Short leg-burn in the desert of Reno: Lock Benchmark

This hike is a brief, but steep climb to an exposed desert summit with wide views of the lower Truckee River basin. It will whet your appetite for longer adventures in the Virginia Range.

Lock Benchmark from the Trailhead
Photo by Elizabeth Barile

Flowing along the northern edge of the Virginia Range, the Truckee River near the community of Lockwood seems a world away from the mountain range’s rugged interior. Nonetheless, two nearly perennial creeks, Red Ravine and Long Valley, come together here, bringing snowmelt and spring water from high peaks in the center of the Virginia Range to the mighty Truckee. Take a short climb to the top of Lock Benchmark, which overlooks the Truckee River and provides seemingly endless views of the surrounding desert mountains.

At the parking area, notice that you are at the confluence of Red Ravine and Long Valley Creeks, which flow into the Truckee River at the small community of Lockwood. In the summer, these creeks will likely be little more than a trickle, but during periods of high flow in the winter, this area is prone to flooding. Lock Benchmark, your destination, is the barren peak to the north, across the only paved road in the area, Canyon Way.

Looking east from the summit.
Photo by Elizabeth Barile

Carefully cross Canyon Way and descend into the Long Valley Creek wash. Cross to the other side and marvel at the beautiful blue-white colored milky stream. Ascend the mountainside up a poorly defined ravine, which contains some strikingly vibrant lavender-colored rocks. Hike up to a fence about 0.3 miles ahead of you that runs along the ridgeline. The ascent is steep, and the rocks are loose, so choose your approach carefully. When you reach the fence line, which was installed to keep wild horses out of Lockwood, turn right and follow the fence to the rounded top of the exposed peak, located at 39.5031, -119.6408. Views of Peavine Peak and the Virginia Range are excellent. Also enjoy a bird’s-eye perspective of the steep canyons carved by Long Valley Creek, which you can explore on your way to the Lagomarsino Petroglyphs, described in depth in Base Camp Reno. Lock Benchmark’s relatively steep drop-offs and high levels of exposure give it a similar feel to the high point of Airway Loop (Hike 38) which can be found in Base Camp Reno: 101 Hikes From Sage to Snow, which will be published in April 2022.

To return, head down the east side of the mountain for 0.2 miles, which is less steep than the side you just ascended. Next, turn south and walk down to the dirt road 0.2 miles below you. Once on the road, it is 0.3 miles to reach the base of Lock Benchmark where you began your ascent. Cross over Lock Valley Creek once again to reach your car.

From Reno. Drive 8.7 miles east on I-80 to the Lockwood exit. The exit takes you to Canyon Way, which crosses over the Truckee River. In 1.0 miles, park in a large dirt parking area on the left side of the road at 39.5007, -119.6464.

Christopher and Elizabeth Barile

Christopher and Elizabeth Barile

Christopher and Elizabeth Barile have developed a passion for the natural world through hiking. They have hiked thousands of miles together while carrying their two young children on their backs. In addition to summiting over 150 peaks in the Greater Reno area, Christopher and Elizabeth have visited 40 U.S. national parks. Some of their other favorite outdoor activities include backpacking, camping, snowshoeing, and birding. Both Christopher and Elizabeth have advanced degrees in chemistry from Stanford University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Christopher is a chemistry professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, and Elizabeth is an artist and educator. "Base Camp Reno: 101 Hikes From Sage to Snow" will be in bookstores and everywhere online April 5, 2022.

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