OverviewAs of October 2016, construction is underway on numerous homes at the base of the Damonte Ranch Canyon. Primary access points have recently had fences put up to discourage people from entering the construction area. The only legal access point is at the end of Desert Way, which generally adds about 3/4 of a mile each way. There are many of us living the neighborhood who go up there anyway. But eventually this will become more difficult, and access to these mountains may be in legal limbo until the first neighborhood is actually completed.
Situated just east of Reno, Nevada is the Damonte Ranch Canyon. A spectacular, rocky canyon that rises east of the Damonte Ranch area of Reno. Northeast of the Canyon is a wide plateau that peaks at 6405 feet - thus, the unofficial title “Damonte Ranch Plateau”. It is part of the Virginia Range
View towards the wide plateau from the road
Peak 6405 is clearly visible from the east in the Reno skyline. It is much wider than other mountains in the Virginia Range. The plateau extends about 1/2 mile north-south and 1/3 mile east-west. Hiking to the summit takes about 3 to 4 hours round trip if taking the canyon. However, a road also leads up towards the peak, and a person can jog most of the way up the road and reach the summit in a little over an hour. This is a good option for a workout if there isn’t much time and you want some excellent views close to home.
The best time to hike Peak 6405 and the Damonte Ranch Canyon is late fall and early spring. During summer months, rattlesnakes like to make a home in the canyon and elsewhere on the mountain. Winter creates ice in the canyon and the mountain can get a lot of snow from December through February. It is recommended to hike in the afternoon, because the light shines on the mountains and there is greater visibility and better views.
Take 395 from Reno to exit 59 – Damonte Ranch Parkway. Once off the highway, take a left and after passing a shopping area turn left on Steamboat Parkway. At the end of Steamboat Parkway, take a right on Rio Wrangler Drive. The canyon comes into view to the east. Take the first left before you reach Damonte Ranch High School, just to the north of the entrance to the parking lot next to the high school track. There is a circle at the end of the main pavement, where construction is also taking place and there is restricted access. You can also take Yee Haw Way to the end of Trailrider Drive or the top of Barrel Racer Drive. Both have similar access issues. For legal access, start at the end of Desert Way and park on the street.
There are two ways up the mountain. The first is the Damonte Ranch Canyon. The second is a road that avoids the canyon, and heads up the left side of the Damonte Ranch hills directly to Peak 6405. Typically, the canyon is a good ascent route, while the road is a good descent route.
If heading up the canyon, start making your way towards the canyon. Stay on the left side, where there is an open meadow. The right side is far more rocky. The canyon starts at about 4900 feet and climbs up to 5570 feet in about ¾ of a mile. However, this will take most hikers at least 40-45 minutes due to the difficult terrain. There is no trail, and there is lots of rock scrambling, including a few class 3 moves. Watch for falling rock, and ice during winter.
Heading up the canyon
At the top of the canyon head straight until you get to a road. Once on the road, take a left and to a ridge top to the north. At ½ mile you will find the connecting road. Head down the road, and then head back east to the back side of Peak 6405. The road curves around a prominent rocky hill and ends up directly below the west face of Peak 6405. Head straight up the face where you will encounter some rock piles. Get up to the plateau and the summit is pretty close. There are a couple of rocky piles both at similar elevation. Each can be considered the summit.
If hiking this route, it is about 3 1/4 miles to the summit with a total elevation gain of about 1900'. Add another 100' and 0.75 miles from Desert Way. Hiking back down the canyon is not recommended.
If hiking the road up, head north away from the canyon and follow the road when it swings back to the south near some power lines. This heads up to the side of the canyon. For this route, total elevation gain on the way up is 1750 feet in 3 1/2 miles. The way back down is also via the road, so total round trip hiking is 7 miles.
As noted above, access become tricky due to the construction in the area. Once at the top of the canyon or the top of the road, it is less of an issue.