Excuses to Get Outside – Hiking Mount Rose

The value of spending time outdoors – whether alone or with others – cannot be overstressed. One of the highlights of living in Reno is the diversity and proximity of a huge range of outdoor recreational opportunities. This little series is designed to help give you excuses to get outside and enjoy all the area has to offer.

Today’s Excuse to Get Outside: Hiking Mount Rose

Among the many things Reno has to offer, is a plethora of world-class hikes. Perhaps the crown jewel of local hikes is the Mount Rose Summit hike. In this article we will walk you some of the specifics of this legendary hike AND provide you with a more relaxed, kid friendly variation that takes you to the Galena Falls. 

The Mount Rose Summit Hike


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Strenuous, high altitude with significant elevation gain.

Distance: 10.5 miles

Variant: Galena Falls Hike


Rating: 2 out of 5.

Easy, high altitude but relatively flat. Great for kids.

Distance: 5 miles

The Hike(s)

Few towns can boast a hike as challenging and rewarding as Reno with the Mount Rose Summit hike. An out-and-back trail totalling 10.5 miles (all the way to the summit and back), the hike takes you through beautiful pine forests, along rock outcroppings, through gorgeous meadows, past waterfalls and ultimately, up to the barren, windswept summit of the highest peak in Washoe County. 

The hike begins at the Mount Rose Highway summit parking lot (elevation 8,900 feet) and culminates atop Mount Rose at 10,785 feet. With the variations in the trail, the total elevation gain is 4,200 feet making it a strenuous hike. The trail is well used and maintained. Crowds can vary depending on time of day and day of the week. The trail typically is snow free by early summer (mid – late June) and depending on our first snowfall, is hikeable until mid fall (November). Weather is variable so come prepared for significantly cooler temperatures than Reno (the wind can be very strong near the summit). As always, be prepared with water, food, and appropriate gear. 

The hike begins in the southwest corner of the highway summit parking lot (right behind the bathroom facility) with great views of Lake Tahoe before crossing a ridgeline and meandering towards the Galena Falls. Galena Falls is ~2.5 miles from the start and sits in a high, beautiful meadow. The hike to Galena Falls (see below) is relatively flat along a well maintained trail and makes a perfect turn around spot for those seeking a more relaxed hike. 

For those venturing to the summit, the hike starts becoming more strenuous after the falls. Across the meadow the trail starts its ascent in earnest. Spectacular views provide distraction from your searing lungs and burning quads. Up and up the trail continues until you eventually hit the treeline and reach the barren final stretch. Amid the loose volcanic rock the trail switchbacks until you reach the summit. If you are lucky, the wind will be calm and you can enjoy the views and your accomplishment. 

On clear days the views are terrific. There is Mount Lassen to the northwest, the Pacific Crest of the Sierras, all of Lake Tahoe and large portions of the Truckee River and Truckee Meadows, Washoe Valley, Carson City, and Carson Valley. 

The hike back, while largely downhill, provides views you might have missed on your way up and are equally stunning. Best of all, you likely will feel like a better person for having done the hike and will, quite literally, have a new perspective on how lucky you are to live in Reno. 

Now get outside! 

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