U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Tahoe National Forest


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Forest Information

The Tahoe National Forest is located northeast of Sacramento, CA and is bordered on the east by Nevada. It is comprised of 832,511 acres. There are about 67 developed campgrounds of which 50 meet the selection criteria.

In the middle of California's central Sierra Nevada Mountains is the Tahoe National Forest. Although the word "tahoe" is thought to be derived from the Washoe Indian phrase for "big water," there is a lot more to this forest than a magnificent body of water. (Actually, Lake Tahoe isn't inside the Forest's boundaries; a fact that can confuse visitors). Visitors to Tahoe National Forest find fishing and canoeing available in ice cold, crystal clear high mountain lakes tucked in among geological features of towering granite ridges and glacially serrated rock outcroppings. There are trails along sparkling rivers that cris-cross the Forest and meander through wildflower-dotted meadows. Reminders of the area's past are found by visitors along many roadways and tucked back in ravines and next to hills. In addition, swimming beaches, challenging trails, camp locations of every description, and many recreation opportunities are available in the Tahoe National Forest.

In January 1848, gold was discovered just a few miles south of the Tahoe National Forest. Since those early Gold Rush days, central Sierra Nevada Mountains have attracted fortune- hunters. Amateur prospectors can still experience recreational gold panning in certain areas within the Forest but permits are required. Visitors may see semi-professional dredging operations (the machine looks like a floating sled with a lawn mower engine on top and hoses snaking away from it) in places such as the Yuba River near Fiddle Creek campground. (Contact the Tahoe National Forest for more information.)

Hydraulic mining, an innovation used in 19th Century gold mining operations, was developed within the boundaries of the Tahoe National Forest. This method required enormous amounts of water to "wash" whole hillsides away in an effort to find gold buried within ancient river beds. One by-product of this destructive method is reservoirs built to support hydraulic mining operations - today, they are used for recreating, irrigation, etc. Two examples are the Morning Star/Big Reservoir, in the middle of a lush stand of cedar and Douglas firs, and Sand Pond, next to Sardine Lake campground and in the shadow of the magnificent Sierra Buttes.

Not all lakes in the Tahoe National Forests were constructed for mining. Many of the man-made reservoirs were built for the needs of agriculture and to hold city drinking water. These lakes, with their adjacent campgrounds, offer the best water play opportunities because of their large size. Some take a while to reach, like French Meadow Reservoir with French Meadows and Lewis campgrounds on its shore, and Jackson Meadow Reservoir with Pass Creek and Fir Top campgrounds nearby. Others, such as Stampede and Boca Reservoirs, are much closer to large communities. Near or far, these places feature a variety of camping experiences along with a wide choice of boating opportunities.

The Tahoe National Forest has some 800 miles of trails, many originally used by Native People and pioneers, but the granddaddy of them all is the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The PCT is a wonderful adventure for the serious hiker. (The only Forest Service developed campground close to the PCT is East Meadow, near Jackson Meadow Reservoir.) However, for those who prefer less strenuous, shorter hiking that is more convenient to reach there are shorter trails like Cottonwood Creek Botanical Trail at Cottonwood Creek campground and Sand Pond Interpretive Trail next to Sardine Lake campground. There are longer trails, too, providing up-close access to the Forest's many wonders such as North Yuba and 8 Ball trails at Rocky Rest and Schoolhouse campgrounds, respectively.

Non-hikers will delight in Tahoe National Forest's multi-use trails such as the network near Yuba Pass campground. Although designated for snowmobile, these trails are great mountain bike enthusiasts during summer months. Incidently Yuba Pass campground, just off State Route 49, is a great for car, tent, recreational vehicle (RV) and motorhome camping enthusiasts looking for a quiet place to just relax and enjoy the wonders of nature - one of the authors' favorites.

Besides Yuba Pass campground, for those who are just passing through the Tahoe National Forest, there are some delightful campgrounds well located for overnight camping. Transient campers will enjoy campgrounds such as: Hampshire Rocks and Indian Springs off Interstate 80; White Cloud next to State Route 20; Lower and Upper Little Truckee, Cold Creek, and Cottonwood Creek campgrounds along State Route 89; and next to State Route 49 are Cal-Ida, Carlton, Ramshorn, Union Flat and Loganville campgrounds.

Although rain is not something a camper wants, such inclement weather does provide an opportunity to experience another feature of the Tahoe National Forest - a trip to one of the many community sponsored museums, such as the Kentucky Mine Museum in Sierra City. These little gems of community pride offer a good way to view the early times and lifestyles of the area. If the weather doesn't co-operate for outdoor activities, check out the pictures hung on the walls of many of the small businesses when dropping in for breakfast or ice cream. See fifty years of change at Sand Pond or a number of other places. Old photos show towns and hotels long gone and the stoic faces of the people who opened the area to later settlers. An interesting sight are the photos of the Forest's many throughways before the advent of two-lane asphalt roads and automobiles. Visitors can also view history by taking one of the Forest's driving tours, such as "49 Miles Along Highway 49."

From exploring history to soaking up the peacefulness of a secret woodland spot, experiencing the thrill of discovering a speck of shiny gold to the pride of serving up a delicious, fresh caught trout, enjoying the solitude of mountain trail, or tranquil calm of late night campfire, the Tahoe National Forest has so much to offer. Come and discover the many recreational opportunities and the beauty of Tahoe National Forest.

SUPERVISOR OFFICE 631 Coyote St. Nevada City, California 95959 530-265-4531 RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES American River 22830 Foresthill Rd. Foresthill, California 95631 530-367-2224 Sierraville P.O.B. 95 317 So. Lincoln St. Sierraville, California 96126 530-994-3401 Truckee 9646 Donner Pass Rd. Truckee, California 96161-2949 530-587-3558 Yuba River 15924 Hwy. 49 Camptonville, California 95922 530-288-3231

Fred and Suzi Dow