The Tahoe-Pyramid Trail along the Truckee River provides endless scenic hiking opportunities. This portion of the trail outside of Verdi is at the interface of desert and forest.
Although some long-time residents have found the rapid population expansion of the Reno-Sparks area in the last two decades unnerving, one undeniable benefit of this growth has been the construction of several new large trail systems in the area. The most impressive of these trails is the Tahoe-Pyramid trail, which when complete will follow the Truckee River along its entire course from its origin at Lake Tahoe to its terminus in Pyramid Lake, 114 miles downstream.
The trail can be accessed in many spots, but one enjoyable place to hike the trail is outside of the community of Verdi. Here, coniferous forests line the river as it exits the rugged Truckee River Canyon. Downstream from this location, the forest gives way to mostly treeless land as the river begins its course through the Nevadan desert.
From the parking area, cross the railroad tracks, and hike up the wide gravel road on the other side. The railroad hosts both freight and passenger trains, and the Amtrak route between Reno and Truckee is arguably the most scenic train line in the United States because the entire route runs almost directly on top of the Truckee River.
After about 100 feet of climbing over the first 0.2 miles, the road bends around a perennial creek. Do not be deterred by this initial climb because for the next 1.3 miles, the trail is relatively flat. After the climb, the trail descends to the Fleish hydroelectric power plant and the accompanying water flume, which makes for a striking, albeit manmade, waterfall. Fleish is one of three operational power plants on the Truckee River. Impressively, all three of these hydroelectric plants are more than one hundred years old.
Past the hydroelectric plant, you can continue exploring along the Truckee River for as long as you like. The riverside vegetation is lush and diverse. The dominant conifer here is the Jeffrey pine, which is ubiquitous in the eastern Sierras at these elevations, around 5,000 feet above sea level. Incense cedars, with their wonderfully smelling needles, accompany the pines. Deciduous trees include willows, alders, chokecherries, and serviceberries. In the summer, wildflowers such as roses and larkspurs add color to grassy areas along the banks.
When you are done exploring the river, turn around, and retrace your steps downstream to return to your car. If you are looking for other hikes along the Truckee River, Base Camp Reno describes several riverside hiking trails in both the forest and desert.
From Reno. Drive 9.5 miles west on I-80 to Exit 3 at Verdi. At the off ramp, turn left onto South Verdi Road. In 0.2 miles, turn left onto Quilici Ranch Road. Drive for 1.6 miles, and park at the end of the road at 39.4865, -119.9916. Quilici Ranch Road is a dirt road suitable for low-clearance two-wheel-drive vehicles.