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A view of Nevada's state capitol building and capitol mall area in Carson City with the Sierra Nevada mountains in the background.

Nevada has some wonderful state parks and if you happen to live or be staying near Carson City, you will find yourself close to several of them.

If you are looking to escape the bright lights and heavy traffic of the city, these parks provide excellent destinations in which to explore the great outdoors.

Whether you are into hiking, rock climbing, fishing, boating or wildlife watching, they all provide ample opportunity to engage in these activities.

In this article, we will highlight five state parks near Carson City that are well worth visiting. So join us as we take you on a tour of some of the best public recreation spaces in the Silver State.

Map of State Parks Near Carson City, NV

Here is a map of the state parks in Nevada covered by this post:

List of State Parks Near Carson City

All 5 of the destinations listed below can be reached within a 2-3 hour driving time. Therefore, most of them can be visited on day trips.

That said, if you are fixing to stay overnight, all have campsites either onsite or very near them.

1. Washoe Lake State Park

aerial photograph of Washoe Lake State Park

Location: 4855 Eastlake Blvd, New Washoe City, NV 89704

If you are wanting a peaceful retreat into nature, there is no better place to go to than Washoe Lake State Park.

Situated a short drive from Carson City, the park resides over 3,775 acres at an elevation of 5,029 feet. This lofty location provides visitors with spectacular views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, as well as the lake which the park is named after.

Surrounded by lush wetlands and marshes, the lake is a popular spot for boating, swimming and fishing – with trout, bass and catfish being plentiful in it.

For those who enjoy exploring nature, the park also has a network of hiking trails, that showcases its incredible natural beauty up close.

Aside from its natural attractions, there are also some sites of historical and cultural significance within the park. This includes the remains of a 19th-century fort and a one-room schoolhouse, which provide an insight into what life used to be like there.

2. Spooner Lake And Backcountry State Park

red sky over Spooner lake at Spooner Lake And Backcountry State Park

Location: Spooner Lake, Nevada 89703

Spooner Lake and Backcountry State Park is another terrific park to visit near Carson City.

Spread across 2,880 acres, the park is situated in the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. It is known for its beautiful alpine scenery of towering pine trees, aspen groves, and a sparkling alpine lake.

The park is named after Frank Spooner, who built a dam on Spooner Creek in the 1870s to create a reliable source of water for local ranchers. The lake that was created by the dam is now a popular spot for fishing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.

Additionally, the park also accommodates several hiking and mountain biking trails that wind through the beautiful forested areas. They include the Marlette Lake Trail, which takes visitors on a fabulous scenic 9.5-mile trek through its rugged backcountry.

3. Cave Rock State Park

View of Cave Rock from the parking lot at Cave Rock State Park

Location: Hwy 50, Glenbrook, NV 89413

Nestled on the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe, Cave Rock State Park is a small, yet scenic park about 20 miles from Carson City.

The park’s main drawcard is Cave Rock, a large granite formation that rises about 3,000 feet above the eastern shore of the lake. It has a significant cultural and spiritual history among the Washoe Tribe, who consider it a sacred site.

Visitors to the park can ascend to the scenic viewpoint at the summit of Cave Rock, by hiking up a steep, yet well-maintained trail that begins at the park’s south end. From there you will be able to take in exceptional panoramic views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains.

The park also offers several outdoor recreational activities such as picnicking, boating, hiking, and sightseeing. In addition, the fishing pier located at the park’s north end provides anglers with the opportunity to catch rainbow and brown trout, as well as kokanee salmon and mackinaw.

For those who want to enjoy a picnic, there are designated areas with tables and grills that are perfect for a leisurely al fresco meal.

4. Sand Harbor State Park

people kayaking on the lake at Sand Harbor State Park

Location: 2005 NV-28, Incline Village, NV 89452

Another excellent park to visit near the Lake Tahoe area is Sand Harbor State Park. It is about 40 miles from Carson City in Nevada and features a picturesque beach, crystal clear waters, and stunning mountain views.

All up it covers an area of just 55 acres. But despite this small size, it provides guests with a range of recreational activities including kayaking, paddleboarding, and boating. The clear waters of the lake are also ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving, allowing visitors to explore the underwater world and see the diverse fish species that inhabit the lake.

In addition to water activities, Sand Harbor State Park has several hiking trails that take visitors through the park’s forests and rocky outcrops. Its East Shore Trail provides stunning views of the lake and the surrounding mountains and is a popular spot for photography and nature watching.

Sand Harbor State Park is also home to the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, an annual event that takes place in the park’s amphitheater during the summer months. The festival features performances of Shakespeare’s plays and various other theatrical productions, concerts and events.

5. Dayton State Park

Typical campsite at Dayton State Park

Typical campsite at Dayton State Park. Photo: Park Facebook Page

Location: US-50, Dayton, NV 89403

Dayton State Park is a charming natural recreation area located just a short drive southeast of Carson City.

With the Carson River winding through it, the park boasts a tranquil setting. It is situated on the site of an old ranch and features the historic Rock Point Mill, which was once a major supplier of ore to the nearby Comstock Lode.

The mill has been restored and is now open to visitors, offering a fascinating glimpse into the history of the area.

In addition, there is also a small fishing pond that is stocked regularly with rainbow trout, making it a popular spot for fishing enthusiasts. Hikers can enjoy several trails that wind through the park, offering scenic views of the surrounding countryside.

For those who want to enjoy a picnic there are a variety of picnic areas, including several covered picnic shelters, available. Campers will also find a small 10-site primitive campground near the Carson River.