By Ryan McGinnis

There will always be diehards who keep skiing or snowboarding until the slopes turn to dirt, but for most nature enthusiasts, this winter seemed to end before it began.

Unfortunately, snow—even during a drought year—will keep the high elevations off limits until summer if you try to explore these areas outside normal sports. Luckily, Reno offers a variety of other places fit to explore until then.

Take Crystal Peak, located north of Verdi in Dog Valley. The old mine was originally used during World War II to excavate quartz for radios. Today it’s open to the public, and while moderation is advised, anyone can collect rocks from what’s left over from the operation — a giant mound of unlevelled earth containing a plethora of shiny minerals, quartz and occasionally other rocky materials. The remnants stretch several hundred yards in diameter and are multiple stories high.

There are also vast networks of trails surrounding the campsite at Crystal Peak. By car, you can travel off the beaten track all the way to the Boca reservoir further north, located on the other side of Dog Valley.

To get there, follow Dog Valley Road 8.3 miles to Lookout Campground. The mine is within viewing distance from the campsite.

However, at Crystal Peak you’ll never stumble across a specimen quite like Pig Rock. Located several miles off the beaten path from the Pyramid Highway, is, quite literally, a giant monolith in the shape of a pig just chilling out in the middle of the desert. The area is a popular destination for rock climbers and hikers alike, though it’s difficult to find. For directions and climbing details, visit or any number of climbing directories; it’s well worth the effort.

The area is mostly suited for immediate climbers, though one of the walls has a pitch commonly referred to as the “Little Shop of Horrors,” with a 5.11 route for expert enthusiasts.

For the especially adventurous, head several miles past the climbing area on the main road to a vista overlooking Pyramid Lake. Here, a labyrinth of unnamed bouldering problems awaits climbing. From Pig Rock it is a gentle hike which takes about two hours round trip.

If you don’t want go much further than the city limits, the Hunter Creek waterfall is an easy day hike located near Juniper Ridge. The hike is five miles round-trip, and it follows a tributary up to a waterfall nestled in the forest. On warm spring days, it’s a refreshing place to cool off, overlooking the Truckee Meadows.

The upper part of the hike will be snowed in for a few more weeks, but if you have proper boots or snowshoes, it’s a treat to see the waterfall frozen over. The trail continues to the water source at Hunter Lake in the Mount Rose Wilderness.

There’s no need to wait until summer rolls around, you can explore many of Reno’s hidden treasures while the weather is invitingly warm. While this winter may have been a disappointment for some, there are boundless opportunities to enjoy the outdoors this spring.

Ryan McGinnis can be reached at