Place Name: Washoe County
Place Description: State: Nevada
Elevation: 7,841 Feet
Prominence: 2,501 Feet
Elevation Gain: 2,077 Feet
Lists: Great Basin Peaks
An Oasis Of Life
The Petersen Mountains are definitely overlooked by those living in the Reno Area. This hidden gem of a range is worthy hike and beautiful area.
- Awesome views of Sierra and Great Basin
- Easy two track trail most of the way
- Would be brutally hot in the summer
- OHV traffic on main road is possible
- First mile is fairly steep
Hiding in plain site about 20 miles north of Reno is a remote and beautiful oasis known as the Petersen Mountains. This range lies between Red Rock Rd. and Highway 395, nestled just across the Nevada border. Petersen Mountain stands as the high point at 7,841 feet and has 2,500 feet of prominence. Needless to say, the views up here are fantastic. Nevada has turned this range into a Natural Area and is signed appropriately.
The main route in comes off of Red Rock Rd. which is a paved road from Highway 395. After about 9 miles and past Animal Ark, you will see an unsigned road to the left heading across the open sage. The road is in pretty decent shape as far as off roading goes. There are some ruts, a few rocks and a couple wet places near the springs. All in all, I never needed to slip it into 4×4. This road will lead to a large parking area with a couple of sign saying that you are in the Natural Area. We also jumped a herd of antelope on the way in.
When you first look up at the range, it looks like barren waste land. However, there is a lot of beauty hiding just out of site.
The hike starts across open sage, passes a spring and heads up a gully to a small saddle. This saddle opens into a large valley where you will pick up the remnants of an old two track. From here, you will be following this old road as it steepens and climbs to water trough with expansive southern views.
Follow the tracks over the ridge and you will enter a bowl with a grove of aspens up above you. This gives way to another rise and when you crest, there is a large meadow laid out in front of you. The meadow also has aspens, springs, and flat walking for the first time on this adventure. We even spooked an antelope buck up here.
We made great time across the valley before entering another valley. At this point, you can finally see Petersen Mountain for the first time. At some point, you need to break away from the two track and head west towards the rocky ridgeline.
Once the ridge is gained, you have awesome views to the west and a quick push to the rocks on the summit. The views to the west take in the Sierras all the way from south of Mt. Rose to Eagle Peak over 100 miles north.
Mt. Adams sits straight across the valley and State Line Peak is the prominent fixture to the north. There is a geocache in the summit box with some kid friendly items.
The Final Word
Petersen Mountain is a beautiful sanctuary in the middle of nowhere, yet at the same time close to a lot. What looks like a lifeless area is actually bursting with beauty and is a worthwhile hike if you are in the Reno area.