Searching for Spring adventures

Kings Canyon Waterfall in Carson City is an easy hike for kids. | Katherine E. Hill

Spring has begun and it is a welcome change from the past winter of big snow storms and many cloudy days in between. Although I love the snow, I could use a little taste of spring. And since the snow banks in my yard are still 5 feet tall, I think it is time for a trip to a lower elevation.

As we descend Mount Rose Highway, we leave the cloud cover behind and are greeted by the warmth of the sun.

As the days get longer, the snow is melting rapidly but it will still be some time before I can hike on the trails around my house on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe. To appease my need for a glimpse of spring, I planned a trip to Washoe Valley and Carson City with my sister, Katherine Hill, and my son, Anikin.

Watch a video of the Kings Canyon Waterfall

Located between the Nevada cities of Reno and Carson City, Washoe Valley is a beautiful landscape of rolling hills and looming mountain peaks. A short drive from Lake Tahoe, it is a great place to find the sights and sounds of spring.

Exploring the sand dunes at Washoe Lake State Park. | Katherine E. Hill

The day of our trip, the Tahoe Basin is shrouded in a layer of clouds blocking out any sign of the sun. As we descend Mount Rose Highway, we leave the cloud cover behind and are greeted by the warmth of the sun. The snowpack disappears as we travel south and enter the high-desert environment of Washoe Valley. Our first destination is Washoe Lake State Park.

Washoe Lake State Park | Katherine E. Hill

Washoe Lake is a marshy, shallow lake fed by water from the surrounding mountains of the Sierra, Carson and Virginia ranges. The lake typically holds water year-round and is a sanctuary for migratory birds.

Washoe Lake State Park offers day-use picnic areas, hiking and equestrian trails, fishing, boat ramps and several campgrounds. The campgrounds include tent, RV and horse sites.

We stop at the picnic area on Little Washoe Lake, the overflow for Washoe Lake on its north side. Some of the picnic tables along the shore and some of the trails are partially submerged by the high volume of runoff that has collected here.

Next, we drive to the south end of the lake and we stop at the Dune Trek trailhead. Following the sand dunes down to the lake, we are struck by the dramatic backdrop of the mountains and the panoramic views. The scent of sagebrush fills the air as we help Anikin identify plants and birds for a school assignment.

We drive to the ranger station and then continue on to see more of the park. As we drive, I think it would be a great place to revisit in the summer when the weather is warmer.

We head to Carson City and have lunch at San Marcos Grill. After a delicious meal, we take a quick side trip to the Kings Canyon Waterfall. Tucked away on the western edge of downtown Carson City, Kings Canyon has miles of trail access. Our goal today is to do the easy hike to the waterfall.

The mineral-fed Carson Hot Springs. | Katherine E. Hill

Climbing quickly above the valley floor, the trail gains elevation fast but is a non-technical, short walk to the falls. Small effort equals big reward. Stunning views of the Carson Valley complement the delightful quality of the waterfall. We spend a little time at the base of the falls but eagerly rush back to the car to our final stop, Carson Hot Springs Resort.

Fed by mineral water from deep beneath Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada, the hot springs are sacred to the Native American people of the area; the water is among the purest water in the world. Known for its healing properties, it is the perfect end to a lovely day. The large outdoor patio is next to a mineral-fed swimming pool and has a cold plunge and a hot tub. The tubs are not currently fed by mineral water but will be converted this summer.

There are also nine private mineral-fed hot tubs, which range from 98 to 110 degrees F. We choose one that is 102 degrees and spend the next couple of hours soaking, swimming and unwinding. Anikin cracks us up when he repeatedly gets in the cold plunge tub. He stays in the tub for long periods of time while I can barely stay in for a few seconds — definitely a Tahoe kid.

Feeling rejuvenated, it is time to head back up the hill. We indulge in frozen yogurt at Yogurt Beach and grab coffee before leaving Carson City.

We got a little taste of spring and it gave us a reprieve from the snow that still envelopes most of the mountains. It was a well-needed escape and I appreciate the time spent with my family. | parks.nv.gov/parks/washoe-lake, visitcarsoncity.com