Nevada’s Hillside Letters


The traditional belief is hillside letters were created to help early 20th century airplane pilots navigate and identify communities. The truth is they are symbols of school pride dating back to 1905 when students at the University of California created a 70-foot “Big C” above the school.

University of Nevada, Reno students constructed a 150-foot-high and 140-foot-wide block “N,” April 13th, 1913, near the base of Peavine. The “N” covers 13,000 square feet and was the largest hillside letter in the nation until 1925.

The first known Nevada high school letter was the Elko “E,” built-in late 1916.  Former Director of the Northeastern Nevada Museum’s Howard Hickson says the “E” was constructed in honor of Raymond Thomas, a high school teacher who died October 1st, 1916, in a snowstorm while hiking in the Ruby Mountains.

The next Nevada hillside letter was the “T” built in 1917 to honor Tonopah High School’s state championship girls’ basketball team. By the early 1920s, Carson City High School students had a “C” on a hill west of the city that is now known as “C” Hill.

The Sparks “S” and Battle Mountain “BM” appeared in 1925, the Virginia City “V” in 1926, the Lincoln County’s “L” at Panaca in 1927, and the Virgin Valley High School “V” in Mesquite in 1929. Three years later, 1932, the Douglas County “D” in Carson Valley was created and the Stewart Indian School “S” in Carson City in 1934.

Galena High School in south-west Reno, opened in 1992. Within two years, a white washed letter “G” appeared in the Steamboat Hills above the Mt. Rose Highway.

Then there’s the “SS” that’s marked out on the face of the Hungry Valley Hills, which denotes Spanish Springs High School, which appeared in 2003. Finally, Damonte Ranch High School opened in the Fall of 2003 and within the letter “D” appeared below in the foothills below Castle Peak.

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