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Visit McCarran Ranch Preserve

Hiking, biking and other recreation along the Truckee River

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Hiking and Other Activities at McCarran Ranch Preserve

McCarran Ranch Preserve hiking, Truckee River, Reno, Nevada, NV The McCarran Ranch Preserve takes in a stretch of the Truckee River east of the Reno / Sparks area, which means things you can do in the area aren't far from the flowing river's influence. Birding and other wildlife viewing are possible activities and may improve over time as animals return to the restored natural areas. You can see who has been around by examining tracks in the soft dirt of the trail. The Truckee River is accessible in many areas along the trail / bike path, affording anglers a chance to fish in quiet stretches of water or cast a fly into whitewater riffles.

The hiking trail is a pleasant walk through the Preserve (and almost completely flat), with views of the river and interpretive signs along the way explaining the work that is being done to return the area to its natural riparian state. The Preserve trail (some of which is old dirt roads) is a shared pathway with the Tahoe-Pyramid Trail, so both hikers and bikers need to be ready to exercise trail courtesy and make way for each other. Equestrian use is not allowed, but that doesn't stop the wild horses. Even if you don't see the animals, you can't miss the dung since they are regular trail users as well.

There are no restrooms or other developed facilities at the trailhead or along the pathway. Wear sturdy walking / hiking shoes - the trail is rocky for the first half mile or so. Dress for the weather you expect to encounter, carry plenty of water, and pack out what you pack in. There is some shade here and there among the big Fremont cottonwood trees, but much of the trail is open to the sun. This is a riparian area with lots of wetlands and the potential for biting insects at certain times of the year. Carry bug repellent when visiting McCarran Ranch Preserve.

McCarran Ranch Preserve, Truckee River, Reno, Nevada, NV
Truckee River flows through the McCarran Ranch Preserve. Photo © Stan White

Getting to McCarran Ranch Preserve

The McCarran Ranch Preserve provides access to a stretch of the Truckee River that had been closed for over a century. To get there, take Interstate 80 east from Reno / Sparks to the Patrick exit #28 (it's about 15 miles). Take Waltham Way south and go across the Truckee River. After crossing the river, go right at the intersection and then turn right onto Wild Horse Canyon Drive. The road to the trailhead is another right turn in approximately 1/4 mile. There is a small sign at this turn directing you to the trailhead. It's a dirt parking area, but a set of interpretive signs at the beginning of the walking / biking trail will assure you that you've found the right place. The Preserve is open to visitors from dawn to dusk.

About McCarran Ranch Preserve

McCarran Ranch Preserve is included in a Nature Conservancy project that is restoring the natural condition of the lower Truckee River east of the Reno / Sparks metro area. An initial restoration pilot project was completed in 2003, which established effective methods of bringing the river and surrounding riparian area back to the natural conditions. The main thing altering the river was a 1960s flood control project that straightened and deepened the river's channel, causing groundwater levels to drop below what was needed to sustain streamside vegetation. According to the Nature Conservancy, approximately 90% of the riparian forest died and bird species using habitat in the area decreased by as much as 70%.

The Nature Conservancy has been working on lower Truckee River restoration for over 20 years. McCarran Ranch Preserve is just one part of the Nature Conservancy's string of projects. It is being developed to accommodate visitors and provide interpretive information about the Truckee River and what's being done to bring it back to a natural state. Other ongoing projects along this stretch of the lower Truckee River include 102 Ranch and Lockwood.

More Reno-Area Hiking

This is only one of numerous hiking opportunities in the Reno / Tahoe region. To learn about many more trails, from easy strolls to challenging peak climbs, go to "Reno Area Hiking and Walking Trails."

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