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Exploring Our Backyard: A family-friendly (and dog-friendly) hike to the 'N'

Hiking to the "N." (Chris Murray/NSN)

I've lived in the Truckee Meadows for 20 years, originally making the move from Gardnerville in August 2000 when I headed to UNR for my freshman season of college. But until last weekend, I had never hiked to the "N" on Peavine mountain.

I've seen the "N" almost every day for the last two decades, it omnisciently hovering over the campus and city. But after heading to The Crystal Mine two weekends ago, my wife, May, suggested we hike to the "N" last weekend. We looked it up online and it said the trail was 1.9 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 384 feet. That's easy for adults, but since we have a 5-year-old and 12-year-old, we usually decide on what hikes to take based on their threshold. The 5-year-old can be a little temperamental, but we decided to give it a go by telling him we were going to the park.

The trailhead is exceptionally easy to find. Just park at the west corner of the Reno Sports Complex's parking lot. Those are the baseball fields on the corner of Virginia Street and North McCarran Boulevard. There's a series of trails from there. I'm pretty sure we did not take the most direct path, but you basically just keep walking toward the giant "N" on the mountain and you'll eventually arrive.

At the beginning of the trail is The National Momentum to the Basque Sheepherder, which I didn't know existed. The 22-foot tall turquoise sculpture went up in 1989 and pays homage to some of the first European settlers in Northern Nevada, sheep farmers from the Basque region of Spain and France. It was nice to gain a little knowledge in addition to some physical activity. I'll raise a Picon punch to that.

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From there, it's a flat hike that goes through a dried up creek before you start the incline to the "N." The road forks in a couple of directions and we took the shortest and steepest path instead of the longer route that's a more flat. That was not by design. I'm just a moron when it comes to following trails. If I was Lewis and Clark, I would have ended up in Florida instead of Oregon. But, as noted above, just keep walking to the "N" and you'll get to your destination. There are several paths that will get you there.

Our route was pretty steep for children but our kids both made it fine with a couple of stops for water breaks. I was surprised Dominic, our 5-year-old, made it to the top without help. He's the kind of kid that asks to be carried as soon as he gets a little tired. But we made little adventure points throughout the hike that kept him going. And I kept telling him the park we had promised was right next to the "N," so just keep walking.

"I can see the whole city!" he kept saying excitedly as we made the incline.

Indeed, when you get to the top, the view is worth the work. You can see all of the Truckee Meadows from the white rocks that form the "N," many of which could use a fresh coat of paint. I do wonder how often those things are painted; you're talking about thousands of decent-sized rocks, many of them with written messages from people who make it to the top. There's a plateau area a little West of the "N" for an even better view of the valley. It's worth going over there to get your pictures.

On the route back down, we took a different trail that was a little longer and less steep. We picked a windy day to hike, so we were getting blown all over the place. But it's a perfect hike for kids and dogs. We didn't bring our St. Bernard, Ripley, since she's a puller on her walks and likes to maul humans when she sees them. But we did bring "Ripley toy," my son's stuffed animal version of a St. Bernard. He liked the view.

After we got back to the parking lot, we crossed the street for a picnic at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park where we threw the baseball for a while. (See, we didn't lie to our son. There would be a park involved!) We only saw a couple of groups on the hike, so it was a COVID-19-safe journey. There wasn't almost nobody at Rancho, too.

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While advertised at 1.9 miles roundtrip, I don't think it was longer than a 1-mile hike to be honest. The trailhead map said it was .36 miles one way, although I have no idea if that was the path we took. Either way, it was a relatively quick and definitely enjoyable jaunt.

After living in the Truckee Meadows for nearly two decades, I've finally hiked to the "N." It certainly took long enough to check that off the to-do list. Now that we've hit the "N," we'll have to get to some of the other letters on the mountains around town. Next up: the Damonte Ranch "D" since it looms right behind our house. And it looks like there's a driving path to get to that one.

Sports columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @ByChrisMurray. For previous Exploring Our Backyard features, click here.

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