Overview of Washoe Lake State Park
Washoe Lake State Park offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities. The park was established in 1977 and is about 15 miles south of Reno in Washoe Valley. It is open all year. The major features are two lakes - Washoe Lake to the south and a much smaller Little Washoe Lake to the north. These are shallow natural lakes that occasionally dry up completely during extended drought conditions. The Sierra Nevada / Carson Range loom over the west side of Washoe Valley and the Virginia Range rises on the east side.
The area's original human inhabitants were the Washoe people. The discovery of the Comstock Lode at nearby Virginia City brought thousands of whites to the area and the first permanent settlement at Franktown was established in 1859. While the mining was booming, commerce in Washoe Valley was also brisk. Logging, ore processing mills, and supply towns like Washoe City flourished. The Virginia & Truckee Railroad ran through Washoe Valley, connecting Carson City and Reno until 1950. The local economy turned to ranching and farming after the mines petered out in the late 1870s.
What to See and Do at Washoe Lake State Park
Visitor Information: There is no visitor center or extensive services at Washoe Lake State Park. The area mainly provides opportunities for outdoor recreation such as hiking, bird watching, wildlife viewing, bike riding, camping, fishing, and horseback riding. There are boat ramps, a campground, picnic areas, hiking trails, and an equestrian trailhead. The day use entry fee is $7 ($2 discount for NV residents). Refer to the Nevada State Parks fee information web page for a full list of fees for various activities.
Take a Tour of Washoe Lake State Park: Check out my photo tour pictures of Washoe Lake State Park to see how things look and to get a feel for the lay of the land at this beautiful park.
Camping & Picnicking: I've stayed here and it is a nice campground. There are 49 sites, none with hookups. There is, however, a dump station. Several, however, can accommodate large RVs. Some sites have shade structures and all have a table, grill, and fire ring. The campground is open year round on a first come basis. The restrooms have plumbing (they aren't pit potties) and hot showers. The camping fee is $17 per night ($2 discount for NV residents).
Hiking, Biking, Equestrian Trails: Trails for non-motorized use are found throughout the park. You can travel along the lakeshore for bird watching, wildlife viewing, and great panoramas of the surrounding mountains. To get above it all, Deadman's Creek Trail climbs into the Virginia Range for a vigorous hike and even more spectacular views of Washoe Lake, Washoe Valley, and the Carson Range of the Sierra Nevada.
Boating & Fishing: There are two boat ramps and docks on Washoe Lake. Fishing can produce catches of channel catfish, bullheads, white and wiper bass, and Sacramento perch. There is a boat launch fee and Nevada state fishing regulations apply.
Bird Watching & Wildflowers: Washoe Lake attracts hundreds of species of resident and migratory birds. The managed marsh land at the south end of the lake has boardwalks, trails, and a viewing platform for birding. If conditions are right, wildflower viewing can be spectacular in spring, particularly in the Virginia Range on the east side of Washoe Lake.
Other Recreation Opportunities: Hunting with shotgun only is permitted within specified areas during the season (October through February). Motorized travel on trails and dirt roads is restricted to areas in the Virginia Range east of the park.
Hazards & Hassles
There are few trees and therefore little shade. If you are sun sensitive, this might be a problem during the hot summer months. If you are camping, try for a site with a sun shade. Another weather related issue is the wind. It can blow a literal gale of over 60 mph through Washoe Valley at times, making outdoor activities miserable or even impossible. It's a good idea to check the weather forecast before coming to play at Washoe Lake State Park. Rattlesnakes are among the native wildlife, so watch your step while hiking and walking around. Because there are no hook-ups in the campground, people with RVs tend to run generators. You'll have to decide whether or not this is bothersome, but I don't care for it.
Washoe Lake State Park Location
Washoe Lake State Park is on the east side of U.S. 395, 10 miles north of Carson City and 15 miles south of Reno. When coming from either direction on 395, take the East Lake Boulevard exit, then go north about 3.1 miles to the park entrance. The official address is 4855 East Lake Blvd., Carson City, NV 89704. The park office phone number is (775) 687-4319
Links to More Washoe Lake State Park Information
More Nevada State Parks
Washoe Lake is only one of Nevada's great state parks. Check out the Map of State Parks page to see where more parks are throughout the Silver State. You can also visit the Nevada State Parks Facebook page to get additional information.