My friend Dean had originally led me up Lagomarsino Canyon to the petroglyph site a couple years ago. To this day I rate it a top 5 or top 3 outing in the Reno area. But it in not the greatest ride. The trail from Lockwood along Dry Valley Creek is incomplete, phantom, rugged, underwater, and over-grown. But for some, especially Dean, this is just part of the romantic challenge.
This route is motivated by the Rout3 Challenge from Bikepacking.com. I have planned a weekend long loop from Reno to the Black Rock desert and returning through the Lagomarsino Petroglyphs. I believe this route will have the highest density of points of interest and off-pavement travel in an ambitious weekend tour. While I have completed most sections of this route, route finding from the petroglyphs to Reno was uncertain.
Between scouting out a route from Reno through the Virginia Range to Lagomarsino Canyon and avoiding the washed out Long Valley Creek I had my challenges set out before me. I planned a full day’s ride but maybe not as full as it became.
My plan was to enter the Virginia Range from Clean Water Way near the confluence of Steamboat Creek and the Truckee River. This power line climb is eye catching (at least my eye, I am always on the lookout for road cuts through our mountains) from the interstate. The steep climb is rewarding in its views of the Truckee Meadows. The price of admission: 1,400′ of climbing in 3 miles.
Off the top the descent is steep and loose in a narrow canyon and the power line road quickly erodes to a 4X4 trail or quad trail. Once this opens up the fastest roads of the route are ahead. There is a turn off to Lockwood at this point that intersects with Canyon Rd. For those who wish to start in Lockwood I would recommend this point.
Heading south I came to a depression that is now filled with water. Our northern Nevada winter snow and rain has given our drought stricken wildlands a huge boost. I imagine this reservoir will last through fall. At this point I made a left whereas on my last trip through the area I staid right. Unfortunately the network of roads through this area is devoid of any signs.
After the next climb I entered the lightly forested area around Lousetown Creek. The canyon was particularly craggy as the change in geology matched the change in flora. To follow Lousetown Rd in the opposite direction leads to the community of Virginia Highlands and eventually Geiger Grade (SR 341). This is another alternative starting point for this route.
During the entire ride I had moments of complete recognition of where I was and confidence in my route selection and periods of doubt. Just past mile 24 I came to a turn off at a mud hole that was a landmark given to Dean and I as a key direction on our first ride in the area. So I knew I was close, only a mile to go to my turn around point.
I hiked around the petroglyphs for a brief time. While I wanted to spend more time I knew I had to get back. I chased a marmot around the rocks but it was a reluctant photographic subject. Back on the bike!
The ride out was challenging after 25 miles and 3,000′ feet of climbing. Nevada backroads are paved with rock. But the slow rate allowed for greater appreciation of the views. The most notable wildlife on this trip was the wild horses and their foals. Watching the protective interactions between the adults and juveniles was particularly interesting. I narrowly missed a horny toad lizard, the clowns of our reptile fauna. At one point I stopped to rest and the was a hawk moth, the hummingbird of the insect world, at my feet. The birds were out, I could hear them in the junipers and pinyon pines but they did not make themselves seen.
I tried a shortcut on my return to Reno that brought me out of the Virginia Range just north of Damonte Ranch. The shortcut eliminated about 800′ of climbing on dirt. Overall this route is very challenging combining distance, elevation, and road conditions. The petroglyphs are an amazing pay off for your efforts.