We think the Carson Valley this time of year is the best place on Earth. The grasses with their warm yellow glow, the pristine blue skies, the panorama of snow-capped mountains, the crisp fresh air filling the lungs, the soaring raptors, the stark cottonwoods with their moldy-smelling leaves, and the meandering river are an absolute delight to the senses.
After spending the summer hiking in the High Sierra, Erik and I shift our focus to the valley and desert, and there is no shortage of fabulous hikes in the Carson Valley! The best place to start is by visiting the Carson Valley Trail Association (CVTA) website, for simple, free maps.
There is an abundance of trails along the western (Sierra) edge of the Valley, including the Faye-Luther, Jobs Peak Ranch and Genoa trail systems, ranging from easy to strenuous. These climb up into the forest and are beautiful, but can be snowy and icy in winter. At the north end of the Valley is the Clear Creek trail, a 10-miler through amazing rock formations and Jeffrey and Ponderosa pine forest.
On these crisp late-fall and early-winter days, when we are craving the warming rays of the sun, we opt for hikes on the Valley floor or in the Pine Nut Range (just east of Carson Valley). River Fork Ranch is a cooperative project with the Nature Conservancy, located one mile east of Genoa at the confluence of the East Fork and West Fork of the Carson River. The trails here lend themselves to a relaxed stroll, with views that can’t be beat. There are dozens of species of birds, fish and even turtles to be seen. And very little shade. (There is, however, lots of mud, so dress accordingly. ) This would be a great place to take toddlers, but dogs are not allowed. After hiking, you might as well take a side trip into Genoa and grab a bite to eat at the Genoa Country Store
— sandwiches, snacks, and lots of fun local paraphernalia — or visit the Mormon Station State Historic Park.
If you wanna get your Holiday spirit on, there is lots to do in the Carson Valley this month!
The first weekend in December is the Carson Valley Christmas Kickoff. Festivities begin Thursday, Dec. 3, at Heritage Park in Gardnerville, with Santa wagon rides, bell ringers, singers, a light show, and fireworks.
On the 4th (Friday), Minden Park in Minden is the place to be with Santa and his elves, enjoying the gazebo lighting, fire pits and s’mores, and music. Next door at the CVIC Hall, the Elks will be holding their annual spaghetti feed followed by Christmas Tree Bingo
— surpassed only by Turkey Bingo for pure silly fun! Cards are
only a quarter, the snacks are free to cheap, and there are lots of fun prizes. It’s a big, raucous all-ages party.
Saturday the 5th boasts the feature event, the 20th annual Parade of Lights, up Hwy 395 from Gardnerville to Minden. All manner of vehicles, motorized and otherwise, dress up in their holiday best, casting a warm glow into the dark frosty night. Near the parade’s end, at the CVIC Hall, there is a village of booths with activities and crafts which has a Dickensian feel. This event never fails to delight even the most curmudgeonly. Bring the kids, and be sure to dress warmly.
Speaking of getting in the spirit, one of our favorite drinking and eating establishments in the Carson Valley is Minden Meat and Deli, on Hwy 395. They have an unsurpassed selection of my favorite indulgences — beer and ice cream, 350 beers (over 30 on tap) and local ice cream from the Hoch Family Creamery. Mmmmmm! They also have the largest variety of oddball chocolates I’ve ever seen, anywhere. Erik’s delight is the local Bently grass-fed beef burger with sweet potato fries. Yum!
— Amy Meeks