Saturday, April 25, 2015

Hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding near Carson City: Clear Creek Trail

A switchback of Clear Creek Trail near Jacks Valley

Desert peach and bitterbrush
Clear Creek Trail is a scenic multi-use trail through sagebrush-bitterbrush steppe and pine forest between Jacks Valley and Clear Creek Valley—southwest of Carson City, Nevada. This 10.5-mile-long path is open to hikers, mountain-bike riders, equestrians and dogs [1]. There are great view points along the trail: Knob Point being one of the highlights. Don't expect any short-cuts, circular round-trip options or escape routes. Various trail sections go through private land. At intersections with private roads, signs are asking you to please keep on trail. Clear Creek Trail is clearly marked and well maintained.

Some visitors don't get very far beyond the sandy slopes of the Habitat Mangement Area just north of Jacks Valley Road. This area is dominated by rabbitbrush, bitterbrush and sagebrush covering hillsides and surrounding granite boulders. Almost everywhere, you can enjoy the magnificient views of Jacks Valley and the distant peaks of the Carson Range. In mid-spring, fragrance-rich yellow-blooming bitterbrush and pink-blooming desert peach turns this brush desert into a flower garden.
To Knob Point

The trail distance from the trailhead at Jacks Valley Elementary School to Knob Point is seven miles. Once you are entering the open pine forest after about three miles from the trailhead, you may find some shade next to a manzanita shrub under some pine trees. Watch out for rattlesnakes during the hot season, especially in the late afternoon and evening.

To Clear Creek Valley View Point
Clear Creek Trail gently winds its way uphill between Jeffrey pines and white firs. Occasionally, you might spot an incense cedar, most likely between Knob Point and Clear Creek Valley View Point further north. Hikers often make Knob Point their destination and turning point. I have never met hikers, but frequently pairs or groups of mountain bikers along the view-point-to-view-point section of the trail. From the junction of the main trail and the short side path to the view point, Clear Creek Trail continues ascending alongside the slopes of the Carson Range until it reaches its highest point of 6200 feet at the south fork crossing of Clear Creek. The north fork crossing follows soon.

The two creek crossings differ from what you experience elsewhere along the trail. These small riparian zones feature stands of aspen, willows and horsetail next to the flowing—or trickling—water. Over the final stretch, the trail coincidences with  the Old Clear Creek Road for 0.8 miles. The singletrack trail then continues for half a mile on the left side of this road, now with traffic noise from Highway 50, which can be seen further uphill. From the End of Trail sign, it is only a short distance to the  Highway 50/Tahoe Golf Club Drive interchange.

Make the end your beginning
In case you are planning to discover Clear Creek Trail from the Highway 50 side, notice that parking space is very limited. Traverse the dirt road south of the small reservoir and head forward toward the little, red Hot Voltage hut with the sign Confined Space Do Not Enter. Continue on the right side of this facility along the narrowing dirt road and you will encounter a post with a Welcome Trail Users... note. This is the End of Trail trailhead—a trailhead that, due to landownership realities, seems randomly placed. Trail distances are given: 3.5 miles to Knob Point and 10.5 miles to the other-end Jacks Valley Trailhead. The Knob Point round trip from this north trailhead is only seven miles, about half of what it takes when starting from Jacks Valley.

References and other resources
[1] Clear Creek Trail Information:
[2] Bike Carson - Clear Creek Trail:
[3] Ride Report: Clear Creek Trail - Carson City, Nevada:
[4] Clear Creek Trail
[5] Carson Valley Trails Association - Clear Creek

Explore some other trails established by the Carson Valley Trails Association (CVTA):

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