Looking for a nice lake escape in Northern Nevada, but don’t want to make the drive to Lake Tahoe? Try exploring Washoe Lake State Park, which offers a wide variety of outdoor recreational opportunities year round.

The major features are two lakes – Washoe Lake to the south and a much smaller Little Washoe Lake to the north. Here are six of our favorite things to do at Washoe Lake.

1. Hiking – The best time of year for hiking is during the spring and summer months. The desert, hills and lakes of the valley come alive with wildflowers, newborn quail and cottontail rabbits. There are an assortment of hiking trails and maps are available at the park office and information kiosks throughout the park. Here are 2 wonderful trails to get you started:

• Castle Rock Trail – Starting from East Guffey Dr. and turning onto East Sinclair St., follow any of the dirt trails up into the Virginia foothills keeping the large building-block rock formation above you in view. When you get to Castle Rock, climb up on the back part of it, the front is steep.  The view from Castle Rock is really amazing, you can see the entire valley and even up into Saint James Village. Another access point is from Eastlake Blvd, turn toward the hills onto East Cottontail and continue until it turns into a dirt road. Park here. The rocks are straight up the road and over the ridge.

• Dead Man’s Trail – The ghostly, white tree across from the south boat landing at the Washoe Lake State Park is the start of Dead Man’s Trail. This is a short and sweet hike that winds through two hills alive with wildflowers, cattails and a spring that gurgles out of the rocks. The best part of the hike is the top, where a gazebo has been built. The view of the lake, and both mountain ranges is beautiful and a great place for a picnic.

2. 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.

3. Bike riding – Riding bicycles along Eastlake Blvd. is a popular activity at Washoe Lake State Park. Riding this road provides cyclists with great views of Washoe Lake and the surrounding mountains of the Carson Range and Virginia Range.

4. Camping – Camping is permitted only at the Main Area Campground, which has 49 sites, each with a table, grill and fire ring. The campground is open year-round and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Some sites are equipped with shade structures. Two comfort stations, one with a shower, are available. Several sites can hold RVs up to 45 feet in length. There are no hookups, but a dump station is available. The camping limit is seven days in a 30-day period.

5. Boating & Water Sports – There are two boat ramps and docks on Washoe Lake, offering easy access to a variety of water activities. Boat launching ramps can be found in the Main Day Use Area, North Ramp and at Little Washoe. Boat trailer parking sites are provided.

6. Horseback riding – Equestrian areas are found at the Main Area and North Ramp. The Main Area facility includes restrooms and a covered barbecue area with tables, grill, sink, counter space, power, water and lighting. Camping is permitted for both tents and RVs with large parking areas for easy horse trailer access. This area can be reserved for groups of up to 200. The North Ramp facility is day use only and provides restrooms, parking, water and picnic tables.

Getting there
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.

What activities do you enjoy most at Washoe Lake State Park? Let us know in the comments below!