Sunrise Pass Rd. through the Pine Nut Mountains

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Looking back across the Carson Valley to the Carson Range

Dean Magnuson and I had worked our way south from Dayton via Eldorado Cyn to Sunrise Pass Rd before looping back on Old Como Rd. This was my first experience on Sunrise Pass. Since then I had studied the maps but couldn’t find an obvious loop through the Pine Nuts to the south. It looked as if local knowledge had taken travelers through on roads that were not obvious in satellite view.

I suggested to Brandon Anderson that we check-out Sunrise Pass on our gravel bikes so we could reward ourselves with post-ride refueling at Minden Meat and Deli. I am an advocate of supporting businesses near where we tour to prove our recreation has a positive impact on the communities we visit. I hope small efforts will ensure eco/adventure tourism, including bicycle touring, has a place at the table when Nevada considers which types of recreation to support. I mapped out a potential route using STRAVA and shared this with Brandon. We figured we had an easy day ahead of us.

We parked at the end of Johnson Ln just above the Carson-Minden Airport. The public land access point looked well used. We took off on Sunrise Pass Rd rolling on the sandy track across the Carson Valley. The climb into the Pine Nuts was gentle on a well maintained road. As we climbed into the pygmy forest of juniper and pinon pine the road became less sandy. I recognized the point at which Dean and I tied into Sunrise Pass and the steep section in view of Lyon Pk. We rolled through a hanging valley before our descent to Old Como/Artesia Rd. This became one descent too far.

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Aspens in full fall colors

aspen grove, Pine Nut Mtns

Same aspen grove from when Dean and I visited in August 2016

We headed south and my eyes were constantly scanning for roads that turned west back through the Pine Nuts. None of the options looked good. We continued south towards Artesia Lake State Wildlife Management Area, part of the Nevada State Parks system. Once we passed Mason Pass Rd and entered the rural neighborhoods of Smith Valley I knew we were going to be looping around on SR 208 and US 395. Brandon checked his phone, “45 miles back to the car.” As long as the pedals keep turning we got this.

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Headed south between Artesia Lake and eastern slope of Pine Nut Mountains

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Junction of Lower Colony Rd and  SR 208

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West fork of the Walker River

Just south of us are Wellington, Topaz Lake, the Walker River, and plenty of roads to explore. But that will be another trip. This was my first time riding across SR 208 but I had driven it a few times. The head winds made it feel all up hill. Our Return on US 395 went much faster than expected and Brandon found a short cut through the Carson Valley off US 395.

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Antelope Valley from Jack Wright Summit, SR 208

Back at the car we continued our plans to Minden Meat and Deli. Did I mention the 32 beers on tap? The great selection of burgers made with local beef? You will have to check it out for yourself! Our overall impression of the ride was very good. The roads were in great shape and supported travel on gravel bikes (700x40c tire width). My other travels in the area were on my Fargo with 27.5+ tire size. Sections of Old Como and Eldorado Cyn Rds are definitely more ridable with mountain bike tires.

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