Chocolate Peak is located in the Mount Rose Wilderness of Northwestern Nevada near Lake Tahoe and the border with California. Although it rises nearly 5,000 feet above the Reno skyline, most people have never heard of it. That is because the 10,776 Mount Rose is just behind it, making it seem like a foothill. However, the hike to the summit is pretty steep and the summit views are excellent. This is not a difficult summit to reach, especially since the trailhead is only 15-20 minutes from downtown Reno.
Rare view of Chocolate Peak while lost on the south side of the mountain
Despite its proximity to Mount Rose, Chocolate Peak is definitely its own mountain. It stands roughy 300 feet above its ridge connecting with Mount Rose. The shortest, and recommended route to Chocolate Peak is via the Jones Creek-Whites Creek Loop from Galena County Park. From the park, it is about 4 miles one way, with about 3,250 feet of elevation gain to the summit. This is considered the northeast ridge. The northeast side of the mountain has numerous trails, and clear paths to the top of the mountain.
The south side of the mountain is remote, with few trails and steep slopes. I had the displeasure of getting lost in this area, and it took me two hours and a lot of cuts of my legs to get back to anywhere where a trail or road could be found to take me back to the trailhead parking area.
Summit panorama: for full size image click here
From Reno, take 395 South to the Mount Rose Highway (rt. 431). Once on 431, take it to the west for 6 miles to the north entrance of Galena Creek County Park. Don't take the lower trailhead. Park at the further trailhead up and find the dirt road towards Jones Creek/White's Creek. The road becomes a wide trail that takes you up to the Jones Creek/White Creek loop.
Chocolate Peak as seen from the Jones Creek trail in May of 2007
From the parking area, walk to the obvious trailhead for the Jones Creek/White Creek loop. About 1/2 mile up the trail, you get to the intersection. Take a left and follow the Jones Creek trail. About 1 mile from the trailhead you will see a Mount Rose Wilderness trail sign. Head up the trail which has several switchbacks. After a little more than 2 2/3rds miles from the trailhead, you reach an intersection between Jones Creek, Whites Creek, and the trail to Church's Pond. Take the trail to Church's pond, but don't go all the way to the pond. About 1/10th of a mile before you reach the pond, there is a hillside on the left. Bushwhack slightly over 50 yards of brush until you reach the hillside.
The route from the hillside to the summit
A slight, unmaintained trail winds up towards Chocolate Peak. You shouldn't rely on the trail, since it is fades in and out. Simply walk up the open areas up the hillside, and follow the trail when you can. After about a 1/2 mile, you head into some trees and a small sub-alpine forest. Once you get out of the woods, you will see the summit to your left. You only have about 325 feet and 3/10ths of a mile to go. At the summit, you have a great view of the east side of Mount Rose and Church Peak, as well as Slide Mountain. You can see the City of Reno and all its Casinos below. You cannot see Lake Tahoe.
From the same trailhead you can take a semi-technical route straight up the face of Chocolate Peak. See the East Arete
route page. Mahogany is an issue via this route, but it offers excellent rock scrambling.
You can also take nearby Blacks Canyon, which is accessed via the South Entrance to Galena County Park - the next right on rt. 431 after the North Entrance where you find the first trailhead. The Blacks Canyon trail is accessed via the Brittenbush Trail, and heads up along the creek until the unmaintained Blacks Canyon trail leaves the trail heading west, and the main trail loops back towards the park. The Blacks Canyon trail is pretty straightforward as it heads up the right side of the creek. However, after about a mile and a quarter, the trail cuts across the creek. You do not want to follow the trail across the creek to reach Chocolate Peak. Instead, you need to continue up the mountain where you can reach the main ridge heading towards Chocolate Peak. Reaching the ridge requires a steep ascent, climbing over 700 feet in less than half a mile. Once on the ridge, the route flattens out a bit. However, at this point, Chocolate Peak is still 1700 feet above you.
This route to the summit is less than three miles, however, it is steep and difficult to follow once the trail ends and the ridge ascent begins (without a trail to follow). It is very sandy, which complicates the ascent even further. This route is only recommended with a good map and a GPS. If you do chose to take this route, only take Blacks Canyon up to the summit, and take Jones Creek trail down. The trailheads aren't very far apart.
Reaching Mount Rose
You can reach Mount Rose from the Chocolate Peak summit, but it requires a 300 foot descent to Contact Pass, before you head up and over another sub-peak and are able to head up to the summit. Mount Rose is about 1.5 miles away from Chocolate Peak. If you want a more direct route to Mount Rose, you can start your ascent from Church's Pond instead of from Chocolate Peak.
No red tape, just follow Wilderness rules.