Familiar Rides on Snowy Terrain

Ray Eliot negotiating a snowy winding descent on Winnemucca Ranch Rd

Here in northern Nevada, although we really have outstanding weather and riding conditions, we are experiencing record rain and snowfall this winter. We have seen flooding and extraordinary erosion in our rivers and small streams alike. And although this has impacted some ride plans we are still able to get out and explore our backroads and public lands.

Forest service road damage
Packed snow climb
Slick conditions require studded tires for efficient travel

Snowy coverage on familiar routes lends new experiences, challenges and appreciation to getting out under your own power. In the past few weeks I have returned to Dog Valley, Winnemucca Ranch Road, and Hungry Valley. All three rides are close to home which became an important consideration when travel was impacted by weather. At times I feel as if I have saturated the ride opportunities leaving from the house so alternative conditions and alternative ride companions can mix things up.

Dog Valley – Fat Bike and Snowshoe

When Interstate 80 closes between Verdi, Nevada and Truckee, California drivers who rely on GPS navigation receive alternate route information to take Henness Pass Rd. This phenomena has resulted in such rescues on this unplowed forest service road that there are signs posted approaching the end of pavement  that specifically tell drivers to disregard and GPS alternate route information. Once the news gets out that cars are stuck in the snow locals drive up the road to gawk and get stuck too. At one point there were 8 cars stuck in just a few miles of snowy road.

All-Wheel drive equals all wheels stuck for this buried Subaru (photo: Dean Magnuson)

Dean and I headed up equipped with snowshoes in anticipation that the snow and grade would eventually become impassible by bike. We chatted with some hikers who were headed up the road to scout out the stuck cars. Dean and I only made it less than a mile before we switched to our snowshoes. This short section combined soft snow and 12% grade. It is hard to say if we could have pushed our bikes through to a more realistic grade and found some packed snow. We both enjoyed the snowshoe hike over the first pass, descending into Dog Valley proper then returning to the bikes. The multisport adventure is a great way to take advantage of our snowy conditions.

Winnemucca Ranch Road – Plus sized tires on packed snow

Above 5,000′ snow covered the road

Raymond Eliot and I were headed north of Pyramid Lake to ride into the Fox Range on the east side of Smoke Creek Desert to explore the Pole Creek Wilderness Study Area. Unfortunately the as the road turned from pavement to gravel it was closed for repairs caused by the flooding of small streams and otherwise dry washes. As an alternated ride we back tracked to ride Winnemucca Ranch Rd.

Dogskin Mtns in snow

We started where many great adventures begin – where the pavement ends. I have probably ridden in this area more than any other in northern Nevada. I am always in awe of the prominence of the Dogskin Mountains and the diversity of the Virginia Mountains from the Painted Hills to the massive Tule Peak. The first half of the ride was on frozen mud until we reached 5,000′ then the road was consistently covered in snow.

Grooves from local ranchers made for tight “singletrack”

The damage to the road was severe in spots. The creek’s erosion had narrowed the road in a short section. Otherwise the conditions were very good. Our target path was to follow in the packed snow trenches formed by the rancher’s truck tires. As challenging as this was at time I was really impressed with the performance of our 27.5 X 3 tires. Ray was riding his new KHS SixFifty 6500+ and I was riding my Salsa Fargo.

My Fargo with 27.5+ tires. New 7 L dry bag on fork carries a full change of winter clothes.

We turned around at Dry Valley Creek. It was running so high I did not think it was worth riding across risking falling in nor stripping down to cross on foot, drying off and dressing to pedal on only to have to repeat on the return. The return trip ended on the defrosted muddy road but with spectacular views of the Dogskin Mountains covered in snow.

Hungry Valley – Exiting on Argonaught Road

With current land management policies affecting western States I hope we continue to see these signs

Hungry Valley might be the second or third most ridden area by me and it was the first area I featured in Bikepacking Northern Nevada. Riding north from my house I was able to get onto dirt and snow at Rancho San Rafael Park, climb Evans Canyon, then ride through Golden Valley to enter public lands managed by the BLM. Following packed snow on dirt roads I worked my way through Hungry Valley with the Lemon Valley neighborhood to the west and Hungry Valley Indian Colony to the east. I knew I could exit the valley in either direction, but I had not ridden the Argonaught Road trailhead before so I made that my goal. The final road was not recently tracked so I was very pleased the Fargo handled so well through the snow.

A sweeping shot of Hungry Valley


The snowy conditions brought new life to three rides I have repeated I don’t know how many times. I shared those rides with friends who had not ridden them before let alone in these conditions. I find it challenging to get out this time of year. I really have to talk myself into dressing and preparing to ride. Once I’m out I am completely happy. But then at some point in the ride I get uncomfortable and doubt creeps in. Then I have to convince myself to continue on to the next goal. So, “Get out and stay out”!


One thought on “Familiar Rides on Snowy Terrain

  1. Pingback: Dog Valley Days; What do they mean to you? | Bikepacking Northern Nevada

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