Just a few miles west of Reno is the quaint community of Verdi. Known for its beautiful residential neighborhoods, easy access to the surrounding hillside, a few secret fishing holes and a fiery past, it’s worth the detour next time you’re heading to the California border.
Verdi began as a mere railroad stop on the Central Pacific Railroad in 1867 before becoming a major mill town and junction for logging supplies like ties and timbers. At one time, this unassuming community was bigger than Reno. One of Verdi’s most famous stories involves five bandits who attacked the Central Pacific Overland Express in 1870. They made off with almost $50,000 in gold and silver and were chased through two states before finally being apprehended. Verdi’s decline began in 1926, when a disastrous fire devastated the community. In fact, in Verdi’s nearly 150-year history, the town has suffered more than 20 major fires. In addition to the rich milling industry Verdi offers, it has definitely secured its place in history as the first train robbery of the West. On November 5, 1870, a five man group of bandits held up the mail car and Wells Fargo & Co. treasure boses. Inside, they found $41,600 in the shipment, split it amonst themselves equally and made a run for it in to the hills. It only took one week to capture the whole gang, with $39,500 of the bounty recovered.
Today, evidence of the town’s mill rail and mill past can be seen at the Verdi History Center. Also, visitors wanting to immerse themselves in Verdi's beauty can explore the Nature Center, with interpretive trails and informational bulletins. Driving into town on Old Highway 40, there’s also a large, State of Nevada-shaped historical marker that describes the town’s early beginnings, and the Crystal Peak Toll Bridge is another peek at history, dating to 1928. Look for the monument near the bridge for the whole story. And when you’ve had your fill of history, take advantage of the many parks, trails and bike paths in town. The Washoe County Park Department maintains the beautiful quiet Crystal Peak Park on the Truckee River's edge, just south of town. There’s also the fun little nine-hole Crystal Peak Golf Course, and the latest addition, Cabela’s: an enormous sports outfitter with endless variety of hunting, fishing and outdoor gear.