WHAT TO EXPECT Galena Creek Regional Park is the trailhead for the 9.2-mile Jones Creek-Whites Creek Loop Trail up the eastern side of Mount Rose. The Mount Rose Wilderness Area, which affords isolation normally found in more remote areas, may be accessed from the western edge of the loop. Habitats range from narrow riparian to open sage to deep conifer forest, and the 2000-foot elevation gain adds to the diversity of habitat. In the canyons, moist north-facing and drier south-facing slopes also produce very different habitats. One can walk part or all of the loop or simply bird from the trailhead area. The estimated walking time for the entire loop is 6 to 8 hours. The description of the Popular Birding Route is followed by an alternate access route to Whites Creek Canyon. Galena Creek Regional Park lies within the Carson Range Important Bird Area.
Best time of year: Mid-May into July for breeding birds. Some upper montane species move to the lower elevations in the winter.
Notable species: All year: Northern Goshawk, Red-naped and Williamson's Sapsuckers, White-headed Woodpecker, Clark's Nutcracker, Steller's Jay, all three nuthatches. Summer: Black-chinned (May through August) and Rufous (July and August) Hummingbirds, Cassin's and Warbling Vireos, MacGillivray's, Black-throated Gray, and Hermit Warblers, Green-tailed Towhee, and Fox Sparrow.
Precautions: Snow limits access to many parts of the loop in the winter. If snow melt runoff is high or prolonged, crossing the creeks can be treacherous. Be aware of the effects of high elevation as well as potentially dramatic temperature changes during the course of the day.
HOW TO GET THERE From the I-80 & US 395 interchange, go approximately 11 miles south on US 395 to Exit 56 Mount Rose Highway/SR 431. Bear right onto SR 431, proceed west-southwest for approximately 6.1 miles, 1.6 miles beyond Timberline Drive (Side Trip A), and turn right at the sign for the first entrance into Galena Creek Regional Park North Entrance (open at 8:00 am). Follow the one-way signs uphill and around a loop to the trailhead parking lot at the end of the paved road.
POPULAR BIRDING ROUTE Bird the parking and picnic area and the initial portion of the trail for montane forest and shrub species. Brochures with trail maps are available at the large trailhead sign. To access the loop trail from the trailhead, follow the signposts along the wide path that leads to the Jones Creek-Whites Creek Loop Trail. Take the trail to the right (north), which passes through an open pine forest. After about 0.5 mile, the trail crosses Jones Creek, where the loop trail begins. The Jones Creek trailhead is to the left, the Whites Creek trail to the right. Many hikers elect to walk to the right, traveling counterclockwise to descend the demanding portions of the Jones Creek trail.
Jones Creek trail: This rigorous trail climbs first moderately then steeply through switch-backs to the saddle between the two creeks and eventually meets the Whites Creek trail. The trail passes through open forest, low brush, and some stretches of open sage. Check overhead for Red-tailed Hawks, Golden Eagles, and Northern Goshawks. The calls of Clark's Nutcrackers frequently echo through the canyon.
Whites Creek trail: This trail starts as a dirt road up to the Mount Rose Wilderness boundary, at which point it becomes a single-track path. The trail remains close to the creek and riparian habitat, and it passes through moist spruce-fir forests along some stretches. Mountain Chickadee, nuthatches (including Pygmy), and Brown Creeper are common throughout. Red-naped and Williamson's Sapsuckers and White-headed Woodpecker are present as well
Alternate access to Whites Creek Canyon and trail: Prior to reaching Galena Creek Regional Park, at 4.5 miles west of US 395, turn right (north) off Mount Rose Highway/SR 431 onto North Timberline Drive. (Side Trip A) After 0.4 mile turn left (west) at a U.S. Forest Service sign onto Whites Creek Road. Travel 0.8 mile to the Whites Creek trailhead (open at 8:30 am) on the gated, paved, and then gravel road. The parking and picnic area (restrooms) are in a Jeffrey pine forest with some mountain mahogany. Bird this area and the closed portion of the road for montane species. The road becomes a trail as it continues upslope. Another trail follows the creek and riparian habitat and later merges with the forest trail. The trail continues upslope along Whites Creek for approximately 3.0 miles. Note: The lower 2.0 miles of the trail are open to dogs and bicycles as well as hikers before it reaches the Mount Rose Wilderness boundary.
OPTIONAL SIDE TRIPS Side Trip A Thomas Creek trails: From Mount Rose Highway/SR 431 turn north onto North Timberline Drive. At 0.8 mile the road becomes dirt. Two areas can be birded. (1) At 0.2 mile farther, turn left and head uphill on a rough dirt road (high-clearance vehicle recommended) to an unimproved parking area located along Thomas Creek. Bird the riparian area for approximately 1 mile. (2) Alternatively, drive 0.3 mile on the dirt road to the end of Timberline Drive to the Thomas Creek trailhead. The parking area is located to the left (restrooms). The trail to Thomas Creek goes to the left of the restrooms and continues along the creek at the north (right) end of the parking area.