Riding the Carson River Trails

Something great is happening all around Carson City. All the little paths and trails that have been being built over the years are starting to join, transforming our little parks into a network of connecting trails. Thanks to a recently installed bridge between Empire Ranch and Riverview Park, it’s now possible to bike or hike most of the Carson River along the eastern edge of the city. You can now ride the Empire Ranch Trail, Riverview Park, Mexican Ditch Trail, and Silver Saddle Ranch, all with only one paved road crossing at Carson River Road!

Carson River Trail
Getting started at Morgan Mill Road

We recently rode from the Morgan Mill Road Trailhead to Mexican Dam and back, a total of about 13 miles with very little elevation gain. Trails like this are great for beginners, families, or just someone interested in a laid back cruise. The riparian habitat along this route offers plenty of wildlife viewing, while the expansive views of the snow-capped Carson Range provide the backdrop to the west. Here’s a look at each section of this ride.

Carson River Trail
East of the Empire Ranch Golf Course

We started the ride at the Morgan Mill Road trailhead, where there is a parking lot and restroom. The trail begins next to the boat ramp. Soon the well graded trail borders the golf course, with great views of the mountains over the greens and ponds. At the south end of the golf course is the new bridge, crossing the marshy creek and leading into Riverview Park.

Carson River Trail
The new bridge connecting Empire Ranch to Riverview Park

Riverview Park has its own network of trails, so there are a few options to consider to get to the south end of the park. We decided to keep left and ride along the riverbank under the big cottonwood trees. There are several park benches and river access points along the way. Other options would be to ride to the west end of the park to get to the Korean War Veterans Memorial Park, the Mexican Ditch Trail, or even the Linear Park trail which heads back into town.

Carson River Trail
Riverview Park

Carson River Trail
Riding along the Carson River

Carson River Trail
Heading west towards the Mexican Ditch Trail

Once at the south end of Riverview Park, the trail heads west to connect to the Mexican Ditch Trail. The steepest part of the entire route is here, a quick little uphill to a bridge that crosses the ditch. Once on the Mexican Ditch Trail, we headed south out of Riverview Park en route to the Silver Saddle Ranch. The trail in this section tends to be a little softer than previous sections, but is still manageable for most types of bikes. We saw several hawks patrolling the meadow here, but also saw a lot of domesticated animals like goats, sheep, and chickens right along the trail. You may even get to see a bald eagle if you’re lucky.

Carson River Trail
Helpful maps along the way

Carson River Trail
On the Mexican Ditch Trail

The Mexican Ditch trail eventually comes to Carson River Road. It’s just a quick ride up the pavement to the west to enter the Silver Saddle Ranch. Just keep an eye out for cars during the crossing, as the traffic can be pretty fast through here. Follow the loop road from the entrance down to the ranch house. Near the ranch house, there is a trail map and access to a number of trails. The surface on the trails throughout the park are more sandy than the previous trails, but are still easy to negotiate. Most (if not all) trail choices involve a gate, since there is active cattle grazing withing the park. Make sure to close any gates behind you. We chose the road leaving the ranch house to the east, and headed down to the river, watching the cows chase the hay truck as we pedaled by.

Carson River Trail
At the Silver Saddle Ranch

Carson River Trail
Silver Saddle Ranch House

Carson River Trail
One of the ranch roads

Carson River Trail
Feeding Time

We followed the river trail north until it rejoined the trail along the Mexican Ditch. The trail from here follows the ditch all the way to where it begins at Mexican Dam. The easy trail ends at the dam, but those looking for further exploration can follow a sandy foot path that continues along the river on the other side of the ditch.

Carson River Trail
Along the Mexican Ditch on the Silver Saddle trails

This same time last year, there was very little water in the stagnant river, and we were able to walk across the dam. This year, though, the water was full behind the dam, and water cascaded over the top. It’s a good sight to see.

Carson River Trail
A full river behind Mexican Dam

Carson River Trail
Water cascading over Mexican Dam

Carson River Trail
Parked at Mexican Dam

Carson River Trail
Winter colors along the river

On the return trip, we added variety to the ride by taking some of the trails we missed on the way out. At one point, we accidentally missed the turn to Riverview Park, and kept along the Mexican Ditch Trail to 5th Street where we were able to rejoin our intended route. There really is no wrong way to enjoy these trails, as long as you get to your intended destination.

Carson River Trail
Headed back

Carson River Trail
Our Route

The trails are a little soft and muddy at the moment, but they’ll firm up as the weather changes. We enjoyed this route a lot, though, and will definitely come back again when we’re looking for a more leisurely outing. It’s great to have this many miles of trail so close to town. With very little traffic to worry about and the easy grade, it makes a fun family trail. There is much to see and do along these river trails any season of the year, a tremendous recreational asset to the community!

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2 thoughts on “Riding the Carson River Trails

  1. Thanks, A fair weather resident; I do ride this area just below our front yard. I downloaded the article and photos to add to our Carson City home directory of the ‘cool stuff’ in the city.

  2. Jeff – I wanted to thank you for your (seemingly) tireless efforts in documenting and promoting biking in Carson City. My lady and I got Pugsleys at Christmas and have been riding these very same trails quite a lot. I don’t know who is responsible for the bridge between the Empire and Rivierview systems, but they deserve some kudos for making it happen. Carson has the ingredients for a totally awesome trail system – we’re excited to see it coming together. Cheers!

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