Thursday, April 23, 2015

Clear Creek Trail's lower section: wide open views of sagebrush/bitterbrush steppe, the Genoa fault surface and the Carson Range

Weathering rocks along Clear Creek Trail with snowy Jobs Peak and Jobs Sister in the background

Once, a sagebrush/bitterbrush steppe plant community dominated the foothills north and south of Genoa between the Carson Range and the Carson River in Nevada. This ecosystem has been turned—in most parts—into ranchlands, golf course fields and gentrified neighborhoods. If you like to explore still existing sagebrush/bitterbrush steppe in the Reno-Tahoe area, then the Jobs Peak Ranch Trail area and the Jacks Valley Habitat Management Area provide great open spaces to do so.

The Jacks Valley Habitat is now preserved to protect wildlife such as visiting mule deer and other game. The lower section of the 10.5-mile-long Clear Creek Trail gives hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders access to the scenic brushland hills with variously-shaped, weathering rocks.

In April and May you will witness the fantastic flower display of pink-blooming desert peach shrubs. In contrast, bitterbrush has yellow flowers. On warm, sunny days in mid-spring the air is filled with their rose-like fragrance. Bitterbrush seeds are prized by birds, rodents and harvester ants. Rodents prey on and distribute the seeds. The bitterbrush twigs and the dark green, extremely bitter leaves provide vital proteins for deer and antelope [1].

About one-fourth of the Clear Creek Trail snakes through the steppe, gently ascending from Jacks Valley Elementary School and the trailhead at Jacks Valley Road towards the pine forest slopes. Viewing south, you will see Jacks Valley, Carson Valley and the snowy peaks (during winter and spring) of the Carson Range, such as Jobs Peak and the slightly higher Jobs Sister. You can trace the Genoa fault line where the valley planes intersect the steep mountain front.  The Genoa fault is part of the Sierra Nevada Frontal Fault Zone. A strong earthquake with a magnitude of about 7.5 is believed to have occurred along the Genoa Fault within the past few hundred years [2].

Jacks Valley seen from Clear Creek Trail
Jacks Valley with Carson Range and Genoa fault line

The Clear Creek Trail travels through land of the Toiyabe National Forest and also through private land. As you are leaving the steppe and entering the open pine forest, the trail intersects with unpaved cross roads, where signs ask you to keep off those roads to respect private-land ownership.The trail continues to wind up to Knob Point, a beautiful view point from where you can see across the Minden/Gardnerville area to the Pine Nut Mountains. Continuing on to another another vista point, you will be able to view Clear Creek.

Getting to the Clear Creek Trailhead on Jacks Valley Road
From Carson City, drive south on Highway 395. Go past Topsy Lane and turn left onto Jacks Valley Road. Go west for 1.5 miles. Soon after passing the Jacks Valley Elementary School (or parking there; read below) you will arrive at the right-side parking strip next to the grey gate saying Road Closed. Non-motorized traffic passes through the opening on the left side of the gate. The brown Jack's Valley Habitat Management Area board and the trailhead kiosk are standing behind the gate and fence.
From Genoa, drive north on Jacks Valley Road for about six miles. Find the trailhead on the left side just after the road bends northeast, past Bavarian Drive and the fire station. 

Jacks Valley Trailhead at Jacks Valley Elementary School
Instead of using the Jacks Valley Road trailhead, you may want to make the nearby trailhead, about 0.3 miles further east, at the southwest side of Jacks Valley Elementary School your starting point—the real beginning (or end) of the trail. This site has plenty of room for horse trailers.

Clear Creek Trail is open year-round.

References and more to explore
[1] J. V. Tingley, K. A. Pizzaro, C. Ross, B. W. Parkey and L. J. Garside: Geologic and Natural History Tours in the Reno Area.  Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Special Publication 19. University of Nevada, Reno 2005 (see page 116 and other pages). 
[2] Alan Ramelli: Prominent Fault Scarps in Western Nevada. Nevada Geology. Quarterly Newsletter of the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology. Spring 1992 [].
[3] Clear Creek Trail Map:
[4] Carson Valley Trails Association - Clear Creek Trail:

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