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  • Jason Sheck

Brunswick Canyon, Sunrise Pass, and Smith Valley (a trip through the Pine Nut Mountains)

The Jeep has been busy running errands and taking us the places we need to go. As of this post, it has about 2,500 miles on it and counting. Since Bri has been out of town and we've been in another relatively dry stretch for snow and rain, I thought I might look for a road or trail in the Reno or Carson City area to explore. Between GAIA GPS and AllTrails.com I was able to identify a path that started in Carson City and worked its way toward Smith Valley. For the most part, the route was a dirt road with a few spots being slight more exciting. In summer conditions, any vehicle with decent ground clearance could make it down this route. The melting snow and winter moisture made it such that a tw0-wheel drive vehicle (front or rear) would have trouble climbing some of the hills I descended. There were some ruts where vehicles had driven during very soft conditions, but I was able to stay on tope of the ridges for the most part. I saw a lot of Pinyon Pine, Juniper, and Sage on my route. When I got to the Smith Valley side I ended up driving a dirt road for several miles. Along the road I saw cattle ranchers working a heard, a camel (yes a camel), and some beautiful homes tucked away in Smith Valley.


What did I learn?

The direction I traveled this route allowed me to descend all the major hills and this really made a difference. I went down some hills that were steep enough that the muddy and slippery conditions could have made the reverse route much more challenging. I was lucky, rather than good, but this trail was a good reminder to plan every detail of the route I choose - including direction of travel.


GAIA GPS Link


Entering BLM land from Carson City, NV.


I ended up airing down to about 24PSI for this route. Between some rocks and the added traction, it was worth the effort (somewhere on Brunswick Canyon Road).


Some views of the Sierra as I made my way south on Brunswick Canyon Road toward Sunrise Pass Road.


As I worked my way east on Sunrise Pass Road I encountered much wetter conditions. I passed 3 side-by-sides going the other direction but that was all the trail traffic I saw. We shared a couple words about the conditions we had each driven through, and then we all went on our way. I had expected to see more people out and about but I guess my early start allowed me hassle free passage through the Pine Nuts.


Yes, I took the bypass. Travelling alone I decided I didn't want to find out how deep the mystery hole actually was by getting stuck in the middle of it.


To some, the Wild West exists in our imaginations, movies, and stories. To others, they get up every day and live it. These ranchers were waiting for the semi to come and haul their cattle away. If you zoom in closely, you can see a worn leather booth resting on top of the passenger side mirror. An afternoon nap maybe? They had already set up a ramp and gate in the road I was travelling - presumably for loading the cattle. As a visitor to this place and time in history, I patiently drove around, snapped a picture, and went on my way.


What I like about this picture is that it could have been taken any time between the late 1950s and today. The truck looks well kept, but it still shows its age.


Finally, who can pass up a chance to see their own name in lights...I mean on a street sign with a nice view. Leaving BLM land in Smith Valley, NV.


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