Carson Valley, Nevada is an often overlooked area of the state, at least by many tourists.
Most people pass through Reno, just to the north of the Carson Valley, on their way to Lake Tahoe or Las Vegas but it’s worthy of a stop on it’s own.
Or rather, a stay, because there is a lot to do.
Disclosure: Our trip to the Carson Valley was provided by Visit Carson Valley (visitcarsonvalley.org), and Lake Tahoe Visitors Association (tahoesouth.com), in exchange for sharing our experience with you.
About Carson Valley
Most people have heard of Carson City. The capital of Nevada sits just south of Reno, which calls to mind sprawling suburbia and casinos.
Well, the Carson Valley is none of that.
The Carson Valley, approximately 50 minutes south of Reno and located in Douglas County, is home to the towns of Minden, Gardnerville, and Genoa.
The area is steeped in history and is nestled against the east flank of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.
South Lake Tahoe is just a 30‑minute hop over the mountains. But don’t leave just yet ‑ the Carson Valley is a worthy destination in itself.
So what’s so great about it?
Things to See in the Carson Valley
If you want to learn more about the history of Nevada, and the west in General, this is the place to be.
All three major towns in the Carson Valley have some interesting history but Genoa, founded in 1851, was the first settlement in what became the Nevada Territory.
It’s home to Mormon Station Historic Park, which commemorates the first permanent trading post in the west.
Genoa has more historic plaques per square mile than I think I’ve ever seen.
One of the coolest facts to me was that Genoa was a key stop on the Pony Express Route through Nevada.
Genoa was the last stop before riders headed over the rugged mountains along the Kingsbury Grade to the California State Line and is where many riders would spend their winters.
The Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park outside of Minden was also interesting. Dogs are allowed on the grounds but not inside the buildings.
The Dangberg Family once owned the largest ranch in the valley and founded the town of Minden.
Not everything to see in the Carson Valley was built a long time ago though.
Just minutes east of Gardnerville is the Jacobson Rusty Rancho – a sculpture garden curated by one of the long-time locals.
We stopped by on our visit and happened to catch the owner out tending to his collection.
He gave us a personal tour of the grounds and told us the names and stories of many sculptures.
Eventually, this attraction may be open to the public on a regular basis but, for now, it’s worth seeing even if you have to view it through the fence.
Carson Valley Dog Friendly Trails
Trails! Oh, the trails. Choose your adventure.
There are a lot of dog friendly hikes in the Carson Valley.
The only exception I found was the River Fork Ranch Preserve.
I’m not clear whether it’s off limits to dogs to protect environment and wildlife, or because parts of it is a working cattle operation, (probably both) but don’t show up with fido expecting to stretch your legs there.
Otherwise, all other trails are fair game.
You can hike the Pinion trail, located southeast of Gardnerville, through desert shrublands and enjoy views of the Pine Nut and Carson Ranges.
Or you can hike around the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Range to the west.
If you are really ambitious, you can hike the Eagle Ridge Trail out of Genoa, continue on the Sierra Canyon Trail, and hike about 3,500 feet up to Genoa Peak and the Tahoe Rim Trail.
There are a lot of trails and decommissioned dirt roads around Topaz Lake too.
Dog Friendly Hotels in the Carson Valley
During our visit, we stayed in the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Minden. The rooms were modern and clean.
This may sound silly but, because I’m a blogger with a lot of electronics to charge, the number of electrical outlets in a room can absolutely make or break my stay. And there were more than enough of those in the room. Yay!
Dog Friendly Restaurants in the Carson Valley
During our stay, my favorite restaurant we ate at was the Overland Restaurant and Pub.
The food was delicious and there is a dog-friendly patio in the back.
Other restaurants with dog friendly outdoor seating are the Minden Meat & Deli and Cook’d.
After our visit, I learned that the Minden Meat & Deli is somewhat famous an an absolute must-eat stop for a lot of people. Some people actually go out of their way just to stop there.
Their food is good but the beer selection (canned, bottled, and on tap) rivaled some of the best and most interesting I’ve seen.
All restaurants we ate at had vegan options available.
You can also get food to go about anywhere and enjoy it in your hotel room or one of the picnic tables at Lampe Park in Gardnerville.
Carson Valley Veterinarians
If you are traveling with your dog, it’s important to be able to locate a Carson Valley vet in a hurry in case there is an emergency.
The Carson Valley Veterinary Hospital, located in Minden, NV, is open for emergencies during business hours and a veterinarian is on call until 9:00pm.
Normal operating hours are 7 am – 7 pm on weekdays, 8 am to 5 pm on Saturday, and 9 am to 4 pm on Sunday.
Outside of business hours, and for very serious emergencies, the best option may be to head to the Animal Emergency & Specialty Center approximately 50 minutes north in Reno because it’s open 24 hours, seven days a week.
Extend Your Vacation and Visit Lake Tahoe
If you want extend your vacation by a few days, you can drive 30 minutes west over the Kingsbury Grade to Lake Tahoe.
Just a couple minutes north on highway 50 is the Zephyr Cove Resort, which is a perfect hub for exploring the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe.
The Zephyr Cove Resort is a collection of private, quaint, dog friendly lake-side cabins (there are lodge rooms there too but they are not dog friendly).
Accommodations range from a two-story, two-bedroom Chalet with gas fireplace and a fully functional kitchen to studio cabins with a queen bed and kitchenette.
Just outside each cabin is a picnic table and fire pit so you can enjoy a barbecue on summer evenings.
Right out your front door is Zephyr Cove Beach.
The north portion of the beach, north of the dock, is one of the best dog friendly beaches in South Lake Tahoe.
But don’t stop there!
The coolest and most unique thing to do on the Nevada side of South Lake Tahoe is to rent a clear kayak from Clearly Tahoe and explore around Cave Rock.
Cave Rock Nevada State Park is one their most preferred locations for clear kayaking as is offers the most diverse experience.
On this tour, you will paddle along impressive cliffs, the iconic rocky shoreline, and explore beautiful coves that shimmer with pyrite (fools gold).
Dogs (and adventure cats!) are allowed to accompany adults (18+) on the 1.5 or 2 hour beginner tours for an additional fee of $20.00 per pet.
They can ride in the shuttle too on your lap or in a carrier.
Note: Only one dog (or cat) is allowed per kayak (even if they are small) and the dog-weight limit is 30 lbs. No exceptions for safety reasons.
Other things to do on the Nevada side of South Lake Tahoe include:
- Watch the sunset at Nevada Beach (dogs are only allowed on the small portion by the boat dock – it’s well signed)
- Hike to the top of Cave Rock to take in an expansive view of Lake Tahoe (also another excellent spot to watch sunset)
- Hike the Tahoe Rim Trail from the Kingsbury North Trailhead as far as you want (you can even hike to the top of Genoa peak and look out over the Carson Valley if you are really ambitious by cutting over to this trail from the north trailhead).
Whether you visit for a day or a week, the Carson Valley and surrounding areas are sure to keep you entertained.