Situated east of the Mount Rose Wilderness, the Steamboat Hills rise to the south of Reno, Nevada. Easily accessible, it takes less than an hour to reach the twin summits of these hills. The north summit and south summit sit along a ½ mile long ridge, and offer spectacular views of the surrounding mountain ranges, including the Virginia Range, the Pah Rah Range, and the Pine Nut Mountains to the east, with the Sierra Nevada to the west. More specifically, there are great views of Freel Peak 10,881’, Snow Valley Peak 9,214’, and Mount Rose 10776’ and other peaks in the Mount Rose Wilderness. Outside of these mountain ranges, one can see Tule Peak 8723’ to the north (which is west of Pyramid Lake). Peavine Peak 8266’ stands out prominently to the northwest.
The Steamboat Hills rise independently of all these mountain ranges, which is why the views are so all encompassing.
The Steamboat Hills are so named because they are home to one of the largest thermal anomalies in Nevada. Steam vents out of several areas on the east side of the hills. A series of geothermal power plants on the eastern slope of the hills produce an average of 85 MW for Northern Nevada communities. Ironically, however, the top of these hills generally retain far more snow than even the higher mountains to the east in the Virginia Range. That is because despite the presence of this massive thermal anomaly, hot ground does not extend to the west side of the hills, where the main hiking route resides, and this area is closer to the Sierra Nevada, and gets more of its weather.
Access to the Steamboat Hills is from the edge of a residential area where a dirt parking area enters public land. A jeep road heads to the base of the summit ridge.
The Steamboat Hills are best hiked in late fall, winter, and early spring. As mentioned above, there can be plenty of snow, so try to avoid hiking after a big snowstorm. During the summer, rattlesnakes may be present on the rocky areas and mud can be a problem during late spring. It is advisable to hike only after the noon hour. The reason is because the sun shines on the brown hills providing better views and better visibility.
Getting ThereTo get to the trailhead, take 395 South to the Mount Rose Highway (Rt. 431). Head west towards the Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe, and the ski slopes. Follow the road for 3 ½ miles until you see a sign that shows Fawn Lane on the left. There is no stoplight.
Take a left on Fawn Lane and follow for a mile to the end where there is dirt road and enough space to park.
Once parked, follow the jeep road as it climbs uphill. The road continues to gain elevation until it starts a descent at the north end of the summit ridge. From here, it is a ¼ mile walk up the final 300’ to the north summit. The north summit is the true summit at 6178’. However, the south summit (1/4 mile away) has slightly different views, and is worth checking out. It is only about 1’ lower than the north summit.
Both summits can be reached by hiking about 3 miles round trip and gaining a little over 750’ on the way up.