Wilson Canyon
Guide

Introduction

Wilson Canyon is an area of BLM-managed public land in Lyon County, Nevada. The three-mile-long canyon was carved by the West Walker River running through the volcanic rock of the Singatse Mountain Range. The towering reddish-grey cliffs of the canyon and surrounding dark-colored foothills make for a stark and arid landscape but one which is scenic in its own desert-like way. The canyon, which is intersected by both the river and a main highway, sits on the very western edge of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

In the Wilson Canyon there is an established BLM-managed recreation area for day-use and overnight camping. All camping there is primitive with no utility hook-ups, and the only on-site amenity is a block of vault toilets. The canyon and recreation area are popular with ATV enthusiasts who make use of the many trails and dirt roadways crisscrossing the zone. It's a dry dusty location for outback hiking, but there's a great trail to trek that is perfect for nature and scenery lovers. There are also trails close by on Bald Mountain for those who want a more challenging hike. Kayaking and canoeing opportunities can be found on the Walker River both where it flows through the canyon and upstream where the river separates into its east and west forks. Any fishing done in the West Walker River is mostly fly fishing for trout.

If the environment is a little too harsh to encourage you to put on some hiking boots, then there's a couple of pleasant scenic drives you can take instead. History lovers will want to plan a visit to the Fort Churchill State Historic Park while they're in the region. If you're looking for a peaceful campground where there's no noise from OHVs, the Lahontan State Recreation Area is just a forty-minute drive north of Wilson Canyon.

RV Rentals in Wilson Canyon

Transportation

Driving

While the Wilson Canyon may be quite a distance from the nearest urbanization, it's not difficult to get to. Program Yerington, Nevada, into your navigational app and whether you're motoring to the canyon from the north, south, east or west, you'll soon discover a relatively easy route to follow. Yerington is a small city located on the US 95 ALT, and as one of the closest places to Wilson Canyon, it's a good place to stock up on provisions as you're passing through. From Yerington, you'll have a choice of two routes to get to Wilson Canyon. Take the NV 339 southbound and it'll take you fifteen minutes to reach the canyon. Take the NV 208 and you'll be there in twenty minutes.

If you've been RV camping in the Plumas National Forest or the Tahoe National Forest, the best place to head for first is Reno. From Reno, you can take either the I 580 southbound through Carson City and enjoy the scenery as you motor along the border of the Eldorado National Forest or take the I 80 then join the US 95 ALT in Silver Springs. Time-wise there's only twenty minutes difference, but if you've chosen the Lahontan State Recreation Area as your campground, you'll find the second route slightly longer but more convenient.

Parking

The recreation site in Wilson Canyon has plenty of space to park OHV trailers as well as a loading and unloading area.

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Wilson Canyon

Campsites in Wilson Canyon

First-come first-served

Lahontan State Recreation Area

If camping amid the noise of a popular OHV recreation area isn't what you had in mind for your RV camping vacation in Nevada, the Lahontan State Recreation Area is a great alternative. The Lahontan State Recreation Area is a forty-five-minute drive of Wilson Canyon near the city of Silver Springs. The recreation area is located on the north-west shore of Lahontan Reservoir and is open all year. Although the campground does have a busy season from June to September, all campsites are allocated throughout the twelve months on a first-come-first-served basis.

Access roads and parking pads at the campground are gravel-surfaced. It's also permitted to RV camp in dispersed locations around the lake, though it's expected for campers to keep a respectable distance away from the beach. There are no utility hook-ups but campsites are furnished with picnic tables, fire rings, and grills.

There are various amenities distributed at convenient distances around the lake. They include vault toilets and water spigots during the busy season and there are dump stations by the recreation area entrances. All stays at the Lahontan State Recreation Area are limited to a maximum of fourteen days in any thirty day period.

Seasonal activities in Wilson Canyon

In-Season

Hiking

Set out on foot with a backpack full of supplies and plenty of water and you'll be able to hike along the Wilson Canyon Nature Trail. The trail is a three and a half-mile long loop that winds through the base of the canyon and in parts alongside the riverbed. It's a dirt trail with lots of loose stones so wear good boots.

There are signs along the trail describing the flora and fauna you're likely to see. For a more strenuous hike but one that rewards with incredible views of the Nevada landscapes, head over to Bald Mountain. The trail is around five and a half miles long with a hefty elevation gain, so expect to get some decent leg exercise on the way up.

Off-Roading

Wilson Canyon is a BLM-authorized ATV area that provides exciting rides for any level of rider or driver. There are around twenty miles of trails running through the canyon which mostly consist of hard-packed dirt edged with loose rocks. Small hills provide jump challenges ideal for inexpert riders to get some practice on. Riding off the tracks is not permitted and all vehicles are required to have a spark arresting exhaust or end cap fitted.

Waterfall Viewing

If the dry rocky environment of Wilson Canyon leaves you longing for the sound of gushing water, make the one hour drive to the suburbs of Carson City. There you'll find the Kings Canyon Waterfall. From the car park at the end of King Street to the falls is about a one mile hike.

The twenty-five foot high falls cascade into a rocky pool before dispersing in a creek. Carry on trekking past the falls and you'll come across two smaller waterfalls all in a prettily scenic setting.

Off-Season

Scenic Driving

The area around Wilson Canyon is a great place to take a scenic drive. Set out from Yerington on the US 95 ALT then join the US 95 southbound. It'll take you past the western shore of Walker Lake. There's a recreation area there where you can stop for a picnic and soak up the scenery. Follow the US 95 S for a couple of hundred miles and you'll find yourself in California and in the right place to visit the Death Valley National Park or another BLM managed property, the Funeral Mountains Wilderness.

For a shorter scenic drive, head out on the NV 208 westbound from Wilson Canyon. After around twenty-five miles turn off onto the US 395 southbound and you'll discover Topaz Lake, a stunningly beautiful reservoir nestling among the mountains. If you're there during the summer months, you might want to park up and make the most of the lake's beach and dive in for a swim.

Fort Churchill State Historic Park

For anyone interested in the history of Nevada and the West, a visit to the Fort Churchill State Historic Park is a must-do. The park is a forty-minute drive north of Wilson Canyon, and open seven days of the week throughout the twelve months of the year.

The late 19th century buildings that were inhabited by early pioneers and used to safeguard the mail on the Pony Express are all now in ruins. Drop in at the visitor center to get information, then set out to explore what's left of an important era of Nevada's past.

Nevada State Railway Museum

Train enthusiasts won't want to miss stopping off at the Nevada State Railway Museum in Carson City while they're at Wilson Canyon. The museum has indoor and outdoor exhibits including steam locomotives, passenger cars that have been used in films, a collection of scaled model trains and vintage telegraph equipment.

The museum opens five days a week from Thursday to Monday from nine in the morning until four-thirty in the afternoon.

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