more ADT backpacking

Continuing walking and documenting the western-most portion of the American Discovery Trail (ADT), I backpacked from Virginia City to Tahoe City. From Virginia City to the Tahoe Rim Trail above Carson City, the trail is more characteristic of the Great Basin than the Sierra, but the remainder is higher and wetter.

Washoe Valley

Washoe Valley

I took the Amtrak bus to Reno, went on a side trip to the Patagonia Outlet, and then hitchhiked up to Virginia City (no public transportation). Dinner at the Red Dog Saloon while my devices charged, and then out on the trail about sunset. The route follows Ophir Grade, a road that was the original route serving Virginia City. At Five Mile Reservoir, which is a holding pond for water in the Marlette to Virginia City water system (no water access, however), I took a wrong turn along the new pipeline road, since this waypoint was not in the ADTS document, and it looks invitingly flat though it later does two major roller coaster dives and climbs. The correct route turns left on an old road and goes up nearly over the top of McClelland Peak. Rejoining the route west of McClelland, it descends into Washoe Valley at the ranger station and campground. This section from Virginia City to the campground is dry.

From the campground, the route follows the side of the paved road (go through the campground and picnic area for less traffic) to the undercrossing of US 395. It turns left, then right up Hobart Road to Lakeview Gate. Climbing steeply from the gate, the route passes small McEwan Creek, which is the first water since the Washoe campground. The route goes up and down to Hobart Reservoir (the route along the pipeline is flat and scenic, but either works), then down to Red House. Here the route finally becomes more like a trail along the Red House Flume, then a final steep climb to the ridge just north of Twin Lakes (which is usually dry). Here the ADT joins the Tahoe Rim Trail and follows it the rest of the way to Tahoe City.

Once on the TRT, the route becomes much easier to follow as the TRT is well-signed by the Tahoe Rim Trail Association.There are some seasonal springs along the trail, and the trail crosses Ophir Creek in the meadows and again just before the campground. The ADTS route goes out onto the highway at the Tahoe Meadows trailhead, but the TRT actually continues along the interpretive trail and up the Mt. Rose Campground rather than along the highway, and it has for a long time.

Tahoe Basin & smoke

smoke over Lake Tahoe

From Mt Rose Summit, the trail climbs gradually to Galena Creek Falls, and then more steeply to the ridge west of Mt Houghton, and then along the ridge to Relay Peak, the highest point on the TRT (10,285 feet; the highest point on the ADT except Colorado). It then follows the trail to the Nevada/California state line (no marking), then down to the highway crossing at Brockway Summit, then up and down past Watson Lake, and eventually descending to Tahoe City and then north along the Truckee River to a bridge crossing that starts segment 2.

I had been planning on continuing westward on segments 2 and 3, and perhaps 4, but my feet were showing wear from the 80 miles in three days, and a fire on the west slope was dumping a lot of smoke. Most of the time it was below me, first in the Truckee area, then in the Tahoe basin, but I could see from where it was coming that I’d be in the thick of it as I descended the west slope of the Sierra, so I decided to break off and continue laster.


Notes on GPS: I have gradually been compiling GPS tracks for the ADT, since the ADTS does not make tracks available, and I’ve found that it is difficult to follow the correct route without a track, as the waypoints are sometimes indeterminate and not infrequently incorrect. The ADT-NV-9 document contains both track and waypoints, which does not work in some applications but will in most. The section between S90040 and S90060 was traced from the map in Adze, since I was off-route here, thinking that the new pipeline road was the route, when in fact it is the old road that passes close to McClelland Peak. Coming from the east, the key waypoint is S90042, which is a left turn not in the ADTS (American Discovery Trail Society) original file. There are several other mistakes in the ADTS document which I’ve also corrected, by adding waypoints or changing descriptions. I did not create a track for the stateline to Tahoe City (ADT-CA-1) segment, both because I ran out of battery and because this segment coincides with the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) which has good tracks posted on the Internet, including at the Tahoe Rim Trail Association.

You can search for previous ADT trips to see which the segments for which I’ve made tracks. When I finally get them all done, I’ll do a single post containing all of them.

GPS: ADT-NV-9 track and waypoints (on Dropbox)

Photos on Flickr

About Dan Allison

Dan Allison is a Safe Routes to School Coordinator in the Sacramento area. Dan dances and backpacks, as much as possible.
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