Ah, autumn in Northern Nevada’s Carson Valley – a season that’s all about rugged charm, outdoor escapades, and a hint of cowboy spirit. Forget about the clichéd pumpkin spice lattes and beanie-clad urbanites; out here, we’re talking about pumpkin picking, crisp pine-scented air, and a little something called candy dancing. You’ve probably never heard of it, but trust me, it’s as wild as it sounds.

Now, picture this: You’re surrounded by jagged peaks, lush riverbeds, and trees dressed in a magnificent riot of colors. That’s Genoa, Nevada in the fall for you, my friend. The famous Candy Dance, a tradition that’s been keeping this small town rocking for over a century, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to autumn excitement in the Carson Valley. Buckle up, because we’re about to take you on a ride through the top five must-do activities for an unforgettable fall getaway in this charming slice of the Wild West.

1. Feast for the Eyes (and Soul)

Before we dive into the action, let’s talk about scenery. Carson Valley offers vistas that make you want to shout “Yeehaw!” You’ll be treated to landscapes that wouldn’t look out of place in a Bob Ross masterpiece, complete with happy trees – crimson maples, orange cottonwoods, and golden aspens – all living their best lives.

But here’s the trick: predicting when and where the fall foliage will peak is like a game of poker. So, check out a fall foliage prediction map and stack the odds in your favor.

For a sure bet, set up camp in Minden, Genoa, or Gardnerville (we’ve got some lodging recommendations for you). Then, hit the trails. The valley’s surroundings offer the perfect canvas for your outdoor adventure. Jobs Peak, for instance, serves up stunning backdrops to your hiking endeavors. Or wander through a Jeffrey pine forest on the Fay-Luther/Jobs Peak Ranch Trail System, with the Carson Range, Pine Nut Range, and Carson Valley as your backdrop. If you’re more into bikes and horses, the Genoa Trail System is your playground.

Rivers and lakes like Topaz Lake and Carson River are framed by quaking aspens and cascading willows, offering you a spectacular array of hues. And don’t forget to keep your eyes on the sky; on October 14, 2023, an annular solar eclipse will grace the heavens – it’s a sight you won’t want to miss.

2. Savor the Flavors of Fall

After all that outdoor exploration, you’re bound to work up an appetite. Lucky for you, Carson Valley has some top-notch dining destinations to satisfy your cravings.

In Genoa, Sierra Chef is the place to be. Famous for cannoli and gelato, they also serve up lunches that feature seasonal ingredients. Plus, they’ve got an outdoor patio where you can enjoy your meal while taking in the crisp fall air and stunning colors.

For a dining experience with a view, make your way to Topaz Lodge Steakhouse. Casual fine dining meets sweeping vistas here, with a menu boasting appetizers, seasonal game options, fine wine, and cocktails.

And if you’re in Gardnerville or Minden, Woodett’s is a local favorite. Run by the dynamic duo of Christelle and Remon, they whip up mouthwatering morning favorites like crepes and host bistro nights on the weekends. Keep an eye on their ever-changing seasonal menu.

3. Channel Your Inner Cowboy at the Rodeo

With your appetite satisfied, it’s time to switch gears. The Douglas County Rodeo, returning on September 8 and 9, is where you’ll want to be. Held at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, this is where the state’s best cowboys and cowgirls come to compete for the title of Douglas County Rodeo Champion.

And it’s not just about the rodeo action; there’s something for everyone. Kids can enjoy bounce houses, obstacle courses, and even a bucking bull. There are world-class artisans, food trucks, and a daily rodeo showcasing bull riding, broncs, team roping, and more. Plus, you can catch concerts by some of the hottest country artists. It’s a Wild West showdown you won’t forget.

4. Sweet Treats and Crafts at the Genoa Candy Dance

Next up, it’s time to relive the good ol’ days at the Genoa Candy Dance, happening on September 23-24 and celebrating 104 years of nostalgia and small-town charm. What started as a humble community gathering to raise money for gas streetlamps has blossomed into a full-blown town festival and craft fair with over 300 elite vendors from across the nation.

The name might be Candy Dance, but it’s more than just sweets. You’ll find locally made treats, handcrafted creations, food, drinks, live music, and plenty of activities. It’s a weekend-long tradition that lets you step back in time and enjoy the simpler pleasures of life. You can even upgrade your experience with tickets for the exclusive Saturday evening dinner and dance – but be quick, these tickets are hot!

5. Pumpkin Picking and Pig Cheering

Finally, throughout October, the Corley Ranch October Harvest Festival & Pumpkin Patch is your ticket to fall fun on a real working cattle ranch and farm. What better way to celebrate the season than by picking your own pumpkin from the Carson Valley-grown selection? You can also get lost in a corn maze, hang out with farm animals, try your hand at mini-golf, and enjoy pig races, hay slides, and wagon rides. There are even discounts for seniors, and kids under 2 get in free. It’s fall-tastic!

Ready to ‘man up’ and embark on your Carson Valley fall adventure? This is the season to breathe in the crisp air, bask in the stunning fall colors, and immerse yourself in a world of outdoor activities. Whether you’re hiking through breathtaking landscapes, attending the Genoa Candy Dance, witnessing a rare solar eclipse, stargazing, or picking pumpkins, there’s something for everyone. So, grab your gear, and your cowboy hat, and start planning your trip to Carson Valley. Yeehaw!


By David Lieber

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