Craig Fellers over at Magnetic Junction just did an awesome write up on the trail running opportunities in Reno. As a long time trail runner I can’t help but add my two cents and share my two favorite trails.

Rancho San Rafael/Evans Creek Canyon
Rancho is what I would call a Reno version of Central Park. A museum and art gallery, kids park, lots of open space, plenty of trails, and beautiful groves of trees. Add in that you can park at Rancho and start a hike all the way up Peavine through Evans Creek Canyon, and you could easily picture Rancho being just as big as Central Park.

Living on campus at UNR, a lot of my runs have been through Rancho. I love it because on any given day, the network of trails is such that I can mix and match long slow distance or grueling grinding hill climbing.

Picture this. The headwind from your movement chills the sweat on your face. Your heart, feet, and music all move in sync. Your footfalls only make a poof as they push into the 4 inches of fresh powder snow that blankets the hillside. Everything around you is whitish grey. Once in a while an errant snowflake adds a touch of icey sensation to your moist skin. The temperature is sitting around 30f but you are working hard enough that you are warm and comfortable in a light thermal layer. For the last two miles, the only footprints in the snow have been from you and an unseen coyote seeking breakfast.

As you reach the high point of your run and begin to loop back, you catch a glimpse of the city. The grey clouds look like fog curling through the downtown towers. One cloud is low enough to envelope the base while a second cloud sits tantalizingly close to the rooftop antennae. The background, a city sized blanket of white with a few of the first lateral rays of sunshine beaming in from the east.

Just as quickly as you take everything in, the image is saved in your memory and the task of running down a steep snow covered slope regains your focus. A moment of beauty. As if a reward for braving the elements.

That is why I like that trail. I have run well over a hundred miles of trail through Rancho San Rafael and Evans Creek Canyon and haven’t duplicated the exact same run twice.

Hunter Creek Canyon

Looking up the east canyon at Mile 1 of the Hunter Creek Trail

Craig Fellers talks about his run across the bridge from mayberry park up to the fire road. What I don’t know if he knows, is that, had he continued up the trail instead of following the fire road, he would have been on the Hunter Creek Canyon trail. With three different ways to access Hunter Creek Canyon, this a locals favorite that is always satisfying even though it is the same trail over and over.

Iced Over Hunter Creek Falls

Early Spring in Hunter Creek can be dramatic AND COLD

The most common starting point is the Michael D. Thompson trailhead at the end of Woodchuck drive in southwest Reno. The Hunter Creek trail traces it’s way along the west slope of the main drainage for the north end of the Mount Rose Wilderness area. Though the trail becomes unmaintained beyond the 3 mile mark, an adventuring sole with compass and map can continue up canyon all the way to the mountain top meadow that is Hunter Lake(if you can call a boggy meadow a lake). The off trail part is truly challenging and not recommended for most. The three miles of trail, on the other hand, will take you through steep rocky hillside, pine and aspen groves, wild rose and sage meadows, and deposit you at a beautiful waterfall. Given the right time of day and year you may be lucky enough to see deer, coyotes, and black bear along the trail as well as an assortment of birds and wildflowers.

As a runner, I love this trail for it’s constant twists, turns, and elevation changes. Like an interval run where all the runner has to do is maintain a constant pace. The trail climbs quickly then drops and climbs again. Regular switchbacks and straightaways provide the kind of variety that makes the trail fun AND challenging. Fairly regular traffic gives a sense of security should anything go wrong(there are a number of rocky sections that challenge you to dare run through at the risk of your ankles). Even with the regular traffic I highly recommend going with a buddy or using a check in system with someone who knows where the trail is and what section you will be on. This trail is wilderness area and you should always practice proper wilderness safety.

So where do you like to run in Reno?

Do you think I’m nuts to be running in the snow? If you do, then don’t look for my results in the 2012 Snow Joke Half Marathon in Seeley Lake Montana.

Happy Running Reno!

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