If you’re in the Carson City area and looking to get in a quick mountain bike ride, you should add the newly constructed Pinyon Trail to your list. Located on the east side of the Carson Valley in the Pine Nut Mountains, this 5.2 mile trail circles around a large hill with spectacular views of the Pine Nut and Carson Ranges. Riders will get a good sampling of northern Nevada as they follow the twisty trail through pinyon pines (one of Nevada’s state trees) and Utah junipers.
To get to the trailhead, drive to the south end of Gardnerville, go northeast on Muller Pkwy at the intersection, and then east on Pinenut Road. Veer to the left when you get to the Dump Road, and keep to the right at the intersection of Our-R-Way Road. Trailhead parking is located 6.7 miles from HWY 395. The last 2.3 miles of the drive is on graded gravel, and small cars will be fine if the speed is kept down. The trailhead parking is a one-way design that accommodates autos and horse trailers. Parking and a trailhead kiosk are the only amenities; no water, bathrooms, or trash service. A good map is located on the Carson Valley Trails Association website HERE.
The Pinyon Trail is a lollipop design, that is, it has a common entrance and exit with a loop at the top. The trail begins by climbing around the west side of the hill with wide open views of many notable peaks: Silver Peak and Raymond Peak to the south, Jobs and Monument Peaks to the West, and Slide Mountain to the North, to name a few.
After 1.1 miles, the trail reaches the loop junction. We chose to ride the 3 mile loop clockwise, but it can be ridden in either direction. When riding the trail clockwise, though, it appears that the climb is more gradual to the high point, leaving the steeper side for the descent. Riders looking for more mileage can ride the loop multiple times. Taking the loop twice extends the overall ride to about 8.2 miles.
The trail maintains a gentle grade of about 5% throughout the loop for some easy climbing, and the trail surface is generally soil and mostly rock free. Switchbacks are pretty wide angled, and don’t require too much skill to get through. With its low mileage and easy riding surface, you could classify the trail as beginner singletrack if it weren’t for a couple other factors that increase the difficulty. The trail tread is fairly narrow, and is constantly turning around trees and rocks. This takes some skill and concentration from the rider, especially once the pace is increased. The trail is also cut into the steep slope of the hill at times. While this doesn’t make the trail more difficult, it can be a visual challenge for some to see the ground falling off steeply to one side. Keeping your eyes focused up ahead on the trail, though, will keep you on track.
Once again, the Carson Valley Trails Association has put together another great trail. While most of their trails have been built on the west side of the valley and have more of a “Sierras” look, this one has a unique feel to it when compared to most local trails. The pinyon and juniper environment is typical of what you’ll see crossing the mountain ranges across the state, and really gives riders a Nevada impression. Beginning riders will enjoy the gentle climb and descent, while more advanced riders will have fun with all the twists and turns. It’s a great addition to the local trail collection, adding some nice variety to the mix.
- Maps, detailed driving directions, and additional information can be found on the Carson Valley Trails Association page: www.carsonvalleytrails.org/Trails-PinyonTrail.html
- This non-motorized single track trail is open to hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians and dogs.
- Trail elevation ranges from 5,700 feet at the trailhead to about 6,060 feet at the highest point.
- Although I don’t believe any maps exist, there are many more trails in the immediate vicinity for further exploration that are shared by motorized and non-motorized users.
- Keep an eye out for shell fossils in the rock shale near the top.
- While the sandy trails on the west side of the valley benefit from some moisture, the dirt in this area of the Pine Nut Mountains turns to sticky clay when wet. Some have dubbed this “gumbo mud”, and it will quickly render your bike immobile when it starts raining.