Galena Creek Regional Park: The Complete Guide

Young Buck deer standing in forest, Galena Creek Regional Park, Nevada, America, USA
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Galena Creek Regional Park

Address
North Entrance - 18250, South Entrance, 18350 Mt Rose Hwy, Reno, NV 89511, USA
Phone +1 775-849-2511

The Galena Creek Recreation Area is one of the jewels of the massive Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, which spans 6.3 million acres and is the largest U.S. National Forest in the lower 48 states. The recreation area sits at the base of Mount Rose, the highest mountain in Nevada’s Washoe County. Hikers and bikers love it for its trails through grand forested areas, mountain streams, and canyons. And its summer climate is a major respite for Las Vegans, who head north to the Reno/Lake Tahoe area for its cool, mountain weather when the weather turns punishing in Southern Nevada.

In fact, the area isn’t limited to the regional park itself. It comprises three different facilities: Galena Creek Visitor CenterGalena Creek Recreation Area, and Galena Creek Regional Park. The first two are located on the Mount Rose Scenic Byway, which connects Reno to Lake Tahoe’s Incline Village and is the highest year-round pass in the Sierra (you’ll get an incredible view of crystal-clear Lake Tahoe from the mountains). Galena Creek Regional Park is in the area’s lower elevation.

The area has an interesting history: In the 1860s, a town was formed in the area as a gold mining property called “Galena.” It failed as a mining center because of all the lead sulfate mixed in with the gold, but grew into a lumber center, shipping timber to Virginia City’s Comstock silver mines. You can only see a few remnants of the once-bustling township today since it was abandoned in the late 1860s. Around the turn of the 20th century, though, the 10,776-foot-high Mt. Rose became a location for innovative snow surveying techniques. Pioneered by a scientist at University of Nevada, Reno, they are still used today.

In the decades since, Washoe County purchased the area; it later hosted a campground and fish hatchery (now a State Historic Structure). The area also served as a training location for the University of Nevada’s ski team, as well as a backup location for the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympic Games. Now a cooperative venture between Washoe County and the USDA Forest Service, the Galena Creek Recreation Area includes the visitor center, pedestrian and horse-riding trails, picnic areas, and access to the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and the Mount Rose Wilderness. The Great Basin Institute, a local non-profit organization, manages the visitor center and offers public education and interpretive programming.

Here’s what to do in the Galena Creek area.

Things to Do

The Galena Creek Visitor Center is an attraction all on its own, hosting guided hikes, ranger programs, junior ranger activities, fishing, and kids’ camps. You can find its activities on the Galena Creek events calendar as you’re scheduling your visit. Inside the visitor center, you won’t want to miss the large collection of regional birds, lent by the Lahontan Audubon Society. Outside, there are pollinator gardens full of wildlife and flowers. The center also has interpretive displays that explain the natural science and history of this region.

There’s a variety of hiking trails that begin in the Galena Creek Recreation, from a paved, half-mile interpretive trail next to the visitor center to a tough climb up Mount Rose itself. (See more below.) Although hiking is the best spring through fall, the area is great during all four seasons. When it snows in the winter, lots of visitors come for the snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails.

Head to Marilyn’s Pond for a little fishing. It’s particularly popular with families since it’s stocked with rainbow trout and has an ADA-accessible dock, plus shady benches and easy fishing access along its banks. You’re virtually guaranteed to catch something. (You will, however, need an annual license from the Nevada Department of Wildlife, which you can purchase online.) You can also fish Galena Creek, which has both rainbow and brook trout.

Best Hikes & Trails

  • Jones and Whites Creek Trail: This 10-mile loop begins at the Jones Creek trailhead. By a half-mile in, you’ll find yourself climbing steeply toward Church’s Pond (if you take a 0.7-mile side trip) toward a junction that returns to Galena Park. It’s one of the most worth-it hikes in the area, as it takes you up towards Whites Canyon into the Mount Rose Wilderness. Climbing 8,000 feet with expansive views, it’s rated as hard.
  • Brown’s Creek Loop Trail: A 4.8-mile loop trail along the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, this trail (rated moderate in difficulty) crosses Brown’s Creek several times via a series of small footbridges. It’s also a popular snowshoe trail. Dogs and horses are also allowed on the trail, though you must keep dogs leashed.
  • Galena Creek Nature Trail: For those who want to see lots of beautiful wildflowers but don’t necessarily want an all-day trek, this easy nature trail is great for all skill and fitness levels. Just under a mile out and back, it’s located off the Bitterbrush trail in Galena Creek Regional Park. It has 18 signposts that correlate with a nature trail brochure that explains the ecology and cultural history of this area; you can pick up the brochure in the visitor center.
  • Mount Rose: If nothing appeals to you like a major hike, you’ll love the Mount Rose hike from Galena Creek, which has gorgeous wildflowers and is a major draw for spotting the area’s birds. It's recommended for experienced hikers; from the base of the hike to the top, you’ll gain an elevation of 4,616 feet.
  • Upper Thomas Creek Trail: Another easy hike for nature lovers, the Upper Thomas Creek Trail comes alive in fall, when you’ll see all the changing colors of trees, pass through an aspen woodland habitat, and see Jeffrey pine. You can stop at mile 1.5 or keep going to the Mount Rose Wilderness, at 3.9 miles.

Where to Stay Nearby

There’s no camping in the Galena Creek Regional Park, but there are a lot of options for staying nearby. In Reno, which bills itself as the “Biggest Little City,” you can stay right downtown, only 20 minutes from the regional park. Or head further out to Lake Tahoe, called the “Jewel of the Sierra” by Mark Twain, and stay by the crystalline waters of the lake.

  • Silver Legacy Resort Casino at THE ROW: Part of the Caesars Palace empire, Silver Legacy feels Vegasy, but is the cornerstone of a network of hotel-casinos in downtown Reno that includes the Circus Circus Reno and Eldorado Reno. It’s full of great dining options and within easy walking distance of all the fun of downtown Reno.
  • Whitney Peak Hotel: This is a great bridge hotel for those who are over the casino vibe of downtown Reno but still love its other perks. Whitney Peak is the first non-gaming, non-smoking, independent hotel in downtown, just two blocks from the Truckee River Walk and adjacent to the Reno Arch.
  • Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino: A waterfront resort that looks right out to the Sierra Nevadas beyond, this is a perfect base camp for those who want to feel like they’re in nature during their entire stay. You can even book a private waterfront cottage.
  • Crystal Bay Casino: Stay at the CBC's Border House, a three-story registered historic landmark with 10 guest rooms. And although it may be historic, its chromatherapy tubs, fireplaces, and big TVs might be just what you want at the end of a long hiking day. Locals come for the entertainment lineup, which includes live music nearly every weekend, all year long.

How to Get There

Galena Creek Visitor Center is at 18250 Mt. Rose Highway (Nevada 431); it’s just a short distance further south to the entrance of Galena Creek Regional Park.

The closest airport is the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Many of the hotels in the area operate free shuttles (especially to downtown Reno), so make sure you ask if that’s an option.

If you're renting a car, either go south on S. Virginia Street from Reno to the Mt. Rose Highway, or take U.S. 395 south to the Mt. Rose Highway exit and go right. Just after you get into the trees, look for signs and a right turn into the Galena Creek Visitor Center parking area.

Accessibility

This is a rugged area, but there are some accessible areas for all to enjoy. Marilyn’s Pond has an ADA-accessible dock, and the interpretive trail located right behind the visitor center (also accessible) is a short, paved interpretive loop. Pick up a copy of the Visitor Center Interpretive Trail guide, or download one before you arrive to enjoy this trail.

Tips for Your Visit

As in any wilderness area, there are a few rules you must follow:

  • You may only use the park during the designated hours for Washoe County parks.
  • You can take dogs on most trails, but they must be on a leash.
  • At the picnic areas, fires are only allowed in designated areas, and charcoal only in grills.
  • Drones and remote-controlled aircraft and cars aren’t allowed.
  • Don’t feed the animals.
  • Don’t pick flowers or vegetation and don’t collect firewood.
  • Follow the Department of Wildlife’s fishing regulations—including fishing permits.
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Galena Creek Regional Park: The Complete Guide