Geographic names become funny as you study maps, talk to locals, then confuse them in your own mind. Dog Valley is one of many examples I have encountered in my travels in northern Nevada. When I here people “rode Dog Valley” I first make certain assumptions then I am eager to find out more. I have written about Dog Valley rides here( and here) but always with the same hesitation, Dog Valley is in California, and always use the same justification, it is one of the most popular areas for a wide variety of recreational opportunities in all four seasons for Reno locals. My Dog Valley write-up has been the most viewed post of 2017. But what is Dog Valley?
Off Bridge Street (where it turns into Hill Lane) in Verdi, NV just above the one lane bridge over the Truckee River and the tiny bridge over Dog Creek is Dog Valley Rd. But it is also known as Henness Pass Rd and there are even road signs that indicate so. Occasionally I hear it miss referred to as “Hennessey Pass.” But if you want cognac it is strictly bring your own. After a mile the pavement ends and you climb for a couple miles and 1000′ in elevation into the Toiyabe National Forest. From “Summit One” you have several choices, the most popular being to descend to the Dog Valley proper or continue on Henness Pass Rd to “Summit Two” and on to Stampede Reservoir. Alternatively you can climb on Sunrise Creek Rd into the Verdi Range, around Beacon Peak above Sunrise Creek and descend to Summit Two. Your efforts are rewarded with great views of the Truckee River going past Verdi to Reno.
I recommend descending to Dog Valley. The road along the east side of the meadow takes you past an information kiosk that lets you know what you are looking at and its environmental significance. In my minds eye the valley expands north and descends into Long Valley. But the truth is quite different. The north end of the valley tips up into a forested volcanic terrain at Mitchell Canyon. The near solitude in the forest was only interrupted by a party out gathering wood. Otherwise the bird chatter was remarkable. If Dog Valley is not known to birders it should be. While I am not a birder I would love to spend some time with the initiated to start my own Dog Valley species list. The naturalist will be at home in Dog Valley.
The terrain changes one more time as the road steeply descends to Long Valley with views of the Cold Springs community. You will quickly descend on sandy U-shaped jeep road beds to the Long Valley Rd junction with Dog Valley Rd. This area has a group campsite occupied by a group of OHV users. Continuing the loop on Dog Valley Rd has opportunities to hang out creek side, climb through aspen groves, and explore roads off the main loop. You will loop around to the turn-off for Crystal Mine.
Bellow Babbitt Peak is a mountain of quartz crystal. Here you are allowed to remove a bucket of crystal treasures. Have at it! People have collected fantastic rocks here. It is common in this area to be traveling on road beds of quartz crystal. Rock hounding abounds! Crystal Mine and Crystal Peak are often confused. I ran into a party on the road below Crystal Peak looking for the mine. They were miles away.
Leaving Crystal Mine you will pass Lookout Campground. There is a great double track behind the campground to explore. You can finish the loop back to Summit One but I like climbing road 009 to Summit Two. Beyond Summit Two it can be a quick descent to Stampede Reservoir. Stampede Reservoir is only 22 miles by bike from downtown Reno. Alternatively Forest Service Road 72 south from Summit Two’s 5-way junction will take you above Hoke Valley and Stampede Reservoir.
Road 72 has shown it vulnerability to the elements after this winter’s record precipitation. But the places you will go! You can climb to Verdi Peak, descend to Boca Rest campground, East Boca Canyon and Hoke Valley. I always have an eye out for spots to grab a S24O (Sub-24 hr Overnight camping) opportunity and there are several off FS-72.
It is no wonder Dog Valley means so much to so many northern Nevadans. I saw families out for day hikes with small children. I have been passed by numerous 4×4/OHV enthusiasts. I have seen wood collectors, rock hounds, hunters, and Christmas tree cutters. I have passed hikers, snowshoers, and cross country skiers. My friend Jake Francis has done multiple S24O’s in Dog Valley, often during the most unlikely of seasons. My friends Jude Mayne and Cary Shales will take Henness Pass Rd to Smithneck Rd to continue on to Loyalton in the Sierra Valley. This is an outstanding gravel grind. My friends Greg Burge and Will Lumpkin have fly fished the creeks that flow through and around the valley. Other groups have biked and drove to the campgrounds for a quick overnight. I have taken friends and family to Dog Valley for delightful picnics and poking around for crystal treasures.
Whatever your Dog Valley is I encourage you to get out there. If you don’t know Dog Valley go find that secret spot to make it yours.