Carson City District - Sierra Front Field Office

Prison Hill Recreation Area

A High Point for Carson City!

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Visible throughout Carson City, the approximately 2,450 acre Prison Hill Recreation Area has been set aside and dedicated as open space for the community of Carson City. This popular open space is available for those who wish to hike, mountain bike, horseback ride, ride off- highway vehicles (south end only), experience great views of the Carson Range and Pine Nut Mountains, enjoy the quiet and take some great pictures. Prison Hill is located on the southeast side of town and has three main community parking areas.

The northern end, located off of Fairview Drive, East Fifth Street and Carson River Road, has short loop trails open to foot, bicycle and equestrian use and is closed to motorized vehicles. These trails were established cooperatively by the Bureau of Land Management, State of Nevada, and the Carson City School District to provide for cross country running trails.

The main community parking area and trailhead is located at the east end of Koontz Lane. Trails either connect to other access points or rise in elevation to a loop trail at the top of Prison Hill. This provides excellent views of the Sierra, Eagle Valley and the Carson River, the Pine Nut Range to the south, and an expansive overview of Carson City.

The southern end of Prison Hill provides trails for motorized use. A small OHV loop system is adjacent to the staging area, and travel routes are available on sandy trails and washes. Please check map for "Motorized Use" boundary.

Portions of the central part of Prison Hill have become popular for technical rock climbing.  Local enthusiasts know a number of technical routes up a variety of craigs and pitches.  A good description of the resource is found in pages 46-55 of the now out-of print 1991 Climbers Guide East Tahoe Region by Ron Anderson.

Treat our natural heritage with respect. Leave plants, rocks and historical artifacts as you find them. Deposit human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from trails. Cover and disguise hole. Pack everything that you bring in on your excursion out! Stay on designated trails; do not shortcut switchbacks. Learn about the regulations and issues that apply to the area you're visiting.

* Pack out trash! As a regular visitor, consider picking up some litter as a community service!
* Please, no campfires.
* Stay on established trails. Creating new trails on steep hillsides results in erosion during rainstorms.
* Dogs love the open space, but must be kept under verbal control or on a leash by their owners.
* Shooting is prohibited in the Recreation Area.
* Report illegal activity to 775-885-6117 or 775-688=1333.
* Trail courtesy goes a long way.


Whatever means of travel you choose to explore Prison Hill, be aware of wildlife inhabiting the area. This includes coyotes, rabbits, hawks, ground squirrels, and deer. You may even see golden eagles around the rock outcrops in the upper elevations.

Vegetation throughout the area is representative of "Big Sage" zone plants. This consists of Big Sagebrush, Desert Peach, Bitter brush, Ephedra, Indian Ricegrass, and occasional Juniper and Pinyon trees. A wonderful aroma surrounds the hills during the spring when the brush is in bloom. Since vegetation is predominantly brush, the exposed slopes can endure hot summer temperatures. Always remember to bring water, hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen as you explore.

The geologic make-up of Prison Hill consists of two different rock types. Jurassic aged metamorphosed volcanic rock is exposed at the northern end, and a Cretaceous, medium-grained granitic rock exists at the southern end of the hill. In the northern end, as the larger rock mass disintegrates, pieces of broken outcrop appear that are dark-colored and consist of an andesite mud-flow breccia. Both rock types seem to be popular among local rock climbers and add interesting visual features to the hillsides.

Photo of the hiker gate on the west side of the Prison Hill Recreation Area in Carson City.
Hiker gates provide easy access on the west side of the Prison Hill Recreation Area in Carson City.

Are Prison Hill and Silver Saddle Ranch Going to Transfer from the BLM to Carson City? 

Congress directed transfer of Silver Saddle Ranch and federal public lands along the Carson River, including the existing Prison Hill Recreation Area (approximately 3,604 acres), subject to the reservation of a conservation easement, to Carson City under the authority of the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-11, Section 2601).

BLM, acting through the Secretary of the Interior and in consultation with Carson City and affected local interests, has reserved a perpetual conservation easement to protect, preserve and enhance the conservation values of the property, and to see that Carson City protects the Carson River, floodplain and surrounding uplands and wildlife habitat.  The conservation easement was signed on December 22, 2010.

Development of the conservation eastment was guided by the results of a planning and design charette completed in December 2008, entitled Creating a Community Vision: Silver Saddle Ranch and the Carson River.  

Though the actual transfer of these lands is not anticipated until sometime in 2011, when the transfer does occur Carson City may use the property for undeveloped open space, passive recreation, customary agricultural practices and wildlife protection.  Carson City may construct and maintain trails and trailhead facilities, conduct fuels reduction projects, maintain or reconstruct any improvements on the property that were in existence on March 31, 2009, and allow the use of motorized vehicles on designated roads, trails and areas in the south end of Prison Hill.

BLM and Carson City have mutually agreed that the conservation values also include protection of natural resources, preservation of the property for solitude and nature observation, maintaining the green irrigated pastures and hay fields of Silver Saddle Ranch, protecting scenic resources including the preservation of dark skies, protecting cultural resources including the historic structures at Silver Saddle Ranch, promoting environmental education and interpretation, allowing public access, promoting the quality of life, and safety and tourism.  

More information on the actual transfer of these lands to Carson City will be posted here as it becomes available.