Legendary Rides of the Carson Valley

The Carson Valley is steeped in history, with its roots dating back to the early days of the Pony Express traveling through Genoa. The town served as a stop along the Pony Express route, which carried mail and messages between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California, in the mid-1800s. Genoa was also an important stop on the California Emigrant Trail, which brought thousands of pioneers westward in search of a better life. 

The legendary figure associated with Genoa most often is Snowshoe Thompson, a Norwegian immigrant who lived in the area in the mid-1800s. Thompson was known for his incredible feats of endurance and skiing skills, which he used to deliver mail across the Sierra Nevada Mountains during the winter months. He traveled alone, covering over 90 miles in just three days. Thompson’s legacy lives on in Genoa, where a statue of him stands in Mormon Station State Historic Park.

Of course, if you visit the Carson Valley and Genoa today, you will find a different sort of traveler. One that is still inspired by the mountains but driven by a different transportation standard.

Epic Travel in the Carson Valley

The Carson Valley is no stranger to epic travel; Snowshoe Thompson and the emigrant trail called it a key location in their long legacy with the Sierra.

Today travelers, visitors and locals enjoy epic rides and rich culture, following in the footsteps of the early settlers in the valley. Only they are helped by the modern technology of the bicycle. Foothill and Jacks Valley Roads in the Carson Valley connect to form one of the hot spots of recreation and history in the Sierra Nevada. Anchored by Genoa and all its lure, cyclists, mountain bikers, hikers, geocachers and horseback riders, cherish the wide-open views and challenging terrain exploding upward from the valley floor.

Hikers, Mountain Bikers & Horses

Mountain biking in Genoa is impressive, with a variety of trails that offer everything from flowy singletrack to technical descents. The Genoa Trail System is a network of trails that winds through the pine forests and rugged terrain of the Sierra Nevada foothills. The Carson Valley Trail Association has used this route around the heart of the valley to anchor some of the region’s best mountain bike and hiking trails in the Eastern Sierra. Genoa Trail System combined with the Clear Creek Trail system and Fay Lutheran trails give trail hounds over 50 miles of trail access to the slopes of the Sierra East of Lake Tahoe.

The Genoa Trail system and Clear Creek Trails also give riders and hikers direct access to the Tahoe Rim Trail and Lake Tahoe. Riders can loop the two together after the connection of Spooner Summit to Clear Creek was finished. (A Challenging 35-mile loop with over 4000 Feet of elevation change)

Cycling and the Alta Alpina Challenge

In Spring, you will find Cyclists in the Carson Vally hovering near Genoa and traveling foothill road along the base of the Carson Range. In addition, tour groups such as Alta Alpina call the Carson Valley home and invite riders into the valley for an epic eight-peak challenge and the Wild Sierra Century event, which connects The Carson Valley with its neighbors in Markleville and Alpine County, California.

Cycling in Genoa offers an array of options, from the challenging mountain passes of the Sierra Nevada to the scenic and rolling terrain of the Carson Valley. For road cyclists, the Kings Bury Luther Loop is a popular ride with about 4800 feet of climbing over 56 miles. Start anywhere along the loop, but a counterclockwise direction is most commonly done to avoid possible heavy traffic going up Woodfords Canyon. Water and food are available in South Tahoe, Meyers, Hope Valley and Woodfords. This route includes Kingsbury Grade, Pioneer Trail, and short sections of Hwy. 50, So. Upper Truckee Rd., Luther Pass, Woodfords Canyon, Diamond Valley and Foothills Rd. So. Upper Truckee.

Hikers and Horseback riders will find varied terrain and elevations on several multi-use trails in the valley. A premium on epic valley views and changing landscapes on the trails give locals and visitors year-round outdoor nirvana. 

An alternative with a little more relaxing ride is the Markleville Metric ride. The ever popular Markleeville Metric provides a low-traffic and scenic ride with about 63 miles and 3,500 feet of climbing. There are many short climbs all less than 1000 ft at a time and never too far from the start if the weather goes sour. Starting at the corner of Foothill and Mottsville (206 and 207) in Carson Valley the route includes Foothill Rd. Diamond Valley to Woodfords, 89 to Airport Rd. Near Turtle Rock, in and out of Indian Creek Res. Campground, 89 to Markleeville, Grover Hot Springs and back, then through Markleeville and Diamond Valley to the Big Trees. An excellent early spring/late fall ride when snow prevents riding the higher passes.

Finish it Off with a Cold One

Of course, after enjoying the Carson Valley road and trail network, it may be time to catch a cold brew and some local food. The Carson Valley has a growing population of biker-specific locations. For example, Big Daddy Bikes & Brew and Minden Meat and Deli in Minden / Gardnerville both serve up some mean grub and great beer with their biker-friendly open patios in the summer season. And, of course, a trip through Genoa just wouldn’t be the same without a stop at Nevada’s oldest taps at the Genoa Bar.



Publisher of Sierra Rec Magazine. An avid hiker and explorer of mountain lifestyle and adventure. I love to discover new trails, hike along rivers and hang a hammock along the shores of a mountain lake. I often great people on the trail and have found some of my favorite places from the advice of people I meet in the Wilderness. I love the sierra and just like sharing what I know.

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