Rest areas are typically the last spot I would think about staying the night in my RV.
Generally there is road noise from the nearby interstate or highway the rest area serves, trucks coming and going all night, they’re prime locations for criminals to apply their trade (grab and go), and worst of all is the possibility of a refrigerated semi-truck pulling up next to you to also spend the night. The sound of the refrigeration unit coming on and off all night would drive anyone insane.
So when a boondocking site I had picked out in advance south of Yerington, Nevada wasn’t quite what I had expected (legal, but very close to an active farm, which I imagined would have drawn the curiosity of the farmer), we headed down the road to Wilson Canyon Rest Area off Highway 208.
Online listings stated the rest area allows stays up to 18 hours and offers vault toilets, picnic tables, and garbage. Upon arriving we found the amenities listed, along with huge shade trees and waterfront camp spaces along the Walker River.
We spent a peaceful night alongside one other RV, experiencing none of the typical rest area annoyances I mentioned above. If it wasn’t for the 18-hour stay limit, we would have stayed a second night!
Where to find it:
The Wilson Canyon Rest Area is located along the north side of Nevada Highway 208 at N38° 48.465 W119° 13.716.
Note: Other websites link the rest area operated by the Nevada of Transportation with the adjacent Wilson Canyon ORV area, located primarily along Copperbelt Drive across the river, which is under the jurisdiction of the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) where the 18-hour stay limit does not apply.
You will find the turn-off (from Hwy 208) leading to the best campsites at the BLM area at N38° 48.556 W119° 13.267. This area offers little shade and only one waterfront campsite, but if you bring your off-road toys with you it can be a lot of fun!
Finding a rest area to spend the night without the usual problems… just another great adventure in RVing!
Dave Helgeson’s many roles in the RV industry started before he even had a driver’s license. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership before the term “RV” had been coined, and Dave played a pivotal role in nearly every position of an RV dealership. He and his wife Cheri launched their own RV dealership in the Pacific Northwest. The duo also spent 29 years overseeing regional RV shows. Dave has also served as President of a local chapter of the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), worked on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college, and served as a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. Dave’s reputation earned him the title of “The foremost expert on boondocking,” bestowed by RV industry icon, the late Gary Bunzer (The RV Doctor). When he’s not out boondocking, you’ll find Dave in the spotlight at RV shows across the country, giving seminars about all things RVing. He and Cheri currently roam in their fifth travel trailer, with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications to his own unit.
We used to live in Smith Valley, just over the hills to the west and about 5 miles away. This spot can be a very nice place to spend a night or a crowded, loud and dusty place to avoid. Depends on the time of year and day of the week. Weekends are often very crowded, especially in the summer, due to overflow from the ORV area across the river. There will be dirt bikes and ATVs everywhere on both sides of the river kicking up dust and providing endless engine noise. Count on a visit from CareFlight once or twice a day to take some poor rider to the emergency room 40 miles away along with plenty of partying and litter.
But catch this spot off season or mid-week and you’ll have it all to yourselves. Plan accordingly. But if you find it full, there are plenty of spots to boondock within 20 miles, some much nicer and more secluded than the rest stop.
Dave Helgeson - Adventures in RVing says
Thank you for sharing. As with any area near an off road park, the best time to avoid the weekend warriors is mid-week.
Thanks for the info…
Thanks for the insight ,and what others have added. Being a lazy backpacker at heart… I am working towards full time RVing in the near future. One of my concerns is finding great places to boondock as both my wife and I prefer to camp away from people, pets, noise and nosy anybodies.
In 2000, I took the year off and rewalked/backpacked Colin Fletcher’s 1000 Mile Summer through eastern California from Mexico to Oregon. It was a solo trip full of life changing moments… one being I learned I LOVE being alone and if I’m going to be around someone, my 1st choice is my wife, 2nd is my son, and 3rd is maybe a close friend…. just not all of them at the same time.
A 6 month solo hike helped me to learn to listen to my inner self, trust my judgments, RELAX and most important, enjoy the company of the Lord without interruptions. Again, a life changing time. I wish everyone could have a similar opportunity as I learned a great deal while on the trail .
I look forward to your stories and insight… keep them coming!!!
I have to echo Dan … I live outside Carson City, roughly an hour and a half drive from Wilson Canyon as the crow flies. Been there many times & have ridden the OHV area, too. We stopped going because of TOO MANY PEOPLE, crazy/inexperienced rude riders (which = accidents). If you stay here, try weekdays only.
Ray Cellar says
Nevada, being chock full of BLM lands, has many ‘get-A-way’ places to explore…. Finding these areas are part of the fun of travel in the West…!
Frank Buckwalter says
I am curious what “off season” would be. I do understand midweek people are at work. Is it during the school year when kids are at school?
Frank Buckwalter says
I would like to take a ride too, actually. Any rental places close by?