Monday, October 7, 2013

Sierra Canyon Trail: from Genoa to Carson Range's Tahoe Rim

Carson Range & Valley view towards the Jobs Peak Ranch Trail area

The Sierra Canyon is a roughly V-shaped valley between Nevada's Town of Genoa and Genoa Peak in the Carson Range. A trail for hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders leads through this canyon, connecting Genoa on the Carson Valley floor with the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) via a 9.6-mile-long single-track path—switchback by switchback (see map & more).

The first two miles from the Sierra Canyon trailhead kiosk, located at the end of Genoa's Snowshoe Lane, to the Discovery Trail junctions are a good warm-up. You'll reach the first junction after a 1.8-mile-climb, where you may decide to turn left and take the well-graded Discovery Trail for a scenic trip instead of scaling Sierra Canyon any further. Otherwise, you want to turn right and follow the 0.2-mile-section along which the Discovery Trail and the Sierra Canyon Trail share their paths. Then, at the rock outcrop, a sharp left-turn gets you onto the “final” 7.6-mile-long ascending stretch.

Most parts of the Sierra Canyon Trail are in shade or semi-shade. Leaving the Discovery Trail and starting the long climb, you will soon come along a few tiny waterfalls or seeps, depending on season, within a forest of pines, firs and cedars and a varying understory of manzanita and also mountain mahagony, snowberry and other bushes. Aspen, alder and willow trees grow close to the creek, which you can hear running to your left. As you climb the southeast-facing slope, the forest widens. Looking up the steep slope, you will appreciate the many well-planned switchbacks that make the elevation gain less exhausting to your body.

Eastward view along Sierra Canyon into Carson Valley

In the upper Sierra Canyon the switchback-stretches are getting longer. Some of the switchback-turns on the Carson Valley side make for nice vista points. As you continue over occasional talus slopes and pass by rock outcrops, such as the one in the top picture, you will reach the last two miles that are almost switchback-free. This east-west section along the southern slope of Genoa Peak features some trees of mountain juniper and several locations with great views of the Carson Valley and beyond (picture above).

Sierra Canyon Trail/TRT junction
You are going to cross two dirt roads, with allowance for motorized traffic, before you arrive at the junction of the Sierra Canyon Trail with the Tahoe Rim Trail in dense forest. No views of Lake Tahoe from this point. The signpost in the picture tells you the miles you managed and which you still have ahead to you while descending the same way you came up. You may have planned and arranged differently by considering  the other two options: continuing south along the TRT for 5.5 miles to the Kingsbury North Trailhead or continuing north for 6.7 miles to the Spooner Summit Trailhead.   
Getting to the Sierra Canyon Trailhead
The Sierra Canyon Trail is part of the Genoa Trail System. A map can also be viewed or downloaded via the Maps menu of my Explore Reno-Tahoe Portal.
From Genoa's Mormon Station State Park, drive north on Jacks Valley Road for about half a mile and turn left onto Centennial Drive. Follow this road, which turns into a gravel road and then bends right, to its junction with Snowshoe Lane. There you should find a sign saying “Sierra Canyon Trail Access Parking - Parking this side only” (see picture) on the right side of Centennial Drive, where shoulder parking space is provided. The trailhead kiosk for the Sierra Canyon Trail is found at the other end of Snowshoe Lane, a 0.2-mile-long road with no public parking at its dead-end!

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