Before you get out in the hills next month and start hiking the heck out of the Tahoe Rim Trail it’s a good idea to do some local exploring and test the strengths and weaknesses or yourself as well as your gear. Here in the Reno/Tahoe area there are some very excellent outdoor recreation areas available throughout the year with a range in regard to difficulty of activities and terrain. The Rancho San Rafael Regional Park is an excellent example of one of these and is a wonderfully weird place to spend a day.
Not far from the University of Nevada Reno off Sierra Street, near the connection with Virginia Street at McCarran Boulevard. Honestly, it’s one of the best places to spend some time getting a little exercise (preparing for more strenuous adventuresto come once the weather becomes a little mellower). This sizable park is an amazing place, having the usual park attractions, playgrounds and covered picnic areas (complete with restroom facilities), but additionally you may enjoy a brisk stroll through the strange little Wilbur D. May Museum filled with curios collected from around the world as well as The Great Basin Adventure—a sort of theme park with rides and an educational exhibit; what is more, there are two other features of the park that make it an excellent training/exercise location.
The park’s 570 acres are crisscrossed with trails and paths, many of which meander through the arboretum, tangle up in the Labyrinth Gardens, skirt along a pond, and wind through the huge dog park in the northeaster most corner. The arboretum is filled with cultivated plants as well as indigenous ones and this makes it a wonderful place to familiarize yourself with the local flora and fauna of the Truckee Meadows in advance for locating bristlecone and pinyon pine in the wild.
The trails dip and climb, unpaved for the most part, making this an excellent place to try out your new boots or for testing hats, glasses, socks, and jackets in a safe, easily escapable area. These trails are ideal for breaking in your gear, by wearing it in comfortable, non-life-endangering situations: places where you can comfortably walk back to your car or bike if you find that your new all wool socks have left your feet soggy with sweat. And as you stop to adjust your boots or change out of those soaking socks you can catch your breath while taking in some very excellent and majestic views of Mount Rose in the Carson Range of the Sierra Nevadas (to the southwest) and Peavine Mountain (to the immediate northeast). In as much as this place is an amazing resource it is also liberty for the soul, close to home and within the city limits.