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Hiking Deadman's Creek Trail

Great Views from Washoe Lake State Park

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Deadman's Creek Trail at Washoe Lake State Park, just south of Reno, Nevada, NV

Deadman's Creek Trail at Washoe Lake State Park, just south of Reno, Nevada.

Photo © Stan White

Deadman's Creek Trail Overview

Deadman's Creek Trail provides hikers with spectacular views from right from the beginning. A short, moderately steep hike from the trailhead takes you to a gazebo overlooking the expanse of Washoe Valley, with the towering Sierra Nevada rising above the far side of Washoe Lake. The basic hike is an out-and-back trip to the gazebo, but there are other options that will take you on various loops through the Virginia Range east of the trailhead. If you climb high enough, you can peer over the crest for a view of Carson City and the mountain tops receding into the distance beyond the valley.

Deadman's Creek Trail Hiking Details

The first part of the trail crosses a small bridge and takes hikers up next to a spring-fed creek. How much water is in the creek varies by season - more in spring, not much by fall. This riparian area is heavily vegetated and the only place along the Deadman's Creek Trail system with anything you might call a tree. Stinging nettle grows here, so be careful if you venture off-trail. There are signs along this stretch of trail identifying some of the local flora and fauna.

There is a trail intersection a short distance further. The right branch leads up to a gazebo with seating and a spectacular view of Washoe Lake and Slide Mountain. If you are there in spring, the rocky slopes around the gazebo can be ablaze with wildflowers. This is the only spot on the entire trail with shade, thereby making it a good place to have lunch and relax before continuing further or heading back to the trailhead.

If you bear left at the intersection, the trail climbs a moderately steep slope up the canyon to a dirt road. The road continues uphill and gives hikers several choices of additional routes. One takes you back down to the gazebo, from which you can retrace your steps back to the parking area. Others lead to the summits of nearby small peaks. The road itself goes all the way to Carson City. This really is a road and vehicular traffic is permitted - hikers should be aware of cars, trucks, mountain bikes, equestrians, and a variety of OHVs that also frequent this part of the area.

Another trail branches off to the left before you reach the dirt road. This trail climbs the slope and intersects with the main trail leading to the gazebo from the trailhead. This trail can be used when descending from the gazebo to create a semi-loop hike rather than returning by the same path.

The shortest round-trip hike to the gazebo and back is about a mile. Numerous variations will add to your mileage, of course, and there are plenty of opportunities to make a Deadman's Creek outing as long or brief as you like.

Getting to the Deadman's Creek Trailhead

Deadman's Creek Trail is at the southeast edge of Washoe Lake State Park. It's around 25 miles south of Reno, depending on where you start. To reach the trailhead from Reno, drive south on I580 / U.S. 395. Stay on I580 to the south end of Washoe Lake and take the Eastlake Boulevard exit. Look for a sign for Washoe Lake State Park. Turn left and follow Eastlake Boulevard a couple of miles to the parking area on your right. There is a trailhead sign and the bleached remains of a big cottonwood tree. When you are close, you can see the gazebo above and to the right. There is only room for a few cars, but you can park in some wide spots along the shoulder if need be. This parking space is not in the park's fee areas and is free. There is more parking across the road and close to the lake, which is in a day-use area for Washoe Lake State Park and requires payment of a fee.

Allowed Uses on Deadman's Creek Trail

Hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding are allowed on Deadman's Creek trails. You can also bring dogs, but please keep them under control so as not to disturb wildlife and other users you may encounter on the trail. Deadman's Creek Trail is natural dirt and rocks and has no ADA accessibility.

Little Washoe Lake Trail

Little Washoe Lake is at the north end of Washoe Valley. There are a couple of trail variations, taking hikers either along the shoreline or above it and closer to the road. To reach Little Washoe Lake from Reno, take old U.S. 395 (not the I580 freeway) south. At the top of the hill between Pleasant Valley and Washoe Valley, turn left on Eastlake Boulevard. Trailhead parking is on the right, a short distance from the intersection. This area is within Washoe Lake State Park and a day-use fee is required.

Afoot & Afield - Reno-Tahoe

Afoot & Afield - Reno-Tahoe is a hiking guide to more than 175 hiking trips around Lake Tahoe, Reno, Sparks, Carson City, and Minden-Gardnerville. Each entry features hiking time and difficulty rating, a trip description, hiking directions, and a map. Route lengths range from less than one mile to 18 miles. Author Mike White has written numerous guides to trails in the Sierra Nevada mountains and northwestern Nevada.
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