Mount Rose, at 10,776 feet, is the highest peak in Nevada’s Tahoe Basin and the 3rd highest mountain in the Lake Tahoe Basin (Freel Peak at 10,881 feet is the highest and Jobs Sister, at 10,823 feet, is the second highest). The very well-used trail to the summit of Mount Rose is typically described as “…the most popular trail in the State of Nevada…” owing to the proximity of all the people in Reno and Lake Tahoe (and probably Sacramento and San Francisco too). This proximity seemingly results in the trailhead parking lot overflowing on summer weekends – which is impressive given that there is space for 50 cars! I figured my chances for a less crowded hike would be best early on a weekday so, after a short drive up from Reno, I left the trailhead at 0630 on a Wednesday, with only six cars ahead of me in the parking lot.
The “New Mount Rose” trail starts behind the toilets and climbs up a few stairs to an open sagebrush-covered slope which provides a partial view of Lake Tahoe and the Desolation Wilderness to the west.
After that the wide, well-trodden, unmissable trail goes along essentially level for the next 2.3 miles. This section of the Mount Rose trail is also part of the Tahoe Rim Trail which goes on to accomplish an approximately 160 mile circumnavigation of Lake Tahoe.
After 2.3 miles, I reached Galena Falls, which arise from the springs that create Galena Creek. Thus far, I had passed one person on the trail.
The summit trail departs from the Tahoe Rim Trail here and circles around the north side of the meadows at the head of Galena Creek.
There were a couple of confusing use trails in this area and a little navigation was required to find the “Hikers Only” sign marking the continuation of the summit trail. Once past the meadows, the trail finally started climbing.
The trail gained approximately 700 feet along the west side of mountain in about 1.4 miles to a saddle at 9,731 feet, where I found a sign for the Mount Rose Wilderness (details), four folks who had been on the summit for the sunrise, and an Early Evening Primrose in bloom.
From there, the trail continued to be obvious and soon broke out of what trees there were to provide a full 360 view for the remainder of the climb.
The summit itself wasn’t very impressive,
but the view certainly was. I could see down to the meadows I’d just circumvented,
and out to Lake Tahoe, where the smoke and haze in the valley was creeping over the rim into the lake basin.
It was pleasantly cool and crisp on the summit, with a light breeze to keep the flies at bay. A snack seemed to be in order but as I started to open it, the seemingly obligatory “summit mammal” popped into view, with its gaze riveted on my snack. These appearances have been a theme this year, along with my having to buy my freedom with a tiny piece of organic, salt-free peanut.
There was one guy on the summit when I got there – he soon headed down – but I sensed that more were coming. On my way back, I passed about two dozen people heading up to the summit, about 15-20 more milling around the Falls, and a similar number between the Falls and the trailhead, along with various dogs, kids, and strollers. The 50-car trailhead parking lot was full when I got back. One can only wonder what a weekend day looks like! Total hike was 9.8 miles round trip, with 2,300 feet of elevation gain.