Warrior Point at Pyramid Lake

Wild Places

There is a lot to explore in and around Washoe County from the playa of the Black Rock Desert – High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area to the shores of Lake Tahoe. These special places bring our community together and attract people from all across the globe who enjoy their beauty, history and recreational opportunities.

Black Rock Desert

Just two hours from the city lights of Reno lies the Black Rock Desert–High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area. With a staggering 1.2 million acres of protected public lands to explore, the Black Rock Desert stretches across Washoe, Humboldt, and Pershing Counties. This area is what adventure seekers wish for. Known for its solitude and primitive lands, people come from all over the world to experience the Black Rock Desert. You can follow the wagon trails that emigrants used to cross over to California, camp-out and not see another person, soak in natural hot springs, or enjoy the playa (an ancient dried lake bed) where the curvature of the earth is readily apparent. History buffs, rocket aficionados, wilderness lovers, wildlife observers, dark sky enthusiasts, ATV riders, hunters, and campers equally love and enjoy this treasure trove of outdoor recreational pursuits.

The Wild Washoe campaign will make for valuable conservation additions to the Black Rock NCA, preserving a wildlife migration corridor that stretches from the Sierras to the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge along the Nevada-Oregon border.

The Washoe County portion of the Black Rock NCA covers the majority of High
Rock Canyon, first mapped by explorer John C Fremont. Providing outstanding habitat for raptors, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn, the High Rock Canyon region is abundant in wildlife, excellent views, and plenty of opportunities for solitude. Three wilderness areas – High Rock Canyon, East Fork High Rock Canyon, and Little High Rock Canyon – protect the unbridled wildness of this region. Visitors may hike, hunt, and camp throughout these wilderness areas and enjoy driving along High Rock Canyon road and wilderness boundary roads to excellent four-wheeling opportunities.

For more information, visit the Black Rock Desert Website

Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge

Tucked away in remote northwestern Nevada, the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge’s vast beauty can take your breath away. Birds of prey ride thermals along spectacular cliffs and deep gorges; high volcanic tables of grass, sage and wildflowers rise above the surrounding landscape like forts, dotted with small lakes and archaeological wonders; mother antelope nuzzle their young; and vistas so broad you can almost feel them. Created back in the 1930’s to provide habitat for pronghorn antelope, this refuge encompasses 572,876 acres of high desert sagebrush-steppe ecosystem. It is here that many species find refuge from development pressures.

Today, the Sheldon and its sister refuge to the north, Oregon’s Hart Mountain preserve our best remaining tracts of the sagebrush-steppe ecosystem. In addition to the incredible opportunities the Sheldon offers for solitude, remote beauty and primitive and unconfined recreation, the Sheldon is rich in native wildlife and plant species. The Wild Washoe campaign’s efforts to protect Rye Creek Rim and Massacre Rim will complete this critical conservation complex in northwestern Nevada, ensuring the permanent protection of wildlife migration routes.

The refuge also has a long history starting with pre-historic fossils and plants. Native Americans used the Sheldon area and left petroglyphs, stone tools, camp sites and other evidence of their past. Historic homesteads and ranches like the Last Chance Ranch, Kinney Camp and the Pruett Ranch are all a testament to the hardy pioneers and ranchers that lived and worked here for many years. During the 1930’s and 40’s, over a thousand Civilian Conservation Corps employees lived at Camp Sheldon and many of the structures they built are still standing.

Mt. Rose Wilderness

Mt. Rose Wilderness is Reno’s backyard wilderness playground, a slice of wild country nestled between the two urban environments of Reno and Lake Tahoe. It contains most of the high country of the Carson Range between Highways I-80 and 431. Outdoor recreational opportunities abound here from hiking, backpacking, backcountry skiing and snowboarding, and horseback riding. Popular trails through the wilderness is hiking to the top of Mt. Rose, the highest mountain of Washoe County at 10,785 ft, as well as the Hunter Creek Trail which takes you into the heart of the sloping foothills of the Sierras and deposits hikers to a beautiful waterfall. For those more adventurous and seeking solitude, hikers can traverse through the backcountry to come across numerous lakes, ridges, and alpine forests.

This wilderness is an ecological transition zone between the Sierra Nevada to the west and the Great Basin to the east, having plants and animals common to both areas. There are about 25 miles of trails within the wilderness. A wide variety of terrain is included in this wilderness, from mountain meadows to lush canyon bottoms. The rugged terrain around Mt. Rose ranges from 6,400 feet along the canyon bottoms to 10,776 feet at the summit. Open meadow lands, several peaks over 10,000 feet, and ridges affording views as far as Mt. Shasta (200 miles to the northwest) are found here. Wildlife includes deer, black bears, mountain lions and raptors..

The Mount Rose Wilderness is divided into two units by the Hunter Lake jeep road. The northern portion is the Hunter Creek unit consisting of Hunter Creek Canyon and is 5,000 acres in size. The southern portion is the Mount Rose unit and at 23,000 acres contains most of the major canyons and ridges as well as the 10,776-foot Mount Rose, the dominant feature of the wilderness.

Wildlife: Mountain Beaver, Snowshoe Hare, Gray Jay, Black Bear, Paintbrush Checkerspot, Striped Skunk, Common Raccoon, Hoary Bat, American Marten, Townsend’s Solitaire, Pygmy Nuthatch, Orange-crowned Warbler

Lake Tahoe

As the largest alpine lake in North America, Lake Tahoe is infamous for its cooling waters, breathtaking scenery, and incredible outdoor recreational opportunities. Tourists from around the world come here to swim, ski and snowboard, hike, mountain bike, participate in water sports, boating, and sailing, and even gamble. Washoe County’s portion of Lake Tahoe stretches across a portion of Crystal Bay, Incline Village, Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, and Marlette Lake.

The Tahoe Rim Trail is probably your best bet in exploring Nevada’s piece of Lake Tahoe and reveling in exceptional views of the Sierra Mountains, Lake Tahoe, and the Great Basin.

Pyramid Lake

One of the most popular fishing destinations in Nevada, Pyramid Lake features 20-pound native Lahontan Cutthroat Trout. Within the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation, the lake encompasses 125,000 acres. RV enthusiasts, campers, boaters, birdwatchers and hikers all flock to the largest remnant of ancient Lake Lahontan. The Lake is fed by the Truckee River from Lake Tahoe. Aside from the outstanding rock formations that jut out from the water and shore, the lake hosts Anaho Island National Wildlife Refuge, one of the largest nesting colonies of American White Pelicans in the lower United States.

For more information, visit the Lake Paiute Tribe Website