Discover history and adventure in a majestic setting.

A man hikes with his dogs above Washoe Lake

Nestled within one of Nevada’s most picturesque valleys, Washoe Lake State Park is a picture-perfect basecamp for exploring the Reno-Tahoe area. 

From the towering peaks of the Sierra Nevada to piney foothills and lush meadows, the park and surrounding landscape provide limitless outdoor fun. In addition, its location 30 minutes from the state’s oldest settlements—Virginia City, Genoa, Reno, and Carson City—places it at the center of Silver State history.

An older couple kayaking in a tandem kayak on Washoe Lake


Washoe Lake State Park offers plentiful opportunities for fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and camping. Watersports like kayaking are obviously a big draw, and the zephyr-fed waters make it a popular destination to windsurf. For those who prefer to adventure with a camera and binoculars, wildlife is abundant throughout the valley. Nevada’s iconic wild horses roam freely in the eastern hills that lead to Virginia City, and countless songbirds, hawks and other large birds of prey frequent the lake as a resting place along their migration routes.

The lake is home to a mixture of naturally reproducing and stocked bullhead catfish, wipers, brown trout, white bass, and Sacramento perch. Little Washoe Lake—a smaller, separate body of water (except in heavy rain years) located north of the park—delivers amazing shore fishing opportunities, too. 

Visitors can get the most out of a visit to Washoe Lake State Park by staying on-site, ensuring easy access to the amenities, including those early bites on the lake. The park has 29 campsites, all equipped with a table, grill and fire ring, and room for trailers. Two comfort stations—one of which includes a shower—are available.

A small band of brown mustangs grazing near Washoe Lake at sunset
©Sharlea Taft


“Washoe,” the namesake of the valley and state park, derives from the Washoe (Wá∙šiw) people—the first occupants of the area. During the summer months, these communities retreated to cooler elevations at nearby Lake Tahoe and wintered in Washoe Valley.

As European explorers made their way West, mining towns popped up throughout the region, particularly after the discovery of gold in nearby Dayton and the unparalleled silver strike in Virginia City. In the late 19th century, Washoe Valley became an important thoroughfare and logistical hub. 

Bowers Mansion in summertimeHistoric landmarks are easy to find in the valley, like the Ophir Mill—built in 1872—located on Washoe Lake’s west shoreline. Some of Nevada’s earliest residences are located just outside the park, the most famous being Bowers Mansion. This stately Victorian manor was built in 1863 and illustrates the great wealth extracted out of nearby Virginia City. Visitors can make an appointment to tour Bowers Mansion, but the grounds are free and a splendid spot for an afternoon picnic.  

Once the mining boom subsided, residents turned to ranching and farming—an easy prospect thanks to the lush landscape. In 1977, Washoe Lake State Park was established to preserve 3,775 acres of the valley for future generations. Today, the park thrives as a verdant vacation spot set within a peaceful landscape. 

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