Riding up to Hunter Lake was an early challenge of mine. The Mount Rose Wilderness looms above Reno in the Carson Range of the northern Sierra Nevada. Interestingly it is split by a grandfathered road so you can take mechanized travel on approved forest service roads through the Mt. Rose Wilderness. This creates great opportunities for OHV users and bike riders alike. I first tried riding up the Hunter Lake about 20 years ago but I didn’t have a guide. So I went up this road, then that one, each dead ending at some point. This process of elimination continued until I must have finally been on the correct road but at times I turned back because it was too cold, dark, steep and/or rocky. Finally I pushed through on an attempt that ended in success. Hunter Lake appears as a wet meadow that funnels water into Hunter Creek. I really enjoy bringing people up to Hunter Lake. So finally I brought Brandon Anderson up and coaxed him to ride onto Big Meadow.
I have ridden beyond Hunter Lake a few times. It is a known route to ride to Big Meadow then turn onto Garson Rd to descend into Verdi. The road between Hunter Lake and Big Meadow climbs over “baby heads” rocks then narrows into a twisting quad trail before opening up on the south east corner of Big Meadow. The road crosses wet lush terrain at snow fed Hunter Creek as well as climbs through the dry dusty forest. Once we got to Big Meadow I coaxed Brandon to go beyond. Now I was at the edge of my personal map.
Shortly after Big Meadow we came to a crossroads that would lead to the edge of the wilderness at Davis Meadows, back towards Verdi, or onto Deep and Bronco Canyons that drop into the Truckee Canyon. I was ready to turn back to keep this trip mellow but Brandon was eager to move forward. I was excited to move forward as well but I wanted to make sure this ride didn’t turn into a crusher.
We left the Big Meadow area on Davis Meadows Road and eventually intersected wit Garson Rd after dropping 600′ in elevation. It was warming -up. We had great views of the Martis Valley area. We continued our descent and made the best choices possible in our route to the Truckee River. We made a few hair raising descents on unmaintained roads until we came out at the end of Iceland Rd. From here we made our way to Floriston and onto the Tahoe-Pyramid trail back to Reno. Note I gloss over this portion with a bit of hand-waving because this requires trespassing and I cannot recommend this. The Forest Service maps suggest there may be a road that ties in directly to Floriston which if so could greatly improve this route.
Hand-waving aside, the Big Meadow area is worth exploring. I would recommend it as an overnight trip. As a loop returning via Garson Rd is totally doable with some nice side roads to explore. As you are riding roads that split the Mt. Rose Wilderness you get to enjoy a wilderness experience by bicycle. There is fishing at Hunter Lake and in Hunter Creek. The brook trout fry up nicely. This is a climber’s ride, in 12 miles you climb to 8,700′ but this gets you to beat the heat at elevation and in the shade of the Huboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.