Pictured here is Hobart Reservoir, northwest of Carson City via dirt roads. Located at an elevation of 7,650 feet in the Carson Range, the reservoir is owned by the state and used as a water source for the capital city. The initial dam was completed in 1877, then rebuilt in 1956 following a washout. PHOTO BY NEIL LOCKHART

Backcountry Lakes


On a hot summer day, there’s nothing quite like coming around the bend of a back road and arriving at a pristine mountain lake. “In the desert?,” you say? Yes, we specialize in dry and hot, but we also have a multitude of mountains. And tucked away in those lofty Nevada ranges are some beautiful, refreshing bodies of water.


This natural, high-elevation alpine lake in the East Humboldt Range is accessed via the scenic byway of Angel Lake Road, or State Route 231, and only 12 miles from the northeastern Nevada town of Wells. “It’s just a throwback,” says Matt Holford, president of the Wells Chamber of Commerce. “You’re out here in the desert on [Interstate] 80, and within a short distance you can be at an alpine lake…nice and cool. It’s such a great view.”

Beautiful Angel Lake is a great spot for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing for rainbow and brook trout. A variety of wildlife, including bighorn sheep, mountain goats, deer, and birds of prey, make their home around the lake.

Wildflowers are abundant during late spring and early summer.


Cave Lake State Park is a year-round recreational mecca within Nevada’s scenic Schell Creek Range. The natural lake teems with fish—and whoppers at that. “We regularly stock Cave Lake with rainbow trout in addition to the native brown trout available,” says Nevada Department of Wildlife fisheries biologist Chris Crookshanks. “Crawdadding is also permitted.” Earlier this spring, two fishermen nabbed 14- and 15-pound German Brown trout, respectively, from its waters.

Cave Lake is home to some of eastern Nevada’s more creative events, including Cocktails and Cannons (June) and the White Pine Fire and Ice Show (January).

Cocktails and Cannons features canoe and kayak races, and Fire and Ice takes advantage of the area’s winter chill with ice-sculpting competitions. Both events are highlighted by fireworks shows.

Winter activities include ice-skating, ice-fishing, and cross-country skiing. The park is 15 miles south of Ely in eastern Nevada on U.S. 93 and Success Summit Road (S.R. 486).


Marlette Lake was constructed in 1873 to meet the water needs of Virginia City through a network of flumes and pipes. The State of Nevada acquired the lake in 1963, and it was first opened to fishing in 2006. It’s one of the few waters in the world that supports Lahontan cutthroat trout.

Sunset-illuminated clouds reflect off Marlette Lake in western Nevada’s Carson Range. The lake is only a few miles to the east of its enormous and world-renowned neighbor, Lake Tahoe.

Spooner Lake, to the south, provides a main trailhead for hikers to gain access to the Marlette/ Hobart Backcountry. The five-mile trail to Marlette via North Canyon Road is popular and affords stunning views in the fall among the aspens. A hiker and horse trail parallels this road for four miles. There is no camping at the lake, but there are three primitive, walk-in sites in the area: Marlette Peak, Hobart, and North Canyon.


As the crow flies, Hobart Reservoir is just a few miles northeast of Marlette Lake, but accessing it—via foot or vehicle— is challenging. Most people drive to the reservoir from Carson City by way of dirt roads, which require fourwheel drive. Still, vehicles cannot drive directly to the lake, so visitors have to hike or bicycle in. Due to its high elevation, much of the lake may still be covered with ice up to early May.

Picturesque in all seasons, Hobart Reservoir is especially so in the fall, when some of the trees on its shores change colors and prepare to face the long, cold winter. Its glassy surface lures photographers to make the challenging drive into the Carson Range backcountry.
Tevyn Esplin (top) poses, with Overland Lake in the background, while hiking the Ruby Crest National Recreation Trail in the Ruby Mountains. The grandiose range, Nevada’s wettest and many would argue most beautiful, is full of backcountry lakes.

The Ruby Mountains, southeast of Elko in northeastern Nevada, stand out for their beauty alone, but it’s also the abundance of small lakes that make them especially unique in a state that boasts more than 300 mountain ranges. The Rubies were so heavily glaciated during the last Ice Age, they are far wetter than the typical Nevada range. Keep in mind that many of these lakes are frozen from late October to early June—or longer.

The most convenient way to access the Rubies is via the Lamoille Canyon Road National Scenic Byway, accessible from S.R. 227. The road runs southeast from the quaint town of Lamoille and is the access point for two campgrounds and the Ruby Crest National Recreation Trail.

Castle Lake

This 14-acre lake, located on a shelf near the head of Kleckner Canyon, is one of the sources of Kleckner Creek. It’s a destination only for the serious backpacker.

Cold Lakes

Consisting of Upper Lake and Lower Cold Lake, these tiny bodies of water lie in the northern Ruby Mountains and are reached via a challenging hike, and it’s a difficult trek even on horseback. Numerous Basque carvings exist in the aspen groves of this stretch of the Rubies.

Dollar Lakes

One of the convenient lakes for the casual hiker, this is a relatively easy hike from the terminus of the Lamoille Canyon Road scenic byway. “The Ruby Crest Trail…crosses three creeks on Forest Service bridges,” writes Scott Smith in Moon Nevada, before reaching Dollar Lakes at 9,600 feet.

Echo Lake

Bruce Grubbs, author of Hiking Nevada, describes this venture as “a two- or three-day…backpack trip through a rugged, but scenic less-traveled area” of the Rubies. Nearby Box Canyon is filled with majestic aspen stands.

Favre Lake

Reached by the more durable backpacker and hiker, it’s been said that in the early morning, this lake reflects the peaks as though it were beveled in glass. A meadow slopes down to its shore.

Griswold Lake

Most hikers will pass tiny Griswold Lake—a great place to take a rest—with larger aspirations to reach nearby 11,387-foot Ruby Dome.

Hidden Lakes

According to rubymountaintrails.blogspot.com, “The Hidden Lakes are a pair of glacial gems tucked up on a bench above Soldier Basin. This hike is quite different from many in the Rubies. For one, it’s much lower elevation, meaning that you spend a fair bit of time walking through the dappled sunshine of aspen groves.”

Island Lake

The easy, 1.7-mile hike from the end of Lamoille Canyon Road to Island Lake “has wildflowers galore along with tall limber pines,” according to trimbleoutdoors.com. It’s also a chance to try to spot an elusive and rare bird, the Himalayan Snowcock.

Lamoille Lake

This is a popular destination for day hikers and fishermen, as it’s not far from Dollar Lakes. Ruby Crest National Recreation Trail passes Lamoille Lake’s eastern shore before beginning a steep climb to Liberty Pass.

Liberty Lake

The Ruby Crest National Recreation Trail runs along the western shore of Liberty. “As you descend, the lake dramatically springs into view, reflecting vertical rock cliffs in the deep-blue waters,” writes Michael C. White in 50 Classic Hikes in Nevada.

North Furlong Lake

At the head of North Furlong Canyon, this lake is a common camp for users of the Ruby Crest National Recreation Trail, which passes nearby. It’s the primary source for a creek of the same name.

Overland Lake

This is the southernmost named alpine lake in the Ruby Mountains. It’s “set in a classic glacial cirque snuggled against the crest of the range,” according to Grubbs.

Robinson Lake

Located just south of the shelf of Soldier Basin, this is the source for Robinson Creek, which drops steeply to the east into Ruby Valley. Both were named for a family of early settlers.

Soldier Lakes

The Soldier Lakes are a cluster of more than a dozen glacial tarns in the Rubies.

Verdi Lake

Verdi Lake is unusual compared to its Ruby Mountains brethren. It is the highest lake in the range, meaning it’s typically the last to thaw. Also, it does not have a consistent outlet. Lake water seeps into the soil and emerges as a spring several hundred yards down Talbot Canyon.

For being such rugged country, the Pine Forest Range is quite easy on the eyes—and camera lenses. The terrain around Alder Creekis highlighted by out-of-this-world rock formations.

Blue Lakes are located in the picturesque Pine Forest Range. A bill to make it an official Wilderness Area has reached Congress and will likely be voted on soon. The three lakes (one large lake and two smaller ones) lie above 8,000 feet and can freeze over well into June.

Within the range, are Blue Lakes and a handful of other reservoirs that comprise one the state’s best-kept fishing secrets.


Knott Creek Reservoir

The Nevada Department of Wildlife website refers to this lake “one of Nevada’s most beautiful.” It covers more than 200 surface acres and is a fly fisherman’s paradise from June through November, when fishing is permitted.

Onion Valley Reservoir

Constructed in the early 1960s as an irrigation reservoir, aspen groves elevate the beauty of this approximately 100-acre lake. Its sister, Little Onion Reservoir, is located a short distance to the southwest.

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