The Washoe Valley was named after the Washoe People who spent their summers and winters near Lake Tahoe. They maintained a modest lifestyle for several hundred years by making baskets and hunting the jackrabbits in the valley. In the mid-1800s, gold and silver were discovered in the mountains east of the Washoe Valley bringing hundreds of settlers to the valley in search of a new life. 100 years after the mining rush was over, in 1977 the state of Nevada made the 3,775 acres of land near Washoe Lake a state park in hopes of protecting it from the rapid urbanization in the surrounding cities.
Visitors from all over Nevada come to take a dip in the lake or appreciate the beautiful campground. Summers are hot with little natural shade to protect you from the sun. Winters are cold and wet with plenty of snow in the nearby ski resorts. In the summer families can travel to the park in their motorhome to enjoy fishing, horseback riding, and metal detecting. Winters provide a much calmer atmosphere makes the park a great place for birding, geocaching, and hiking.
There are 49 campsites available for RV and trailer camping. This is a dry camp, which means there are no hookups available. Water spigots and a dumping station are located in the main park area. There is also a large area near the equestrian stables for campers to park their RVs and campervans. The park operates on a first-come, first-served system and does not take reservations.
The park is located five miles north of Carson City and 30 miles south of Reno, Nevada. Interstate Highway I-580 runs along the exterior of the park and provides a smooth ride to the park’s entrance. There are plenty of smaller towns near the park where you may want to stock up on fuel and groceries. If you are feeling in the mood, then downtown Carson City has a few nice shops and casinos that you can visit during your stay.
The road leading to the entrance of the park is wide, easily accommodating larger rigs. There are no large branches that you have to look out for but the occasional pothole may require you to drive slowly. There are several parking lots littered throughout the park especially near the equestrian trails for ease of use. If you have a motorbike then it only allowed on certain trails.
In the event of inclement weather such as flooding or a snowstorm, the park will close. Since there are no reservations as long as you arrive before the park closes each day you will be able to find a spot with ease. The park is more crowded during the weekends and especially in the summertime.
Washoe Lake Campground operates on a first-come, first-served basis only.
There are 49 leveled sites for RV and trailer camping. The park does not offer hookups, but you can find a dumping station near the entrance and water spigots littered throughout the park. There is plenty of space between you and your neighbor but not much shade from the sun. Since the park does not have any hookups, you are allowed to use your generator as long as you turn it off during night hours.
Campers who cannot find a camping spot can park near the horse stables in the open fields. Amenities included are hot showers, fire rings, restrooms, and a picnic table. The gathering of firewood or bringing your own is strictly prohibited. You can ask the staff for firewood for a small fee. You may stay a limit of seven days within a 30-day period and do not have to reserve a spot for your next visit.
Washoe Lake offers year-round recreational activities. Since the lake levels vary every year and it is regarded as a shallow lake, fishing seems to be one of the few activities that are most practical to pursue on the lake. You are not required to have a fishing license to catch a bite. The lake is stocked with catfish, bass, crappie, perch, and wipers. Remember to pack your tackle box and rods in your RV the next time you visit.
Several stables are littered throughout the park for horseback riders. You are allowed to bring your own horse but must have the proper paperwork for them to be able to ride on the trails. Some of the trails are shared with hikers so be sure to reduce your speed and be on the lookout for nearby walkers. Remember to wear your helmet at all times and stay on the trails when you go for a ride.
There are over 10 miles of trails with options of using a motorized bike or walking on foot. If you want a hiking challenge, try hiking the Dune Creek Trail, a trail that is over four miles long. Remember to ask for a map in the main office and to bring along your water bottle and something to eat. Pets are allowed on the trails just remember to clean up after them and keep the trails beautiful. Bringing along a comfy pair of hiking boots will definitely help you reach new heights.
Metal Detecting is allowed in all Nevada state parks. You will have to ask the staff which areas are open to metal detection and a get a permit before you are able to go treasure hunting. Equipment will not be provided, so you are required to bring your own. All finds must be reported to the main office for investigation. Once your findings have been cleared, you may take home your new found treasure. It is imperative that you do not search in closed areas due to continuous research that is being done in the area.
Nevada has a beautiful collection of both water and migratory birds. You can pick up a birding watch list from the main office and check out the Wetlands Loop. Here you may see some of the waterfowl such as the Long-billed Curlew, Herons, Egrets, and Black Scooter. Remember to take your binoculars and wear a sturdy pair of hiking boots. Be sure to bring along your water bottle and a snack when you go exploring.
A geocaching device makes Washoe Lake State Park a brand new experience. Geocaching requires your inner pirate, a GPS-compatible device, a map, a pencil, and your own treasure to trade. Be sure to know the rules of logging a cache and leave something interesting in its place. To keep the adventure alive, remember to leave each cache site without a leaf out of place.