• By Albert Depew

Prison Hill Recreation Area

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Description:  2,500-acre natural recreation area.  The northern end provides trails for non-motorized use (pedestrians, bicyclists, and equestrians).  The southern end provides trails for motorized use.
Motorized Access Area:  South end of Prison Hill, primary access is at 3100 Golden Eagle Lane. Trail Map 
Non-Motorized Access Area:  Parking is available at Silver Saddle Ranch (2648 Carson River Road), the east end of Koontz Lane (2044 Koontz Lane, This road is not being maintained), Carson River Road and 5th Street, and the east end of Clearview Drive (2600 E. Clearview Drive). Trail Map

Prison Hill Recreation Area
A High Point for Carson City!

Permitted throughout:

Hiking   Equestrian   

 Permitted in limited areas (south end only):


 Prohibited throughout:

No Camping   No Campfire   No Firearms   No Hunting

Ø=not available


Ø Barbeque Ø Picnic Pavilion
Ø Baseball/Softball Fields Ø Picnic Tables
Ø Basketball Courts Ø Playground Equipment
Ø Boating Access Ø Reservable Facility
Dog Allowed on Leash Ø Restrooms
Δ Dogs Allowed off Leash Ø Restrooms (Sani Huts - Seasonally)
Δ Equestrian Ø Roller Hockey Rink
Ø Equestrian Trails Ø Sand Volleyball Courts
Ø Fishing Access Ø Skateboard Park
Ø Football/Soccer Fields Ø Tennis Courts
Ø Horseshoe Courts Ø Trails (Paved)
Ø Open Grass Area Δ Trails (Unpaved)



5th Street Trailhead

Click Here for Map/Location

Visible throughout Carson City, the approximately 2,500 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 East 5th Street and Carson River Road, and middle section, located off of Koontz Lane or Clearview Driver, has several loop trails open to foot, bicycle and equestrian use and is closed to motorized vehicles. Trails either connect to other access points or rise in elevation to a loop trail at the top of Prison Hill. This area provides excellent views of the Carson Range, Eagle Valley, the Carson River, the Pine Nut Mountain Range to the east, and an expansive view over Carson City. 

The southern end of Prison Hill provides trails for motorized use. Similarly, there are several loops throughout the area. There is a large staging area for parking. Please check the map for "Motorized Use" boundary.

Responsible Recreation

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. Please treat our natural heritage with respect. Leave plants, rocks and historical artifacts as you find them. Learn about the regulations and issues that apply to the area you're visiting. 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. 

  • Pack out trash! As a regular visitor, consider picking up some litter as a community service!
  • Stay on designated trails. Don't shortcut switchbacks. Creating new trails on steep hillsides results in erosion during rainstorms.
  • Dogs love the open space. As a responsible dog owner and out of respect for other recreationists and wildlife, please keep your dog nearby either with a leash or voice command. Please collect and remove all dog waste.

Natural Resources

Vegetation throughout the area is representative of "big sage" plant community. This consists of big sagebrush, desert peach, bitterbrush, ephedra, Indian ricegrass, and occasional juniper and pinyon pine trees. A wonderful aroma surrounds the hills during the spring when the brush is in bloom. 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.

Land Conveyance from the Bureau of Land Management to Carson City: The history and the future

Under the authority of the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-11, Section 2601, Congress directed transfer of the Prison Hill Recreation Area, Silver Saddle Ranch and other federal public lands along the Carson River. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), acting through the Secretary of the Interior and in consultation with Carson City and affected local interests reserved a perpetual conservation easement to protect, preserve and enhance the conservation values of the property. The conservation easement will help assure that Carson City protects the Carson River, floodplain, surrounding uplands and wildlife habitat.  The conservation easement was signed on December 22, 2010.

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

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 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.