Expand your knowledge of the many alpine lakes in the area on the TRT. Don’t forget to check out the Tahoe Meadows Trail, too. Located off Mount Rose highway, this small 1.3-mile loop is well maintained, easily marked and full of massive Douglas fir trees, thriving meadows and verdant wildlife.
If you want a less strenuous hike, Cascade Falls Trail is the hike you’re looking for. Lightly trafficked, 1.4-miles long and a short jaunt away from the beautiful waterfall within Emerald Lake State Park, the trailhead is located off Highway 89. With vantage points that offer views of Cascade Lake, Emerald Bay and more, the elevation change is hardly noticeable as you take in the impressive granite formations and multiple pools to stick your feet into all year long.
No matter where you look, hikes in Reno are waiting to be explored, and Lake Tahoe hiking trails will range from easy to difficult, challenging visitors to defy their limitations and charge forward to experience the area like a true local. It’s time to take in the city and the lake in, in a whole new way, by lacing up those hiking boots and getting out there.
P.S. Don’t forget to upload your hiking pictures to social media using the hashtag #RenoTahoe for a chance to be featured on the site. Post your pictures for other curious hikers to gain some inspiration from your journey so they’ll get out there, too!
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