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Stops on the Way

Carson City is Tahoe's Basecamp

Explore trails, brews and history near Lake Tahoe

Trail runner near Carson City, Nevada
Trail runnerCourtesy Visit Carson City

Carson City is a fantastic basecamp for exploring northwestern Nevada, at the centerpoint of everything you could want to do in the area from world-class ski resorts to Lake Tahoe’s abundant recreation. Once you get to Carson City, you’ll realize that it’s a place you won’t want to leave.

Kings Canyon Waterfall Trail near Carson City, Nevada
Kings Canyon Waterfall TrailCourtesy Visit Carson City

Start the day by exploring the city’s beautiful trail network. Mountain bikers and hikers alike will love the Ash to Kings Trail, a choose-your-own adventure that allows for a short 0.2-mile stroll to the lush Kings Canyon Waterfall, a 3-mile-loop hike or a 14-mile trek with beautiful views. If you want to dip your toes in Lake Tahoe’s beautiful waters, head to Skunk Harbor or Chimney Beach, both inside Carson City limits, to stroll along the lake’s shores.

Chimney Beach on Lake Tahoe in Carson City, Nevada
The turquoise waters of Chimney Beach on Lake TahoeDepositphotos

History buffs will love the Kit Carson Trail, which includes views of the original state capitol building and stunning mansions built by the likes of Mark Twain’s brother and the family who invented the Ferris Wheel.

After a day of exploring, you’ll want to hit up what the locals call the Carson City Trifecta: Carson Hot Springs, Shoetree Brewery and Sassafras Eclectic Food Joint. Located in the same parking lot, these three local establishments are a favorite of Carson City natives. Soak in the soothing waters of the hot springs, with an open pool and private mini spas before getting a local brew at Shoetree. Try their award-winning Wicked Shifty IPA.

A night in Carson City isn’t complete without a meal at Sassafras Eclectic Food Joint. Carson City marketing manager, Lydia Bruegge, suggests the Asian Chicken Tacos, with jicama “tortillas.”The menu is full of inventive dishes, but crowd favorites like pizza and burgers also shine here.

V & T Railway in Carson City, Nevada
V & T RailwayCourtesy Visit Carson City

Fans of the TV show Bonanza will already know all about Virginia City, the western town it’s based off of, located 30 minutes outside of Carson City. During normal summer seasons, you can board the V&T Railway in Carson City for an all-day adventure. The train will take passengers to Virginia City for a three-hour stop to explore the Old West town before returning to Carson City. 

“It’s a really beautiful ride,” Bruegge says. “It’s one of the most famous shortlines [a short-distance passenger train] in American history, and you’ll often see wild horses out the window.”

Specialty trains, like the summer scenic Toast of the Canyon Train and the holiday Polar Express Train run seasonally. Due to COVID-19, the railway is shut down for the 2020 season. Check back in 2021 for the up-to-date schedule.

Rail bikes in Carson City, north of Yosemite
Hop on a rail bikeCourtesy Visit Carson City

In the meantime, head to the railway’s Eastgate Depot where you can rent a rail bike – a perfect way to social distance. These bikes are designed for small, individual groups to peddle along the railway tracks through the beautiful Carson River Canyon. These bikes include a motor assist so you’ll be able to easily tackle the 2% grade. 

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To learn more about Carson City, check out To learn more about V&T Railway and to see the most up-to-date train schedule, visit