Hiking Mount Rose (via Mount Rose HWY/SR 431 near Incline Village, NV)

Mountains of layers of blue

If you’re looking for a spectacular day hike in North Lake Tahoe, look no further than the Mount Rose hiking trail. With a summit elevation of 10,776 feet, Mount Rose is the third tallest peak in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Although the Mt Rose hiking trail is well-traveled and considered by some people to be the most popular hiking trail in all of Nevada, hiking Mount Rose is well worth your time and effort.

No matter how packed the parking lot appears when you arrive, over the course of the 5.5 mile (one-way) Mt Rose summit hike there’s plenty of space for everyone. This is especially evident on the second half of the trek because the elevation gain increases quite a bit, causing everyone to settle into their own rhythm.

Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with incredible panoramic views extending south to Freel Peak and to the north, well beyond Reno. On a crystal clear day you may even catch a glimpse of Mount Shasta far to the northwest.

On your way to hiking Mt Rose during the spring and summer, you’ll witness amazing displays of wildflowers around the Galena Falls and Galena Creek area. In fact, out of the various Mt Rose hiking trails, many people who are short on time or don’t want to hike all the way to the top will just do this Mt Rose waterfall hike and call it a day.

The Mt Rose hiking conditions are similar to other hiking experiences at Lake Tahoe. The trail is developed (hard-packed and durable surface), easy to follow, and graded favorably so that there are no sections excessively steep or dangerous.

Once you pass the waterfall section (approximately halfway to the Mt Rose summit), the elevation increases dramatically. To the waterfall, the elevation gain is not even 300 total feet, whereas the rest of the hike climbs for approximately 1,700 feet to the Mount Rose summit. And, after passing the waterfall, you’ll be hiking in mostly exposed terrain.

The conditions on top of Mount Rose can be windy and cold regardless of season, so bring clothing to stay warm (i.e. wind proof shell) once you reach the summit.  

Please note that the Mount Rose summit hike and other Mount Rose hiking trails are not associated with Mount Rose – Ski Tahoe (resort), which is actually located just south on Slide Mountain (see FAQ section below for more details).

Mount Rose Trail Data (approximations):

  • Location: North Tahoe – Mount Rose HWY/SR 431 – Mount Rose Summit Trailhead
  • Category of Hike: Day Hike
  • Hike Time: 6-7 hours
  • Total Mileage: 11 miles (out-and-back)
  • Trailhead Elevation: 8,900 feet
  • Highest Point: 10,776 feet (Mount Rose summit)
  • Total Elevation Gain: 2,500 feet
  • Trail Conditions: Hard-packed sand and rocky terrain (near summit)

Considerations for Hiking Mount Rose:

  • Arrive at the Mount Rose summit trailhead early in the day to secure a parking spot as the lot fills up quickly, particularly on weekends during the warmer months
  • There have been more reports in recent years about thefts and break-ins at the Mt Rose summit trailhead due to its easy access via Mount Rose Highway (NV 431), so don’t leave anything valuable or visible in your vehicle when parking
  • The first half of the Mt Rose hiking trail is nicknamed the Mt Rose waterfall hike (as you’ll arrive at the base of Galena Falls), and it’s a relatively easy trail to hike at 2.5 miles with about 250 feet of elevation gain (one-way).
  • The second half of the Mt Rose hiking trail is strenuous due to its 1,700 feet of elevation gain and the fact that it’s mostly exposed
  • The final mile to the Mt Rose summit is above treeline and completely exposed and subject to extreme weather changes, so be prepared mentally (to turn back if inclement weather is looming) and physically (by carrying gear and clothing appropriate for inclement weather)
  • Adhere to all Leave No Trace principles
  • There are few trail signs and markers on public lands in the Tahoe region, so unless there are tracks to follow, the correct route may be difficult to identify–when in doubt, turn back
  • Be prepared for inclement weather and carry plenty of food, water, and warm clothes
  • Leave an itinerary of your plans with someone who’ll call emergency services if you don’t return by your prescribed time
  • Dogs are allowed, but keep them on leash and pick up after them
Click on the above map to enlarge it for better viewing and printing. This map is only for reference and shows the general hiking trail to Mount Rose Peak. Always carry a traditional topographic map and compass when traveling in the backcountry.

Parking for the Mount Rose Hiking Trail:

Parking for the Mount Rose hiking trail is straightforward. Drive to the top of Mount Rose Highway (from Incline Village or Reno) and park in the huge lot at the top.

The lot is free to use and there are toilets located near the trailhead.

Don’t let the size of this parking lot fool you, however. If you arrive in the middle of the day on a weekend, the parking lot might be full.

Not only does it serve people hiking Mount Rose, it also serves hikers traveling along many of the nearby Mt Rose hiking trails such as the Mt Rose waterfall hike (Galena Falls) and the hike to Relay Peak. Hikers heading to Tahoe Meadows use this parking lot, as well as those who are entering and exiting the Tahoe Rim Trail. Lastly, mountain bikers riding either the Tamarack Trail or Flume Trail park in this lot.

If the parking lot is full and you need to park along the Mount Rose Highway, just be sure to adhere to all posted signs regarding on-street parking.

The Mount Rose summit trailhead is on the Incline Village side of the parking lot, near the toilets.

Copyright © 2018 Jared Manninen
En route to Mount Rose on November 11, 2018. © Jared Manninen

A note of caution regarding parking at the Mount Rose summit trailhead … in recent years there’s been an increase in theft at this trailhead because it’s located directly on Mount Rose Highway (i.e. easy access and getaway route).

My suggestion is to leave your valuables at home or in your hotel room and make the interior of your vehicle look as empty as possible. Unfortunately, even a small handbag or duffel bag sitting on the back seat of your vehicle is tempting enough for a thief to commit larceny.

Here’s a map to help you find the Mount Rose hiking trail parking lot and trailhead.

Travel Along the Mount Rose Hiking Trail:

Begin your Mt Rose summit hike at the trailhead located on the Incline Village side of the parking lot, near the toilets.

Walk along the well-worn path for a short distance to the official trailhead, complete with information about the Tahoe Rim Trail and signage listing the distances to various Mt Rose hiking trails and other locations in the immediate area.

Although there are a handful of trails and destinations that the Mount Rose hiking trail connects with and leads to, there aren’t so many choices that you’re going to get lost.

Again, everything about hiking Mount Rose is pretty straightforward. So, head up the granite steps and begin your journey in earnest to the summit of Mount Rose.

Copyright © 2018 Jared Manninen
Galena Falls mostly frozen on November 11, 2018. © Jared Manninen

The first major junction is at about 2.5 miles where you’ll find Galena Falls.

As I previously mentioned, this section of the hike is also known as the Mt Rose waterfall hike. From this intersection, you could hike uphill and parallel with the falls en route to Relay Peak via the Tahoe Rim Trail. But you’re not going to do that right now. Instead, you’re going to continue on to the summit of Mount Rose.

Before continuing your hike, definitely stop and cool down at Galena Falls because you’ll be heading uphill for the rest of the trek.

Once refreshed, take the trail to the northeast. This trail will be obvious thanks to a sign and the fact that Mount Rose is clearly visible from this location.

Not too far from Galena Creek and in the direction of Mount Rose, you’ll find an intersection with an off-shoot trail that leads to Relay Peak Road.

You could technically make a loop out of your return trip from Mount Rose by heading down to this road and then traveling along it all the way back to the Mount Rose Highway (including a brief hike along the highway to the parking lot). However, I don’t recommend this option. I’ve hiked around the Relay Peak area including some distance along the road, and it reminded me of an abandoned set used on the Twilight Zone. I love the Twilight Zone, but that isn’t the “nature” experience I want when hiking.

I recommend sticking to the out-and-back trail to Mount Rose.

Copyright © 2018 Jared Manninen
Mount Rose viewed from a point near Galena Falls on November 11, 2018. © Jared Manninen

Once you start heading uphill from Galena Falls you’ll be in and out of sparse forests, but ultimately you’re going to be dealing with a lot of exposure.

Be prepared for intense sun and wind on this 2.5 mile stretch to the Mt Rose summit.

My most recent hike of Mount Rose was on November 11, 2018, and it was bitter cold for the last uphill mile due to the time of season and the 35+mph winds that were gusting. Needless to say, I didn’t spend very much time on the 10,776 foot summit of Mount Rose. Mostly I just snapped a few photographs and captured a short video.

Another note about the 2.5 mile uphill stretch to Mount Rose is that there are a handful of sections adjacent to fairly steep drop-offs. I say this only because I’ve hiked with friends who are skittish about heights and having to travel so close to an edge.

In a conversation with one of my hiking partners, we both agreed that we wouldn’t even bother humoring the idea of taking those acrophobic friends to Mount Rose.

Although this hike is nothing compared to Mount Whitney or the south side of Forester Pass (in the Southern Sierra) I could imagine that, depending on a person’s severity of acrophobia, parts of this hike may trigger their fears.

Copyright © 2018 Jared Manninen
Hikers making their way down from the ridge on Mount Rose on November 11, 2018. Various reservoirs such as Boca, Stampede, and Prosser can be seen from the trail to Mount Rose. © Jared Manninen

At the summit of Mount Rose there’s a small rock wall area to tuck into on windy and cold days, but this is a finite space.

On an ultra-popular hike such as Mount Rose, enjoy the top but quickly move along. Be respectful of others by not camping out or lingering for an excessive amount of time on the specific location designated as the summit. There’s nothing more annoying than reaching the peak and wanting to take a photo on the actual summit only to have to battle what looks to be an Occupy Wall Street movement.

The trail continues east a short distance along the ridge, but those are bonus miles. Although, they might be worth hiking if the peak is crowded and you wanted to hang out on top for an extended amount of time.

Copyright © 2018 Jared Manninen
Cow Parsnip near Galena Creek as it appears in the fall and winter. © Jared Manninen

Frequently Asked Questions about Hiking Mount Rose:

How long is the Mt Rose hike?

The Mt Rose hike is roughly 11 miles round trip, including 2,500 feet of total elevation gain. This means that if you follow the standard hiking formula of maintaining a pace of two miles per hour and adding an extra 30 minutes of time for every 1,000 feet of elevation gained, it would take you about 6.75 hours to complete. That said, most people complete the Mt Rose hiking trail in about 6 hours.

How tall is Mt Rose?

The Mt Rose summit sits at 10,776 feet, making it the third tallest mountain in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Freel Peak (10,881’) and Jobs Sister (10,823’), in South Lake Tahoe, are the first and second highest peaks.

What is the elevation at the Mt Rose trailhead?

The elevation at the Mt Rose trailhead is 8,900 feet.

Is Mount Rose a volcano?

Mount Rose is an extinct volcano.

Who owns Mt Rose?

Mount Rose (mountain) and Mount Rose – Ski Tahoe (resort) are two completely different things. They are often confused for one another due to the use of the name “Mount Rose.”

The mountain called Mount Rose is on the north side of Mount Rose Highway, and is located on public lands. The peak itself is within the boundaries of the Mt Rose Wilderness area while the majority of the Mt Rose hiking trail lies within the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

On the south side of Mount Rose Highway you’ll find Mount Rose – Ski Tahoe, the commercial ski resort owned by the Fritz Buser family. Mount Rose – Ski Tahoe is actually located on Slide Mountain, which was named for the many landslides that have occurred on its southeast face.

How much snow does the Mt Rose summit receive in an average year?

In simple terms, the Mt Rose summit receives on average 350 inches of snow each winter.

Keep in mind, however, that 350 inches is not an official figure for the amount of snow that the actual summit (10,776 feet) of Mount Rose (mountain) receives annually.

The 350 inches of snow per winter is reported by Mount Rose – Ski Tahoe (resort) on Slide Mountain, just south of actual Mount Rose. Also note that the SNOTEL station used by the NCRS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) where official snow surveys are conducted four times each winter (January, February, March, and April) is located at an elevation of 8,801 feet on Slide Mountain, near the summit (9,700 feet) of Mount Rose – Ski Tahoe (resort).

All of that said, if the highest point of the ski resort, which is 1,000 feet less than actual Mount Rose, receives an average snowfall of 350 inches each winter you best believe Mount Rose (the mountain) gets a lot of snow, too!

Is there a Mount Rose lookout?

There’s no fire lookout tower or any other structure on the summit of Mount Rose (10,776 feet).

There is, however, an exceptional overlook on Mount Rose Highway a few miles from Incline Village. This overlook is located at the southern point of the most prominent hairpin turn along Mount Rose Highway, between Incline Village and the Mt Rose hiking trail parking lot and trailhead.

Use caution when pulling into the overlook parking lot because it’s on a blind corner.

Copyright © 2018 Jared Manninen
View from the Mount Rose Highway overlook on November 11, 2018. © Jared Manninen

Do you have other insight, feedback, or trail updates about hiking Mount Rose?

If so, please post it in the comment section below for the benefit of everybody 🙂