It’s been a great winter so far for playing in the snow. The storms keep coming and dumping heaps of white stuff across the mountains and into our valley.
Renoites looking for a spot to enjoy snowy solitude in the woods often turn toward Galena Creek Regional Park. It’s a great area to explore in every season. Located just off of Mount Rose Highway, this park is heavily wooded and crisscrossed by streams, trails and various park buildings. Miles of trails, readily accessible in the warmer months, lead into the mountains with sweeping views of Reno and the surrounding valley.
When Reno is blanketed in snow, as it has been this winter, the whole Galena Creek area transforms into a magical space. The trails are hidden, but a good pair of snowshoes or even cross-country skis can take you to pockets of the park you may have never seen before.
On a nice weekend, the parking lots around the Galena Creek Visitor Center and close-by picnic areas and trailheads fill up quickly. This family-friendly spot is an easy getaway for kids to build snowmen, have snowball fights and generally enjoy the snow—without having to fight the crowds that flood Tahoe. The ground is relatively flat throughout a good portion of this area, making it a fairly easy place to snowshoe for the first time; you can even go exploring in just a sturdy pair of boots.
For anyone seeking a little more quiet and solitude, there are other trails within the Galena Creek Regional Park system to consider. The north side of the park holds the Whites Creek and Thomas Creek trails. During the summer, these trails are popular with mountain bikers and hikers. But in the winter, they are far less in demand, offering great opportunities to find some peace and quiet—as long as you have the right winter gear.
To get to either of these trails, turn north off Mount Rose Highway on Timberline Drive; it’s the last stoplight on the edge of town before you start heading up the mountain toward Tahoe, so it’s pretty painless to locate. At first, Timberline Drive winds through scattered houses, before the landscape opens up.
Several marked trailheads can be found along this 1.3 mile stretch of road, including a turn-off leading west to Whites Creek Trailhead, and a more obvious parking lot along the side of the road for Thomas Creek Trailhead. Numerous unmarked parking areas can also be found along Timberline Drive—though their existence and size depend on the snow plows during a winter like this one.
When the ground is covered by snow, there’s no wrong place to start your adventure. As long as you can remember where you parked (and you can find your way back to it!), you’re free to explore wherever you’d like within the boundary of the park.
This back side of Galena Creek is topographically more challenging than the area around the visitor center. A sturdy pair of snowshoes, good base-layers to keep you warm (even after you’re soaked with sweat from climbing all those hills!), lots of water and snacks to keep you fueled will help you make a fun romp through the woods.
You can usually follow the trails by following their respective creeks, or you can forge your own path by cutting across and going through the woods to follow your whim. Thomas and Whites creeks are cut steeply into the surrounding areas, giving you great opportunities for excellent views if you feel invested enough to slog uphill and find a vista. Dogs are also welcome in the park (on a leash), though they may easily break through the deep snow, since they don’t have the benefits of snowshoes. With or without your furry friend, exploring this less-seen side of Galena Creek Regional Park makes for a great all-day adventure.
Because most of these slopes face east and north, the snow typically takes longer to melt than the areas on the front side of Galena Creek, around the visitor center. This means that even as the snow thins nearby, there’s still ample opportunity to re-create a winter wonderland without having to drive all the way up to Tahoe.
Thanks to views for days, a respite from the crowds and miles of forest to enjoy, it’s hard to have a bad time around Whites Creek and Thomas Creek—especially in the snow.