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Guest Blog: #52RenoHikes Challenge

This week's blog post is what we hope to be the first of many in our Community Partners series. We'll hear from Rusty Donlon, owner of Gear Hut, as he talks about how he and his wife, Leah, got inspired to do their own local version of the #52hikeschallenge. He also gives us recommendations on his family's favorite local trails in and around Reno.


My name is Rusty, and together with my wife Leah, we own and operate a used outdoor gear store in Reno, Gear Hut. Up until nine months ago, Leah and I were that adventure couple that got outside multiple times a week. The dog was spoiled with his near daily adventures; from exploring local hikes to climbing at local crags. I wouldn’t say it ALL changed nine months ago when Winnie, our first born, came into our lives, but there's definitely an added level of difficulty to getting out of the house these days.

Running your own business is always full time work, but it was the new little human that really did us in. Between owning an old house with constant maintenance and operating your own business, we already had limited free time; but when you throw a baby in the mix, suddenly the time and energy to get outside seems like a mountain to just get out the door.

Leah Donlon (#52RenoHikes)

After Leah's 3 months of maternity leave and struggling to get outdoors, she realized making a goal for 2020 was a great way to encourage us to get past the “doorstep mile”. Because realistically, getting into the car or out the door was the hardest part of resuming our previous adventurous lifestyle.

#52RenoHikes was born the first week of January, as Leah headed out of the house for her first solo adventure with the dog, for an hour of hiking the Tom Cooke Trails.This was the catalyst to get ourselves outside at least once a week for a local hike. Most of the time, we get out all as a family, but sometimes one of us will stay home so that the other can get a little farther or go mountain biking. This helps to keep the dog tired as well. Our idea is simple. Get outside on a local trail once a week. Take a picture. See the sights. Hear the birds. Get some miles under your feet. Explore that park you always drive by but never stop at. Take a moment for yourself in these crazy times. Bring a friend (but keep your distance!). We shared the #52RenoHikes goal with our Gear Hut community to keep us accountable and encourage others to check out new local areas. We host photo contests and treasure hunts (for Gear Hut gift cards) as incentives for others to join.


This challenge has helped us not only get outside once a week, but also check out more local trails. Instead of blindly heading to the same ol’ trail that we’ve hiked a million times or more (for us that’s Huffaker Hills, and we know everyone loves a jaunt up Hunter’s Creek), we started discovering trails and parks that we haven’t been to yet. Exploring new trails has helped us keep from becoming complacent with our once-a-week hike. We enjoy planning each mini-adventure and look forward to the new vistas, flowers, ecosystems and wildlife.

We have been using a guide that Washoe County has posted online. You can find the guide HERE.

We’ve slowly been trying to tick off all the trails. How many have you already been to?


If you're stuck on ideas, here is a list of some of our favorites!

1.) Tahoe Meadows boardwalks: (in winter, wear snowshoes!) This area has lots of small loop options, an area popular for sledding, and fantastic views! Check the weather and road conditions before venturing up here. This is also a starting point for a stroll along the Tahoe Rim Trail.

2.) Virginia Lake paved path: Loop - 1 mile, good for strollers.

3.) Hunter Creek: Out and back - 6 miles. Hot in summer, icy in winter. Leads to a waterfall!

4.) Ballardini Ranch Trail : figure 8 loop options (2.3 miles total, 1.7 upper loop, 0.6 lower loop). Good open vistas.

5.) Evans Creek Trail: 3 mile loop with shorter cutoff options in San Rafael. Park at the sports complex to start this hike!

6.) Huffaker Hills Trailhead/Rattlesnake Mountain: 1 to 2 mile loop options with fantastic views of the Sierras. Great to stop here while running errands in plaza land!

7.) Downtown River Walk: Grab a cup of coffee and walk along the Truckee River! Park in the neighborhoods to avoid meters. Stroller, bike and roller blade friendly!

8.) Moon Rocks BLM : Not necessarily a hike, but fun exploration and scrambling!! It can be busy with OHVs on weekends. A great introduction to desert wandering!

9.) Galena Creek Regional Park: This area is a hub for beautiful tree hikes! At the base of Mt. Rose, you can find the Jones Creek, White's Creek and Thomas Creek Trails here. Check out the visitor's center as well!

10.) Sun Valley Regional Park, BLM access : Forever wandering dirt roads and paths to explore the hills back here! Sun Valley Regional Park also has a fun disk golf course to play!

So join us! In this crazy year of 2020, it’s vital for everyone to spend a moment outside for their mental health. Go explore your local trails and parks! If you join us in our challenge, use #52RenoHikes to share your new discovery with all of us.



lisa la
lisa la
3 days ago

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Leah embarked on her first solo adventure with her dog, hiking the Tom Cooke Trails for an hour. This experience inspired her family to commit to getting outside for a local hike at least once a week. While they usually hike together as a family, sometimes one of them stays home to allow the other to venture farther or go mountain biking. This routine not only benefits them but also helps keep their dog active at my location



What an interesting trip. There will certainly be many memorable memories. 8 ball pool



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