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When most people book an RV in Washoe County, they head straight for Lake Tahoe on the border of northern California and Nevada. But Washoe Lake is often overlooked and offers similar recreational opportunities year-round and without the crowds of Lake Tahoe. Washoe Lake is almost 6,000 acres in size and boasts year-round RV camping, hiking, boating, and fishing. The lake is located in Washoe Valley, a scenic valley full of farmland between the rugged granite Sierras and the silver-rich Virginia Range.
Washoe Lake was established as a state park in 1977. It was named after the Washoe People who long inhabited the area and are known for their basket weaving. Many of the materials used in this beautiful handiwork were sourced from around the lake and can be seen in local museums. The silver boom of the mid-19th century brought prospectors and entrepreneurs, and the valley was soon filled with ranches and timber mills for the mines. The lake played an essential hub for transporting and milling timber felled from the mountains surrounding Lake Tahoe, just a few miles to the west as the crow flies.
The mining played out well over a hundred years ago, but the lake today is an important oasis for residents wishing to escape nearby Reno and Carson City.
Washoe Valley has some great year-round recreational opportunities, though it can occasionally snow on the valley floor during the winter. There are numerous trails on the south side of the lake, with a network of unpaved trails for all skill levels in the hills to the southeast. These trails will offer stunning views of Washoe Lake, backdropped by the mighty Sierra Nevadas. There’s also a one-mile Wetlands Loop on the south side of the park. This marshland is full of waterfowl and is a stark contrast to the arid trails just a couple of miles away.
Wildlife enthusiasts, especially birders, love Washoe Lake. Numerous birds, including bald eagles, pelicans, geese, and osprey make this lake their home. These birds can be enjoyed from multiple locations surrounding the lake, where you can also picnic and enjoy the sandy beaches. Bring your binoculars or telephoto lenses to view these birds up close.
Hunting and fishing are both legal in Washoe Lake. You can either fish from the shore or launch a boat from the several boat ramps that the park offers. Anglers can catch catfish, bass, and perch. Hunting is legal in specified zones around the park from October through February, and with a shotgun only.
The campground at Washoe Lake State Park is open year-round and features 49 sites suitable for RV rentals up to 45 feet in length. Each campsite is equipped with picnic tables, a fire ring, and grill. Some sites even include shade structures, but they're first-come, first-served. Washoe Lake is in a scrub valley, and most vegetation is only sagebrush, so the shades are valuable on a hot sunny day. There are no hookups at any of the RV campsites, but there's a dump station in the campground.
The Washoe Lake State Park campground is ideally situated for easy access to the beach, hiking trails, and the adjoining paved bike trails. You can bring your pets on many of the trails, and they're also allowed in the campground as long as they're on a six-foot leash. You'll also find shower facilities located within the campground.
This area of northern Nevada is full of rich history, stunning scenery, and never-ending recreational opportunities. World-renowned Lake Tahoe and Lake Tahoe State Park are just 45 minutes to the west. Summer activities include boating and hiking, and winter activities include skiing and snowboarding. The Carson River, 30 minutes to the south, also offers fishing and boating opportunities.
You'll find plenty of history to explore nearby on your Washoe Lake State Park camping trip. Picturesque Virginia City and Gold Hill are 30 minutes to the east, but large RVs aren’t advised on these narrow, winding roads. These small towns haven’t changed much at all in 150 years and are considered to be some of the most haunted towns in America. You can walk into old saloons, fascinating curio shops, and take tours of the silver mines that led to Nevada’s statehood.
The casinos of Reno, just 30 minutes to the north, always have something going on in the way of world-famous performers year-round. They’re also home to some of the best steakhouses in the region. You can find all of the shopping and provisioning you would need in either Reno or Carson City. When you need to fuel up your camper rental, you'll find plenty of gas stations lining the highway between these two cities. More excellent motorhome camping opportunities await you along Highway 395, south to Bishop and Mammoth and north to Lassen Volcanic National Park.