Pyramid Lake Overlook

This location offers spectacular panoramic views of Pyramid Lake. This unique lake is the desert terminus of the Truckee River Watershed, which flows from Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevadas. It is a rare endorheic lake with no outlet and one of the last remnants of the ancient Lake Lahontan, which covered large areas of the Great Basin during the last ice age.

Pyramid Lake is named for its pyramidal tufa formations - natural wonders made all the more surreal by the low-lying, muted desert vegetation. Tufa is a naturally-occurring but rare form of limestone. It is formed when calcium-rich waters seep up from groundwater springs and come in contact with the carbonate-rich lake water. The calcium and carbonates chemically react and precipitate into calcium carbonate and build up over time to form tufa mounds; they are sometimes called freshwater corral.

In the high desert water is scarce, and lakes, such as Pyramid Lake, are important habitats for many plants and animals. As is typical of endorheic lakes, Pyramid Lake has higher salinity than most freshwater lakes, which creates a unique niche for fish species. It is home to the endangered cui-ui fish that occurs nowhere else in the world and has traditionally been an important food source for the local Paiute tribe. Degraded water quality and flow modification on their spawning grounds on the lower Truckee River have lead to Cui-ui population decline. Pyramid Lake is also known for its trophy-sized Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, which can grow to upwards of 30 pounds in the lake. It is a threatened species endemic to the Lahontan Basin watersheds’ lakes and streams. Self-sustaining populations have been reduced to 10.7 percent of the historic stream habitats and 0.4 percent of the historic lake habitats. Efforts in recent decades to protect and enhance spawning habitat and improve water quality have helped to increase populations of both species, but they remain listed as endangered and threatened, respectively, under the Federal Endangered Species Act. In addition to fish species, the lake is also home to many birds, including one of the largest colonies of American White Pelicans on Anaho Island. The island is a National Wildlife Refuge and breeding habitat for the pelicans and other birds, such as California gulls, Caspian terns, double-crested cormorants, great blue herons, black-crowned night herons, and snowy egrets.

Pyramid Lake is located within Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation, and many roads around the lake are part of the Pyramid Lake Scenic Byway - the first scenic byway that sits entirely on an Indian reservation. The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe is comprised of approximately 2,800 tribal members, all of whom are descendants of the Northern Paiute people who have occupied vast areas of the Great Basin for thousands of years. The tribe’s Paiute name, Kooyooe Ticutta, translates to “Cui-ui Eaters.” The lake has great spiritual and cultural importance to the tribe. They manage the reservation lands and require recreation fees and permits.




Dawn to dusk


Car, Not ADA


Dirt Parking Lot


Picnic tables

Learn more about the Pyramid Lake Overlook.