Easy, Secluded Loop North of Reno: Quail Loop

Warm up your legs in the sagebrush foothills of the Petersen Range, and enjoy the chatter of quails and other birds as you hike.

Solid and firm trail through the sage country
Photo by Chris Barile

There is no shortage of open space west of Red Rock Road in the foothills of the Petersen Range north of Reno. Hike this short and relatively flat loop through the sage-juniper ecosystem on a peaceful and lightly trafficked trail.

From the parking area, head west on the well-defined dirt road, which in decades past hosted a railroad. In 0.2 miles, stay straight at the junction as the road begins to climb into sparse stands of juniper trees. In 0.5 miles, you will reach the top of a ridge. Enjoy great views of the almost entirely unpopulated upper Lemmon Valley to the east and upper Cold Springs Valley to the west.

At the ridge, there will be another dirt road junction. If desired, you may head uphill to the right to gain even more elevation to improve your views. However, to follow the route mapped here, veer to the left at the junction and head downhill through open sage country.

In 0.3 miles, turn left at the junction to begin the last leg of your loop around a broad desert knoll. Stay straight on this path for 1.1 miles to return to your car.

View of Peavine Peak and scattered junipers
Photo by Chris Barile

This last stretch of the hike runs parallel to a ravine with intermittent water. The denser sage steppe vegetation here provides excellent coverage for the two types of quail, the more common California quail and the more elusive mountain quail, found in the Greater Reno area. The mountain quail can be distinguished from the California quail by looking at the feather cluster on top of the bird’s head, which is called the plume. The plume of the mountain quail is longer and narrower than that of the California quail.

If you are interested in more hiking trails off the beaten path, check out Base Camp Reno: 101 Hikes from Sage to Snow, which describes many hidden gems in the greater Reno area.

From Reno. Take Highway 395 north for 9.5 miles to the Red Rock Road exit in Nevada. Drive for 5.6 miles on scenic Red Rock Road. Park at 39.7012, -119.9092 at the bottom of a hill in a large dirt turnout on the left side of the road.

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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