BLM Campground Review – Walker Lake Recreation Area, Hawthorne, NV
A pretty lakeside setting perfect for a few nights on Walker Lake just north of Hawthorne in West Nevada.
Link to campground here: Walker Lake BLM Recreation Area, Hawthorne, NV
Link to map location here: Walker Lake BLM Recreation Area, Hawthorne, NV
- Site Quality = 3/5
There are 3 main camping areas around Walker Lake with varying quality of site. From south to north along the western side of the lake:
- Sportsman’s Beach –> This is the first camping area you pass driving north from Hawthorne, NV on Hwy 95 and it is also the only “developed” camping area on the Lake. The sites right at the entrance (#1-16) are far too close to the road and not very nice (skip these), but the sites down the road (esp. in the bottom loop #22-32 by the lake area) are spacious, flat gravel pull-throughs with picnic table, shelter and fire-pit -> excellent separation with great views of the lake from just about every site here. Also since these sites are located somewhat down the hill from Hwy 95 they are nicely quiet (very little road noise). Sites here cost $6/night ($36/week) and are all first-come-first-serve. Pit toilet & trash on-site. No dump. No hookups (dry-camping only).
- Tamarack Beach -> This is the second camping area north of Hawthorne. It is basically the crumbled remains of an old campground and is semi-dispersed in nature. Sites here are old paved sites, mostly very uneven although a few are level enough for any-sized rig. You can also drive further down the road and camp by the beach (beware -> road gets sandy & soft very, very fast). Main negative here is that you are very close to Hwy 95 and will hear/see almost constant road-noise (also your rig will be very visible from the road). On-site pit toilet and trash. Sites here officially cost $4/night ($22/week) although there is no pay station or indication to this effect at the camping area (the only pay station is at Sportsman’s Beach).
- 20-Mile Beach -> This is the last camping area north of Hawthorne and has the most “boondocking” feel to it. There is a paved road leading down to the camping area followed by semi-paved or dirt roads leading around to various dispersed camping sites of various sizes (mostly medium-sized sites, but a few “beastly” options too). No developed or fixed sites here and you can camp anywhere all the way down to the beach (beware -> road gets sandy & soft very, very fast). Some road noise here, but several sites are down behind a small hill giving reprieve from Hwy 95. On site pit toilet and trash. Sites here officially cost $4/night ($22/week) although there is no pay station or indication to this effect at the camping area (the only pay station is at Sportsman’s Beach).
- Facilities = 2/5
Very basic facilities here. There are pit toilets in each of the three camping areas plus dumpsters for household trash, but there is no dump station or water. Nearest dump is behind El Capitan Casino in town (free).
- Location = 3.5/5
A bit of a mixed location here. On the positive side all three camping areas are along pretty Walker Lake with excellent views of the water and majestic Mt. Grant in the background. Plus you are only ~5-10 miles from Hawthorne which offers shopping (Safeway) and some interesting sightseeing. On the negative side you are right next to fairly busy Hwy 95 and (depending which campground you choose) you’ll hear/see road-noise quite regularly. Lastly the lake is rather salty and not really conducive to fishing or recreation (water levels are below the boat launch ramp).
- Pet Friendliness = 4/5
Very nice location for doggie. Lots of space around camp and miles (and miles) of shoreline to walk/hike. Only negative is that the lake is very salty and so you need to be careful to keep pooch from drinking the water (not really great for swimming).
Overall Rating = 3.1
BONUS ALERT = Camp with a full view of Walker Lake & majestic Mt. Grant!
Summary: Walker Lake is an interesting little stop-over along Hwy 95 with some rather mixed camping and some equally confusing info on costs. There are three main camping areas from south to north along the western shore of the lake all of which are primitive (no hookups). The first camping area is Sportsman’s Beach which has nice developed gravel sites with picnic table, shelters & fire-pit. The second is Tamarack Beach which is the crumbling remains of an old campground containing rather uneven paved sites. The third is dispersed camping at 20-Mile Beach which has the clearest feel of a “boondocking” area. In each area you are also permitted to camp outside of the sites closer to the shoreline, but you need to be aware that the ground becomes sandy and very soft very fast (be very, very careful). Each campground has pit toilets and household trash dumpsters plus excellent views of the lake, but they vary somewhat in how close they are to Hwy 95 (and thus how noisy). Tamarack is the most visible/noisy followed by 20-Mile and finally Sportsman’s. The other confusing thing about these campgrounds are costs. Sportsman’s Beach is a proper, developed campground and has a pay-station & cost info ($6/night or $36/week). Tamarack & 20-Mile have no pay stations or even any indication (at all) that they are fee areas, yet the sign at Sportsman’s Beach clearly indicates that both of these are paid campgrounds ($4/night or $22/week). I don’t know how you would know this without driving into Sportsman’s and reading the sign plus there never seem to be any rangers on patrol. For this reason people just assume Tamarack & 20-Mile are free and they are listed as “free campgrounds” on freecampsites.net, rvparkreviews & most of the blog sites I’ve been to (the only site that correctly lists the fees are overnightrvparking.com). Well, now we know and you know too! All campgrounds are close to Hawthorne which has decent shopping & interesting sightseeing plus you are right next to Walker Lake shoreline which is very salty, but rather pretty and open to miles of hiking. We enjoyed our few days at Tamarack (didn’t see another rig the entire time we were there), but didn’t really like how visible we were from the road and got very tired of the highway noise after a while. If we come back this way we will definitely stay again but will chose to stay in the bottom loop at Sportsman’s Beach (clearly the nicest/quietest and our #1 choice), followed by 20-Mile (#2 choice) with Tamarack as our last option. All in all I would say Walker Lake is not really a spot to stay longer-term, but is a neat (and very pretty) stop-over for a few days when traveling down Hwy 95.
Extra Info: Excellent 3G & 4G LTE Verizon signal (4 bars of each). Sites cost $6/night (Sportsman’s Beach) or $4/night (Tamarack & 20-Mile). Campgrounds accept senior pass for 50% off & the only pay-station is at Sportsman’s Beach. On-site pit toilets & household trash, but no hookups, dump station or water. Nearest dump in Hawthorne at El Capitan Casino (free).
Extra, Extra Info – OTHER CAMPING: If you decide you’d rather stay right in town El Capitan Casino offers free camping right behind the casino in a large gravel lot. Also, for those who prefer hookups Whisky Flats RV Park is just north of town and offers very nice full hookup sites in a clean, well-kept park.