WHAT TO EXPECT Located northwest of the University of Nevada, Reno, Rancho San Rafael Regional Park contains the Wilbur D. May Arboretum and Botanical Garden. This park offers opportunities for leisurely walks on well-maintained pathways through a variety of habitats in a compact area. It has increasingly become the focal point for many group picnics, weddings, and community-wide events including the Great Reno Balloon Races but still offers good birding opportunities.
Best time of year: Year-round
Notable species: In winter, accipiters are attracted by wintering songbirds. Other possible raptors include Golden Eagle and Prairie Falcon. Migrating and nesting songbirds are present in spring and summer. A variety of waterfowl are often found in Herman's Pond.
Precautions: The park is moderately used most of the time but can be quite busy during special events.
HOW TO GET THEREFrom the I-80 & US 395 interchange, drive approximately 1 mile west on I-80 to Exit 13 North Virginia Street. Turn right (north) on North Virginia Street and proceed 1 mile to the stoplight at North Sierra Street. Make a very sharp left onto North Sierra Street and drive 0.3 mile south to the entrance to Rancho San Rafael. Turn right into the park, and enter the first parking lot.
POPULAR BIRDING ROUTE From the parking lot, walk northwest to the Ranch House and the path to its left (restrooms), which leads to the arboretum. Explore the trails in this main section of the arboretum and park. Bird the riparian area on the east side of the park, where a small wooden bridge leads to the higher sections of the arboretum. Continue west on this path to Herman's Pond. Beyond the pond, the path continues through open meadowland and passes through the McCarran Tunnel under North McCarran Boulevard. This path provides access to the south end of the Rancho San Rafael Nature Trail. (Side Trip A) Return to North Virginia Street southbound to access I-80.
OPTIONAL SIDE TRIPS Side Trip A San Rafael Nature Trail: This established, easy to moderate 1-mile interpretive loop trail lies within Rancho San Rafael Regional Park north of the main section. Long-eared and Great-horned Owls and accipiters are often found along this trail. To access the trailhead by vehicle, backtrack through the park entrance to the stoplight. Turn left (north) on North Virginia Street. Drive 0.4 mile, through the McCarran Boulevard intersection, and turn left into the entrance to the Reno Sports Complex. The signed trailhead is located at the northwest corner of the ballfield parking lot.