Monday, October 28, 2013

The upper portion of the Rim to Reno Trail

The Rim to Reno Regional Trail System includes trails open for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding; while some sections are closed or not recommended for biking and equestrian use. The first four miles of the upper Rim to Reno (RtR) Trail are shared with other popular trails in the Carson Range between Slide Mountain, Tamarack Peak and Mount Rose: the 2.5-mile long RtR section to the Tamarack Waterfall shares its path with the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) and the Mount Rose Trail. At the waterfall, the TRT leaves the RtR to connect with the Brockway Summit via Relay Ridge and Peak and the Slab Cliffs.

Continuing on the RtR you will wander past willows and through low shrubs at Galena Creek Meadows' west side and enter the Mount Rose Wilderness after climbing the path through an open-forest canyon uphill to a ridge, which joins Mt. Rose with the Relay Peak Range. From the trail junction amid whitebark pines on the ridge saddle, the Mount Rose Trail further ascends to your right, whereas the RtR single-track trail winds downhill on the other side of the ridge into the valley of Bronco Creek between Mount Houghton and Church Peak. The trail post informs you, that the RtR continues on to the Thomas Creek Trailhead for another seventeen miles.

The RtR downhill path leads along switchbacks through coniferous forest, almost void of any understory. After about one mile you will pass various conglomerate boulders at the bottom of rugged rock walls on the left side of a meadow. Further downhill, the trail crosses Bronco Creek, next to a fork made by the confluence of two roaring branches. Then, the RtR approaches picturesque rock formations at the bottom of Church Peak (see left-side photo above). Here is where the Bronco Creek trail description in Mike White's hiking guide Afoot & Afield ends, by comparing this remote spot with the hustle and bustle of the Mt. Rose trail [1]:

Hundreds of weekenders may be struggling toward the summit of Mt. Rose along the much more popular Mt. Rose Trail. However, along Bronco Creek, your party should have the fun of the basin, where the rock faces of Church Peak and Mt. Rose provide a dramatic backdrop to the verdant grasses of the green meadow, despite the extremely poor condition of trails in this part of the Mt. Rose Wilderness.

Concerning the RtR route, the trail conditions in this part of the Mt. Rose Wilderness are excellent today. And if your condition is too, you may want to scale the “rock levee” that comes in sight after following the trail along the rock wall and talus slope.

Now, your descend to Reno is coming to an end for a while. You will begin your ascend along switchbacks through pine forest. Once you are leaving the switchbacks behind, the trail traverses open, west-facing slopes providing grand views of nearby Church Peak (top picture), the meadows downhill in the Bronco Creek valley (picture just above), and—across the creek—the slightly curved and ascending Relay Ridge. The Pacific Crest is shaping the western horizon. 

Miles and miles of the upper RtR portion are still ahead of you. The RtR trail leads over chaparral-like hillsides of mountain mahagony. The trail then bends westward, leading—again through forest—to a chain of rock outcrops, which are marked in the map by the 9730 ft pointer.  The well-graded trail passes by rock heaps and will finally get you to another vista point from which you can scan the landscape to the northwest, viewing over the Truckee river canyon and Verdi Range to the Boca and Stampede Reservoirs.

The RtR trail continues north for about two miles until it reaches the junction, at which you are free to select the shorter South Loop Route or the longer North Loop Route, both taking you downhill into the Thomas Creek canyon.   

The total RtR trail is not a typical day-hike trail. It is a great trail for backpackers in search of remote places. For outdoor enthusiasts enjoying alternate up- and downhill hiking with varying scenery, the upper portion of the RtR trail allows for exciting, individually designed out-and-back trips—leaving the crowd of Mt. Rose summit pilgrims behind. 

Getting there
Get to the Mount Rose Summit Trailhead at the Mount Rose State Scenic Byway (Highway 431) between Reno and Incline Village. My post Tamarack Peak Waterfall at Galena Creek's upper end summarizes the first 2.5 miles of the RtR trail as well as hiking options past the trail junction at the waterfall. Notice that certain distance values for trail sections given at signposts differ slightly from those given in the map.

Keywords: Rim-to-Reno, Reno-to-Rim, Rim2Reno, Reno2Rim, trail network, Bronco Creek, Mt. Rose Wilderness area, Nevada, solitude, attitude, altitude.

[1] Mike White: Afoot & Afield. Wilderness Press, Berkeley, California, 2nd printing 2008; pp. 250-251.

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