The Nevada Traveler: Check out the beautiful drive on Verdi’s Dog Valley Road |

The Nevada Traveler: Check out the beautiful drive on Verdi’s Dog Valley Road

Richard Moreno
Verdi’s Dog Valley Road retraces the steps of early emigrants traveling from Nevada to California and is a popular four-wheel drive trek. The road leads to magnificent views of Dog Valley. Richard Moreno
Richard Moreno

Ever wonder what a Dog Valley Ivesia looks like?

Not many of us have ever seen it because it’s only found in Dog Valley, a scenic depression nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range, just west of Verdi.

Ivesias are furry-looking, flowering green plants in the rose family that are also known as mousetails. They’re only found in the western United States, and the Dog Valley variety is unique to that location.

Besides one-of-a-kind flowers, Dog Valley, which is located 20 miles west of Reno, is noteworthy for being part of the Emigrant Trail used by travelers heading from the Truckee Meadows to Truckee.

The trail, which starts out as Dog Valley Road and quickly becomes Henness Pass Road, was first used in 1845 and remained the main wagon route until about 1925. According to records, in 1946 more than 500 wagons took the trek up to Henness Pass and then down into Dog Valley.

To access the road, head west of Reno on Interstate 80, then take the Verdi exit. Follow the road for about 2.6 miles to Bridge Street. Turn right on Bridge and proceed up the hill. After crossing two narrow bridges, continue until the paved road ends. The dirt track ahead is Dog Valley Road.

This is a road best traveled in a four-wheel-drive vehicle with good tires because the road can be rocky and rutted. It’s also best to travel it between May and October because it can get muddy during wet and snowy months.

The road is also popular in December when Christmas tree hunters head into the backcountry here to find just the right tree (with a permit, of course). Again, be aware that nearly every year someone gets stuck out here in the mud while trying to snag a tree.

The first couple of miles on Dog Valley/Henness Pass offers views of nature’s slow recovery from the 1994 Crystal Fire. The road also has some larger rocks and ruts, so the going can be slow.

About four miles in, the road gets slightly less rocky and climbs to the top of a flat area that overlooks the valley. Here, you can stop (there is a kind of roundabout where you can pull off the narrow dirt road) and get your first real views of beautiful Dog Valley.

At this point, you can continue downhill into the valley (on Long Valley Road) and on to Stampede Reservoir or head north (on Road 002) around the backside of Peavine Mountain for a rugged drive of another 25 miles or so that ends near Bordertown on U.S. 395.

If you choose to take the road to Stampede, plan on spending about two to three hours to traverse the full 19 miles from Verdi.

Of course, part of the beauty of the drive is that you’re traveling through part of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, so there is plenty of wildlife viewing and relatively undeveloped open landscape.

Looking around, you can find clusters of Mule’s Ear, balsamroot, buckwheats, paintbrushes, bitterbrush and manzanita. Wildflowers peak through the shrubs and grasses in places, including pink Sierra Shooting star and Spring blue-eyed Mary.

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Rich Moreno writes about the places and people that make Nevada special.