Prison Hill in Every Season

Join me in a hypothetical question: You have to pick ONE of Carson City’s outdoor recreation spots and stick to it for a whole year straight. Where are you headed?

Now, I bet half of your minds just thought of Ash Canyon or Kings Canyon, and you wouldn’t be wrong to choose them. Can someone say “embarrassment of riches?” Carson City has quite the roster of trails for all activities. But just for a moment, I’d like to direct our attention two miles east to Prison Hill.

Boasting 2,500 acres of dedicated recreation space, Prison Hill is a one stop shop for getting outside in whatever way feels right to you. On any given day of the year, there are multiple ways to take advantage of the space, but let’s take a trip around the calendar and see just how to get the most out of Prison Hill in any season.


It’s finally happened. The storm cycle that has been hovering above the Sierra laying feet of snow on the Tahoe area has graciously spilled over the hills and given us a winter wonderland. Now, winter here is normally a much gentler experience than it is in our higher elevation neighbor’s neck of the woods, making Carson City an ideal winter destination. Carson City offers quick access to world renowned ski resorts and mountain towns with a more relaxed day to day experience and pace of life. So, if it’s not a ski day for you, it’s a great opportunity to adventure locally on the snowshoes.

Each winter, only a handful of snow days bring us enough inches for us to dawn the snowshoes so when it does happen, we get pretty excited. If snow shoeing is high on your list of past times, check out this list of great places to do so HERE. The trails on the western side of town tend to keep deeper snow for much longer in the season. Prison Hill is situated in such a way that it gets great sun exposure throughout the whole day, causing the snow to melt much faster. So, hurry to the hill and get your chances in!

If the snow is below boot level, just throw on the micro spikes and enjoy a winter hike with sweeping mountain views along the way.

Ideal trail: Park at the 5th Street trailhead and hop on the Sagebrush Loop for a quick winter workout.


Our year at Prison Hill is off to a great start. You were just finding your rhythm in the new snow shoes and strengthening those hip flexors when suddenly, downtown Carson City has burst into bloom. The cherry blossoms are out with vigor and Spring is upon us. This calls for a celebration at our favorite hill.

I don’t know about you, but our typical response to spring from that first daylight savings extra-long day is to do ALL THE THINGS. And at Prison Hill, you can!


Before you start training for that summer marathon, let’s head to the south side of Prison Hill. From 395, take Snyder Ave until it becomes Gentry. Turn right and you’ll find the Prison Hill OHV staging area. Give your ski legs a break and enjoy some engine powered fun. Yes, you’re reading this correctly. Carson City has a designated OHV area within city limits. Gear up for your summer overlanding trip or take the side by side up a steep granite feature. It’s like a playground for adults who love engines.

If you’re a trail runner check out the Escape from Prison Hill Half Marathon, 10K and 5K in April.

Note: the OHV area is strictly on the south side of the hill. Please be mindful of signs and surroundings!


Running and hiking and biking, OH MY! I’m going to let you in on a great local secret: the top of Prison Hill has some of BOTH the best sunrise and sunset views in Carson City. Mic drop.

Just kidding, let’s discuss. Prison Hill’s placement in the middle of Eagle Valley (more or less) gives it a full arc of sun exposure throughout the day. Watch the sun rise over the Pine Nut Mountains in the morning and set over the Sierra in the evening. Recommend packing snacks either way.

If you’ve spent a lot of miles getting to know the perimeter trails of Prison Hill and are looking to gain some elevation, head to the Koontz Lane trailhead. The main trail from there will take you to what is locally referred to as the Dino Spine. About a mile and a half of uphill effort, and you’ll find yourself at the head of a long line of upright boulders. It’s an otherworldly feeling! Enjoy exploring them and weaving through the layers of rock high above town. In the summer months, rock climbers can be seen bouldering in the area as well. Looking to descend with a bit more pace? Try it out on the mountain bike!


Listen, there’s no best-for-last scenario at play here… but if you want to enjoy a whole river’s edge of golden yellow leaves this fall, Prison Hill is the place to do it. For a near bird’s eye view of Carson River Park in its peak beauty, hike up to the dino spine as discussed above. Direct access, of course, can be attained through Carson River Park itself, but for the reader who wishes to explore, check out the next walking path from the 5th Street trailhead. The hard packed walking path follows the east side of Prison Hill offering views of the river and the giant cottonwoods that tower above it. It’s one of the most scenic stroller friendly routes in Carson City so the whole family can enjoy the fresh air. Bring the dog, or even the horse along!

Thankfully, Carson City is quite literally surrounded by gorgeous trails for all usage types and we’re not limited to just one. Instead of spending a year straight at only Prison Hill, we challenge you to explore it in every season this year and see which is your favorite. Be sure to tag us in your Prison Hill adventures!