Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hiking trails east of Reno: Hidden Valley Regional Park and above

Hidden Valley Regional Park is located east of Reno, south of Sparks, in Nevada. The open valley area of the park features short trails and loops such as the Mia Vista Trail, the Inner Loop and the South Park Loop, providing access to the playground at the end of Mia Vista Drive. The Highland Loop accesses the lower slopes of the Virginia Range with views of the Truckee Meadows and beyond. This loop also is your gateway, if you want to climb to the volcanic outcrops on the mountainside and further up to the ridge and the county line between Washoe and Storey County.

As Mike White writes [1], a bounty of unimproved trails wind up there. For example, the narrow path seen in the picture, crosses steep and crumbly slopes over an area of hydrothermally altered volcanic rocks. Such patches of bleached white, yellow to pale brown and red-stained  rocks and soil are characteristic for the Virginia Range and are also found along Geiger Grade. These alterations derived during geological activity in the past, when  hydrothermal solutions chemically attacked exposed minerals [2]. In spite of the arid and very acidic soil with pH values below 5.6 at some locations, juniper and pine trees cover many parts of the slopes and ridges. During spring plants such as apricot mallow, tufted evening-primrose and eyelashweed can be found here. 

Getting there
From the eastern section of McCarran Blvd. in Reno take Pembroke Drive, which is the eastward-heading continuation of Rock Blvd. Pass the Rosewood Golf Course (on your right), Steamboat Creek, Piping Rock Drive and then turn right into Parkway Drive. Continue all the way to the end and enter the park. There are various parking areas inside the park, providing convenient access to picnic tables, recreation grounds, equestrian facilities as well as hiking and biking trails. A board with a trail map is located at the southeast side above the horseman's area and below the water tanks.

References and further reading
[1] “Hidden Valley County Park” on pages 340 and 341 in Mike White's hiking guide Afoot & Afield • Reno-Tahoe • A comprehensive hiking guide. Wilderness Press, Berkeley, California, 2nd printing November 2008.
[2] J. V. Tingley, K. A. Pizarro, C. Ross, B. W. Putkey and L. J. Garside: Geologic and Natural History Tours in the Reno Area. Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, University of Nevada, Reno, 2005; pages 31 and 44. 

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