PHOTO/MAGGIE NICHOLS: A view of Slide Mountain from the Huffaker Hills.

The Biggest Little City is surrounded by miles of trails and acres of public land for us to explore—and then there are Huffaker Hills and Rattlesnake Mountain, which are surrounded by the city!

Even if you’ve somehow never known its name, you’ve almost certainly seen Rattlesnake Mountain. It rises strikingly into the sky near McCarran Boulevard and Longley Lane. With Rattlesnake Mountain’s primo location right in the city, the views from the top can be stunning—and it’s an approachable hike for most people.

You won’t find any flashy signs—or any signs at all—telling you where to turn to get to the trailhead; the entrance is via an unlabeled road called Alexander Lake Road on Google maps. You’ll have to be heading east on McCarran to make the right turn up this road; there’s no opportunity to turn left, because it’s too close to the intersection with Longley. A brown sign proclaiming you’re on your way to the South Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility is the one sign you’ll find that you’re heading in the right direction.

As you follow the road up the side of the mountain, you may feel like you’re heading out of town. As you wind up and around, in less than a mile, you’ll see the sign for the Huffaker Hills Trailhead at the entrance to its small parking lot. You can’t miss the sign; after this point, the road becomes a private road for the water reclamation facility.

Part of the Washoe County Regional Parks and Open Space system, this easily accessible trailhead has a few minor facilities: A handful of covered picnic tables stand adjacent to the parking area, and a portable restroom or two is often available in the summer (though they were removed during the COVID-19 crisis, with no estimated replacement date as of this writing). A map of the trails system stands off to one side, orienting you with the mosaic of paths crisscrossing the hills before you.

Exploring these trails, you’ll discover views in many directions. Reno spreads out below—unless you’re on the side overlooking the wetlands and neighborhoods of Hidden Valley. Small valleys you may never have known existed suddenly become visible, filled with native plants and wildlife.

Several signs point out some of the most iconic flora and fauna, such as spring flowers and year-round wildlife. A visit around sunset may include sightings of people-shy jackrabbits and sounds of distant coyotes. Wild horses can often be spotted from above Hidden Valley—and even the view overlooking the water-reclamation facility is interesting to discover.

On the opposite side of Alexander Lake Road is the unmarked entrance to Rattlesnake Mountain. Though there is no signage, it’s easy to see the trails splitting and converging on their way to the top of the mountain. This side is a particularly popular spot for people to walk dogs on a nice day.

PHOTO/RICHARD BRANDENBURG: A Rattlesnake Mountain view of the airport.

Getting to the top of Rattlesnake is doable for people at most skill levels, and it doesn’t take a terribly long time. The top of the mountain is often bathed in cool breezes and offers a great vantage point to watch planes taking off from the airport. You may even spy your house, depending on where you live!

Neither Huffaker Hills nor Rattlesnake Mountain offer any trees for shade along your route. This makes it a very hot hike on a summer day, but one of the quickest routes to melt after a snowfall. Though it can get muddy, plenty of rocks keep most of the trails in the area walkable—as long as you’re OK with getting some mud on your shoes.

The sun hits these slopes early and lingers late, making it a great option for sunrise and sunset hikes, as the exposed trail is easy to see and follow. With so many options to create your own hike length and difficulty, it’s also a family-friendly spot and an easy place to visit over and over again, as you can choose a slightly different route or direction each time.

This approachability and the proximity to town make Huffaker Hills and Rattlesnake Mountain perfect for a quick stop just about any time of day. Whether you’re looking to break up a tedious commute home in rush-hour traffic, or enjoy a quick jaunt after lunch, these county-managed lands offer a close respite from the city.

Maggie Nichols is an avid outdoor adventurer and a dedicated nature enthusiast. She started leading canoeing and hiking expeditions in her teens and never stopped. While following her love of the environment...

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1 Comment

  1. Just curious, Maggie–how many rattlesnakes have you encountered on Rattlesnake Mountain? My husband used to live in that area and said he never saw one on the mountain. What about you?

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