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U.S. Forest Service

Intermountain Region Viewing Area


Large-leaved lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus). Large-leaved lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus). Photo by John Weiser.

Galena Creek headwaters and monkey flowers. Galena Creek headwaters and monkey flowers. Photo by Janel Johnson.

Bigelow' sneezeweed (Helenium bigelovii). Bigelow' sneezeweed (Helenium bigelovii). Photo by John Weiser.

Alpine gentian (Gentiana algida) Alpine gentian (Gentiana algida). Photo by John Weiser.

Marsh marigold (Caltha leptosepala). Marsh marigold (Caltha leptosepala). Photo by Janel Johnson.

Mt. Rose Meadows

Forest: Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest

District: Carson Ranger District

Description: Imagine a day where you can decide which hue of blue is your favorite, the blue of the sky above Mt. Tamarack and Mt. Houghton or the purple-blue of the large-leaved lupine flowers bordering the willows and meadow. Or imagine a day where you see flowers so yellow that the petals seem to have distilled into the pigments of sunlight, such as in the Bigelow’s sneezeweed or the mountain monkeyflower. Picture yourself sitting in a grove of whitebark pine having lunch and looking out to the meadow, listening to the raucous calls of a Clark’s nutcracker or the sweet voices of Mountain chickadees. Later, being careful to not trample the moist vegetation, you may even find the diminutive blossoms of alpine gentians, white with tiny green freckling on the petals.

Viewing Information: Mt. Rose Meadows Wildflower Viewing Area is located along the popular Mt. Rose Summit hiking trail. The plant list for the site covers the wildflowers found from the vicinity of the waterfall through the stair-stepped meadows that occur along the route toward the summit.

From the waterfall, the trail traverses meadows and willow fields that host showy displays of lupine, western columbine, ranger buttons, and giant red paintbrush. Following a detour from the main trail at the Galena Creek Saddle, the upper meadow includes areas with spring-like conditions that support bog saxifrage and elephant’s head, to drier sites that support cinquefoil and meadow penstemon. The large creamy yellow blossoms of woody-fruited evening primrose may be found by looking carefully at the drier slopes adjacent to the meadows. Three plants listed as sensitive (the Tahoe star draba, Galena Creek rockcress, and whitebark pine) occur within the viewing area.

The best time for viewing wildflowers varies from mid-June through mid-August. By visiting the area several times throughout the summer visitors will see a succession of flowers, from those that bloom early (like alpine shooting stars and marsh marigolds), to those that linger late (such as western columbine).

Safety First: The trail has a steady incline with short steep sections that are safer to walk with hiking boots. Earlier in the year, rocky sections of trail in the meadows will be slippery and wet, demanding slower more careful travel. The wildflower viewing area is high in elevation and ranges from 9,100 to 9,300ft. Visitors should bring water, food, sunscreen, a hat, and layers of clothing in anticipation of sudden weather changes. Visitors may wish to bring insect repellant in case of mosquitos.

Directions: The Mt. Rose Meadows Wildflower Viewing Area is accessed from the Mt. Rose Summit Trail. Trailhead parking is available at the Mt. Rose Highway Summit Rest Area on Nevada State Route 431 (also known as the Mt. Rose Highway). From Reno or Carson City, turn west from Highway 395 onto State Route 431 to the trailhead parking; this will be on the right hand side of the road. From the northern portion of Lake Tahoe, turn east from State Route 28 onto State Route 431 and continue to the summit trailhead parking, which will be on the left hand side of the road.

From the Summit Rest Area, the hike to the waterfall is 2.4 miles. The upper meadow within the Wildflower Viewing Area is an additional 0.8 miles from the waterfall.

From the upper meadow, there are two options: (1) follow the service trail through the meadow and loop back to the Summit Rest Area via a new portion of the Tahoe Rim Trail, which offers stunning views of Lake Tahoe; or (2) continue to the summit of Mt. Rose, which reaches over 10,700 ft. and offers an even more stunning panorama that includes Lake Tahoe and the Great Basin.

The hike to the top of Mt. Rose is arduous and requires more water, food and warm clothing. Both options will take you through additional habitats that support an amazing variety of wildflowers.

For trail conditions and further information, please contact the Carson Ranger District, (775) 882-2766. For a plant list of the site and general visitor information about the area, stop at the Galena Creek Visitor Center located on State Route 431 about 6.5 miles west of the intersection with Highway 395.

Ownership and Management: USDA Forest Service, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, Carson Ranger District.

Closest Town: Reno, Incline Village, Nevada.