Magnificent views await weary at top of Genoa Peak
August 16, 2007
A hike to Genoa Peak can be brisk and wearing but well worth the effort. Genoa Peak was named after Columbus’ birthplace, because a cove in the mountain reminded Elder Orson Hyde, the first probate judge in western Utah (when Nevada was still part of the Utah Territory), of the Genoa harbor.
It’s about 7.5 miles round trip with plenty of dips and rises along the way. Map vertical is about 1,450 feet, not counting the dips and rises. Be sure and bring cool weather wear; at the top the wind can be fierce, hitting at least 50 knots and blowing hikers off the trail in the gusts. The hike is rated as moderately difficult. The target Genoa Peak is 9,150 feet, a fair goal. The nice thing is that most of the hike is on a Jeep road. The less nice thing is that the dirt bikers have been on the trail and have created considerable damage to the environment. Ditto four-wheelers. At one point there are mudholes 3 feet deep.
Getting to the trailhead is easy: Take Kingsbury Grade to North Benjamin, turn left and follow it to the trailheads for the Tahoe Rim Trail and Castle Rock on the left. The Genoa trail is straight ahead and marked by a green gate and a sign noting restrictions on the trail.
Yes, you could probably drive a good four-wheeler (not an SUV) on this trek almost to the base of Genoa Peak, but the trail has plenty of big rocks, deep, deep ruts and tight corners. You’ll be starting at about 7,700 feet. The initial leg of about 500 yards is a bit steep but then slants down gently. You’ll soon be able to glimpse Lake Tahoe on your left through the trees.
There are several side trails that lead toward the lake for excellent views. But don’t be mislead when you see what appears to be a major left fork in the road. Stick to the main straight-ahead route. Many of the forks simply rejoin the main Jeep trail later. About a mile and a half in you’ll come to a basin where dirt bikers have created a series of looping tracks and ground down a lot of the dirt, leaving big ruts across the trail. Keep on trucking and try not to let the damage bother you.
As a kind of recompense you’ll find plenty of auto and bike parts broken along the trail. Occasionally campers stay here.
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Shortly you’ll come to a fork. On the left is a narrower road strewn with pine cones. Take that one. The other way is the detour mentioned earlier. If you take the detour it’s about a steep mile up and you’ll come to three crude crosses in a big cairn on the left.
This is the site of an airplane crash years ago and some of the wreckage is around the cairn. If you want a spectacular view of Genoa Peak, go cross country up to the crest on your left. Genoa Peak is directly ahead, with the Carson Valley, Heavenly’s Nevada ski trails to your right and Lake Tahoe to the farther right. Magnificent views all!
But back on the main trail, after a mile or so you’ll be able to see Genoa Peak through the trees. Don’t be discouraged; it looks to be a major hike away and it is. But if you just keep putting one foot in front of the other you’ll be at the base in less than an hour. There you’ll be able to see the two weather stations on the peak clearly. Be sure and take the right fork; straight ahead is Genoa Peak Road (14N32). The left fork is 14N33 and takes you down to Glenbrook and Highway 50.
The road to the peak is very, very rocky and very steep, so be prepared for some effort. This road is not on the map. But it’s easy to spot on the right side of the mountain looking up. The reward for the steady climb is an incredible view of Jacks Valley, Carson City, Minden and Gardnerville on one side and Lake Tahoe on the other. This is truly one of the most magnificent panoramas in the Sierra Nevada.
• Contact Sam Bauman at 881-1236 or Sbauman@nevadaappeal.com.
Genoa Peak by Jeep
Genoa Peak is a cone-shaped mountain that punctuates the skyline of the Tahoe Basin’s eastern rim between Kingsbury Grade and Spooner Summit. The only peak accessible by off-road vehicle, Genoa has a panoramic jeep trail traversing the length of its ridge, taking four-wheelers to within a hundred feet of the mountain’s summit. The access road is also historic. Dubbed the Carson Emigrant Ridge Road, it was the original travel route through the Basin’s East Shore, later replaced by what is today Highway 50.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Basque immigrant sheepherders would drive their stock up to the high country around Genoa Peak for summer grazing, leaving their mark in the aspen trees on the way. These still-visible, hundred-year-old arborglyphs, sometimes lewd in nature, reflecting the months of solitude the shepherds endured, are now considered unique cultural artifacts.