As I mentioned earlier, I created a survey to rank the mountain bike trails and beer for smaller cities and towns. So far, I’ve gotten 18 responses, and here are the preliminary results. Bellingham seems to be the highest rated town, with the highest beer rating at 9.25 and a high trail score at 9.00. Whistler/Squamish had the highest rating for trails, an average of 9.86, with a decent beer score of 7.43. Interestingly, Bend had the second highest beer score of 8.89, but a fairly low trail score of 5.89. Reno had the lowest overall score with a trail score of 4.75 and beer score of 6.25. (I think that Reno beer score is seriously too low. If you need a recommendation for better Reno beer, let me know.)
Because several destinations had as few as two responses, I also did a chart with only the towns that had at least 5 responses.
Survey is still open, so you can still respond here. Thanks!
With this super long winter we’ve been having, I’ve been having so much fun exploring the trails in the lower elevations surrounding Truckee. Last weekend, Greyson and I checked out some new-to-us trails in the Mount Rose area of Reno, as you might have seen in my video. We rode the Dry Pond Loop counterclockwise, and it was a great intermediate ride, on the easier side of intermediate. It’s about 6.5 miles and a little over 1,000 of climbing, with most of the climbing coming in the first half.
This loop is below Mount Rose in the Galena area, south and west of downtown Reno off of Highway 431. We parked at the Thomas Creek Trailhead parking area (Click here for Google Map directions) and headed up Thomas Creek Trail right from the large parking lot. This trail climbs steadily, but not too steeply along Thomas Creek through aspen groves and into the pines. We saw a ton of hikers with dogs on this section of the trail, but nearly everyone was very friendly. After about 1.5 miles and ~500 feet of climbing, Thomas Creek Trail intersects with the Dry Pond Trail.
Dry Pond Trail continues to climb, and the climb definitely gets steeper at this point, and there are a few very tight and steep switchbacks that I struggled with. Dry Pond trail takes you through a curly leaf mountain mahogany forest, which is really cool. I’d only ever seen bush sized mountain mahogany before. There are also really sweeping views looking down into the Washoe Valley.
After about 1.2 miles and another ~440 feet of climbing, we arrived at the dry pond that gives the trail it’s name. We stopped here to have a snack and admire the awesome view of Mount Rose across the meadow. The Dry Pond Trail starts heading downhill almost immediately after the meadow, and the trail on the south side was pretty different from what we’d just climbed up. While the climb up was mostly dirt with some embedded rocks and roots, the downhill was looser, rockier and more exposed. It’s all very rideable, but I was amazed at the quick change in the terrain.
At about mile 3.8, Dry Pond Trail intersects Whites Creek Trail. We turned left and continued down hill. Whites Creek Trail isn’t as steep as Dry Pond, and it’s back in the pines and aspen groves. The trail isn’t a “flow trail”, but I thought it was fast and flowy, with lots of little rock gardens and objects to pop off of that you can choose to challenge yourself on. It also gets a little sandy in spots, especially towards the bottom, and I imagine it will be even more sandy later in the summer. As we got closer to the end, we started to encounter more bikers, hikers, and dogs, but generally people were really friendly. Whites Creek Trail dead ends at N. Timberline Dr. where we turned left and headed the last half mile back to the car. There’s a tiny bit of a climb back to the parking area, and my legs were dead at this point. It was almost comical how hard the less than 75 feet of climbing felt to me.
I really enjoyed riding the Dry Pond Loop. There were great views, interesting ecosystems, friendly people, and enough challenge to make it entertaining. I think this would be a great trail to take newer riders on.
While another snowstorm is barreling towards Truckee (urgghhh, I’m ready for Spring!), I’m dreaming about mountain biking. While we’re still buried in snow in the higher elevations, the Sierra foothills will be ready for riding soon. Last year, when we had a pretty mild winter, Greyson and I found a couple of fun loops to do less than an hour away at Peavine Mountain in Reno, Nevada.
The first route we did was a lollipop that involved a chunky climb up and a smooth ride down. It was fun, but for my style of riding I think I’d ride it the other way next time. We covered about 7.2 miles and ~880 feet of elevation in a moving time of 1:17.
For this loop, we parked off of Kings Row (which is a residential neighborhood, so be polite if you park here!) and hopped on to Halo Trail and started climbing. We didn’t take the full Halo Trail, but took the left fork on to Curt’s Cut Off at about 3.8 miles. At about 4 miles, Curt’s dead ends into another branch of Halo Trail, turn left, and the climbing is over at that point! At about 4.2 miles, we took the left fork on to Bacon Strip for another short, flat section. Coming from Truckee, I love riding at Peavine because of the wide open views!
At about 4.4 miles, we started on the real downhill section by taking the left fork on to Crispy Bacon. We descended just over 200 feet in almost 1.5 miles – the descent was pretty mellow. Honestly, it was a little on the boring side. I’d climb up it, if I did this route again. The next section of the descent, starting at mile ~5.8 back on Halo Trail, does get a little spicy! This part of the trail is rocky and little exposed, which to me seems a lot more noticeable on the downhill, versus when we were climbing up. This segment is about 1.4 miles and drops ~380 feet. With that, we got back to the car.
On the next loop we did, we took a group with a wide variety of mountain bike experience, from total beginners to experts. Everyone seemed to have a great time! It was easy enough that the beginners could handle everything, but had enough features of interest that the experts weren’t bored. This loop was about 5 miles with just under 1,000 feet of climbing, with a moving time of 48 minutes. This route was much smoother than the previous loop, with very little rocky or technical riding.
This loop started from the East Keystone Trailhead, a paved parking area with lots of parking. We headed up Keystone Trail, a fairly mellow climb. We were looking for a left turn on to Total Recall at about mile 1.7, but we turned too early on to a fire road – don’t make that mistake. We figured it out pretty quickly, hopped back on Keystone, and found the correct left on to Total Recall pretty quickly. At about 2 miles, there’s a fork in the trail, and we went left on to Poedunk Trail. The first mile of Poedunk is the last bit of climbing on this route, rising up about 260 feet.
At about mile 4, Poedunk forks, and we needed to make sure that we got back to the correct parking area. We stayed right and stayed on Poedunk (though you can also take the left fork on to P Drop Trail). When Poedunk ended about 0.1 miles later, we went left on Rancho Connector until it re-crossed P Drop at about 4.4 miles. We turned right on P Drop, which dead ends back on Keystone Canyon, at about mile 4.8. From there, it’s just a short bit back to the car. This was a fun loop, but next time I do it, I’ll just take the left fork onto P Drop, as it’s a simpler route back to the car.
Peavine Mountain is an awesome trail network where you can build routes for all ability and fitness levels. I found it was pretty easy to navigate – many trails have signage, but not all. Having an app like Trailforks to help navigate was nice for that reason. Since Reno is such a quick drive from Truckee-Tahoe, the Peavine trails are a great option when the weather isn’t cooperating up higher. Some of the Peavine trails don’t drain especially well and get think, tire clogging, peanut butter type mud when it’s wet, so be sure to pay attention to the trail conditions. Greyson and I learned the hard way once, and had to turn back after less than a mile!
I’m excited to explore more of what Peavine Mountain has to offer this spring, and I plan to write up some more, longer routes.
While Reno has a reputation for being Las Vegas’s grimier, less fun little sibling, I think it’s an extremely underrated destination. It’s relatively cheap, has amazing access to Lake Tahoe and the Sierra, and has an increasingly good food and bar scene. There are two adjacent neighborhoods where the city is seeing a renaissance – Riverwalk District and MidTown and are my two favorite to visit.
Riverwalk District: The Riverwalk District in Downtown Reno is anchored by two things – the historic casinos and the Truckee River. While this is definitely where you want to be if you’re going to gamble, there’s a lot more to do here than play the slots.
For a climbing experience like no other, you can climb at Whitney Peak Hotel at Basecamp. You can boulder inside or climb outside next to the famous “Biggest Little City sign. Also at Whitney Peak Hotel is the concert venue Cargo. Cargo is my favorite size of venue – large enough to attract big-ish names, but small enough that you still feel close to the action. In addition to concerts, they also host events like Zombie Prom, Henry Rollins Slideshow, and wrestling!
The Truckee River runs right through downtown, and Reno has really begun to take advantage of it. In addition to parks, riverfront dining, and pedestrian bridges, there is the Truckee River Whitewater Park, a whitewater kayaker playground with man made and natural features. You’ll often see whitewater kayakers paddling through the rapids, and the Reno River Festival is held every May, with competitions, demonstrations, and a fun street fair.
The Riverwalk District has some great restaurants as well. My favorite Italian restaurant is located here – Campo. It has great pizza and pasta, focusing on local, seasonal ingredients. Their menu varies with what’s in season, but you can’t really go wrong. If the beet salad is on the menu, order that and be sure to check out what their barrel aged cocktail special is. It’s usually something delicious.
For something less fancy, Pho 777 has the best veggie pho I’ve tried so far in Reno. For late night (or early morning!), greasy diner food the Mel’s Drive In in the Sands casino is cheesy, but perfect for what you’re looking for. Also, the Sands will give you a glimpse of the gritty side of Reno.
MidTown: MidTown Reno is definitely the up-and-coming hipster neighborhood in the city. Greyson and I joke that every time we come there is some new Portland stereotype business that’s opened up – sushi burritos, dog aromatherapy, etc. Some of the original charm still remains. A cupcake shop will share a parking lot with a payday loan store and strip club.
My favorite things to do in MidTown are eat and drink, though there are tons of cute shops and one of the best thrift stores I’ve ever been to, Junkee Clothing Exchange, is located in this district. The Nevada Museum of Art is also here, and it is one of my favorite hidden gems in Reno. It’s only $10 to get in, and they frequently have incredible exhibits with renowned artists. If you’re visiting Reno and have a free evening or afternoon, I highly recommend it!
For breakfast, I frequent Great Full Gardens. This is a great restaurant to visit if you are feeding both vegetarians & meat eaters or adventurous eaters & pickier people – everyone will find something that they like. I almost always get the pupusas, but the liege waffles are a must try and they have the best vegetarian eggs benedict I’ve ever gotten. There are lots of other brunch places in MidTown that look great, but they almost always have long waits, while Great Full Gardens is (inexplicably) less busy.
For a different kind of breakfast experience, the Brewer’s Cabinet has a “Kegs and Eggs” special on Saturday and Sunday mornings. For $16.95, you get two beers and something off the breakfast menu. It’s a great deal, and I really like their breakfast food, especially the BC scramble.
Moving on to lunch, I like to go to Pinon Bottle Company, a tap house with an extensive beer list that is a great mix of local breweries, less distributed western US breweries, and few beers from far away. After ordering your beer, you can wander next door to Noble Pie Parlor and order delicious pizza. They’ll even deliver it to you back at Pinon, so you can continue enjoying your beer. I love the T-Pane, which has caramelized fennel and onions, sausage, and granny smith apples, though they do have more “normal” pizzas as well.
On to dinner and desert! When I want to go to a nicer dinner, I frequently go to Midtown Eats. Like many of Reno’s awesome restaurants, the menu is focused on local and seasonal ingredients, so it changes frequently, but everything I’ve had there has been delicious. They also make great cocktails. Though I am more of a savory treats person, my two favorite sweet things are donuts and ice cream. Simple combines both of these things into an amazing (and incredibly messy) desert. Simple gets donuts, cronuts, cookies, and ice cream from local businesses, and you can create your own ice cream sandwich. They are very messy, don’t get one to go!
That’s just scratching the surface of some of my favorite things to do, eat, and drink in just a couple of Reno’s neighborhoods. If you visit Reno, I hope you check out a couple of these places and enjoy them as much as I do!