The Mt. Rose summit trail has something for the whole family. The well-graded and maintained trail is suitable for children and open to your well-behaved and controlled pet*. You will enjoy a rewarding hiking experience whether you trek all the way to the summit of Mt. Rose or just meander partway.
Hiking the Trail
The first section of the Mt. Rose summit trail quickly gives hikers views to the south of Tahoe Meadows and Lake Tahoe. The smooth tread then leads into open woods of limber pine and hemlock for a leisurely stroll to panoramas of Mt. Rose itself and the lush meadow at its base. At about the halfway point to the summit, a waterfall formed by Galena Creek cascades over a rocky slope and then spreads its waters to feed the wildflowers and other vegetation surrounding this part of the trail. By the way, you have been hiking for about 2.65 miles on a section of the Tahoe Rim Trail to get to this point. You can turn around at the waterfall or go a little further along the meadow's edge to enjoy more small streams coming down to the meadow and (if you hit it right) a spectacular wildflower display.
Beyond the meadow, the grade becomes markedly steeper when you enter the Mt. Rose Wilderness and begin the final push to the top of Mt. Rose. As you would expect, the views expand with every step. Near the summit and on top, you'll have a 360-degree look for miles, from Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada to the south to the Truckee Meadows and beyond to the north. If you can stay up there for a while, it's fun to see how many things you can identify while peering around the compass. You'll be scanning the landscape from an elevation of 10,776 feet.
It's a 10.6 mile round trip from trailhead to summit and back. There is no water beyond the waterfall and meadow. Even on a nice day, it will be a lot cooler on Mt. Rose than down in Reno. Bring clothing for a crisp day in the mountains and be prepared for sudden changes in weather. Thunderstorms can build up amazingly fast, kicking up wind and causing the temperature to plunge rapidly. If you are high on the mountain when a thunderstorm is brewing, and especially if you see lightning or hear thunder, beat it down quickly or risk being turned to toast.
Drive south from Reno on U.S. 395. The existing freeway ends at the Mt. Rose Highway (Nevada 431) - bear right and follow signs pointing you toward Lake Tahoe and Incline Village. You will commence a steady climb through the Galena area and into the trees near Galena Creek Regional Park. Continue on this wide but twisty road, past the Mt. Rose ski area to the Mt. Rose Trailhead at the 8900' summit of the pass. There is lots of parking, though I've seen it get just about full on busy weekends. The trail begins around the left side of the information signs and restroom.
There are other, less obvious places from which to commence a trek to Mt. Rose's summit.
Afoot & Afield - Reno-Tahoe is a hiking guide to more than 175 hiking trips around Lake Tahoe, Reno, Sparks, Carson City, and Minden-Gardnerville. Each entry features hiking time and difficulty rating, a trip description, hiking directions, and a map. Route lengths range from less than one mile to 18 miles. Author Mike White has written numerous guides to trails in the Sierra Nevada mountains and northwestern Nevada.
*Dog owners, please control your pets at all times on the Mt. Rose trail. Other hikers, especially those with small children, do not appreciate loose dogs running amuck and approaching them uninvited. Unleashed dogs are a hazard to others and could set you up for a hefty lawsuit should your pet frighten or injure someone. Dogs can also harass and scare off animals, depriving others of the experience of viewing wildlife.