Sometimes the closest adventures are easily overlooked. When I started the highest roads in Nevada project I totally skipped over Relay Peak. Instead I was driving 3-4 hours in the middle of the night to ride into the unknown and hopefully have something to show for it. Relay Peak road was right there, only 4+ miles in length, it marks the end of a past local mountain bike race, The Bloody Rose, and sits only hundreds of feet below Washoe County’s highest peak, Mt. Rose, 10,785′. As a summer ride, beyond the challenges of grade and elevation, it is an easy forest service road climb.
It is not that I have fully ignored the road’s existence. There have been many a wintery trip following snowmobile tracks and boot packs around this popular snowmobile, sledding, and snowshoe area. With access off NV 341, Mt Rose Highway, everyone has year round access to Mt Rose Pass, 8,911′. There is a paved parking lot with trail access at the pass. There is also a campground operated by the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest to the south. Just down from the pass towards Lake Tahoe is the Tahoe Rim Trail. The area is a fantastic escape from the summer heat.
I started in the summit parking lot, which also serves as the Mt Rose Trailhead and small roadside sledding area. I got there around sunrise and there were a few cars in the lot. One was camping. The trail signage directed bikes to Relay Peak Road. But early boot packs resemble the tracks of herded cats. Once I was on Relay Peak Road I was following a discreet boot pack, much like singletrack. Snow coverage was complete but only about 5″ of packed snow, about 2′ of unpacked tire stopping fluff. After two miles the boot pack gave way to snowmobile tracks.
Conditions have been cold and dry, so the snow was soft. As the grade approached 15% I could not maintain traction. Hike-a-bike was the only option. I passed an old dilapidated chairlift (tramway.) I thought there might have been skiing back here once upon a time, but I found out it was used to carry workers the last 400′ to the radio towers. Just beyond the tram at 9,900′ there is a flat section that I thought would make a great overnight spot.
The final switch back was sculpted by the ridgetop winds. Some sections were firm crust others were soft snow. Topping out at the radio towers I made my way to the leeward side of building to brew a little coffee outside. Coffee outside above 10,000′! The views were spectacular. While Summit Fever is that unhealthy obsession to bag another peak in questionable conditions, there is also that desire to spend more time on the wind blown freezing summit than one should. Once I had that internal conversation I finished my coffee, took some pictures, packed up and headed down.
Although the snow was softening in the sun the descent was a blast. Descending with some speed accentuated the need to focus on the snowmobile/boot pack to keep rolling. If you got too close to the edge your tires quickly slip into deep snow. The views of Lake Tahoe, the meadows, birds flitting through the trees, all were distractions to test your singletrack mind. I exited Relay Peak Rd onto NV 341 to return to the parking lot. By the numbers; Out-and-back the ride was 8.6 miles with 1384′ of climbing. The ride is here on Ride with GPS. Short and sweet, it can stand alone or be a part of several routes that fan out to the south.
I did this ride on my Meriwether long-tail fat bike rolling on Vittoria Cannoli 26×4.8 tires. Sadly these are no longer in production. Albeit heavy and a little more aggressive than I would prefer for all around slowpacking I do appreciate the grip in soft snow. Vittoria’s extra weight in their adventure line translates into a more durable tire that has never let me down.
This is seventh in a series of high road, above 9,000′, adventures. Marc Pfister made me a map of radio towers and land above 9,000′. Along with the list of Highest Roads in Nevada from Dangerous Roads I have been planning these outings mainly as a way to beat the summertime heat. This early snowy trip was a treat! Check out these other high roads, test your stamina, enjoy the views! Follow along for more Nevada high roads!
2 thoughts on “High Roads Project Part 7; Relay Peak Road”
Wow – well done. Spectacular wilderness so many of us would never see!
What a great ride. Thank you for sharing. I’ve hiked out of the Mount Rose trailhead, so it’s cool to see what else is there.