U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

California and Nevada

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Forest Information

The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (Unit) is located in northeastern California and western Nevada. The largest portion of the Unit is in California with Lake Tahoe being the "core" of the Unit. There are five developed campgrounds that meet the selection criteria.

Lake Tahoe, the third deepest lake in North America, is a beautiful place. World-renowned for its natural features, Lake Tahoe is also very developed. Homes, businesses, even casinos, encircle the lake making the area feel very urban and congested. However, amid all of this is an oasis of nature, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. Within the Unit's boundaries, visitors can share in Mark Twain's wonder when he observed this location as ". . . surely the fairest picture the whole earth affords."

A good way to get an overview of what makes up the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit is to take the "Drive Around Lake Tahoe." Start at the Visitor's Center at Taylor Creek by picking up a brochure but don't forget to check on the other recreational activities offered by the Unit such as the Rainbow Trail, Stream Profile Chamber, and various interpretive programs given during the summer months. Take a minute to say hello to the grand old Jeffery Pine in the Visitor's Center parking lot. It is the last of the original forest that once grew here. From the Visitor's Center go east to Tallac Historic Site, with its museum and picnic area, or west to a view of Emerald Bay at Inspiration Point. Either location is a great way to start.

Following the Auto Tour clockwise, after Emerald Bay is another awe-inspiring sight - Eagle Falls. Here, water cascades from a lofty height which seems it should be reserved for an eagle's nest. Another interesting location is in Tahoe City at the bridge crossing Lake Tahoe's only outlet, the Truckee River. The bridge is called "Fanny Bridge" for the view presented by tourists leaning over the bridge and looking at enormous Rainbow trout that once lived in these waters. And then there is Sand Harbor, a near tropical paradise, Logan Shoals, with its magnificent vistas across the lake, and the tunnel through Cave Rock, and more before getting back to where you started the tour.

A number of Forest Service camping locations are located around Lake Tahoe and provide something of a counterbalance to the many resorts, hub-bub of traffic, and congestion. The Forest Service has special use permits/agreements with several resorts around the Lake which offer highly developed, luxurious campsites for those Forest visitor's who prefer not to "rough it." (Contact the Forest Service directly for more information.) There are also the more traditional style Forest Service campgrounds. There is Bayview campground, located directly across from Inspiration Point. Small by the Unit's standards, this campground, with its trail into Desolation Wilderness and drinking water available only in May, June and maybe July, might be considered by some as rustic. The most car and tent camping-friendly, Bayview is the most isolated and might be considered the most attractive campground in the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

Fallen Leaf campground, probably the most popular campground in the Unit, is convenient to many attractions and recreational vehicle (RV) and motorhome camping friendly. And, it is also huge. Near the glacier-carved Fallen Leaf Lake and pleasant Taylor Creek, this campground is likely to be full throughout the camping season; reservations are recommended. Reasons for the campground's popularity could be the quality of fishing in Fallen Leaf Lake, the excellent trails designed for the whole family, and the numerous loops, full of spacious campsites that meander around the stands of Jeffery pine, cedar and fir trees.

Nevada Beach and William Kent campgrounds are the most convenient to the many tourist attractions found on Lake Tahoe. On opposite sides of the Lake, both campgrounds access large sandy beaches. William Kent feels like and is in the middle of town. More heavily wooded than Nevada Beach campground, and with sites close together, William Kent has private homes on all sides. On the east side the Lake Tahoe, Nevada Beach campground has views of the Lake but far less shade. It also has a foot and mountain bicycle trail and heavy traffic and a casino nearby.

Very often lost in all camping opportunities within Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, is little Meeks Bay campground. Not as rustic as Bayview or as developed as Fallen Leaf campground, Meeks Bay offers quiet and some pleasantly secluded sites within walking distance of Lake Tahoe's bright blue water.

There are wide variety of things to do while visiting Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. With elevations ranging from 6,200' to 11,000 ft., don't let Elevation/Altitude Sickness spoil the fun. Be sure to drink plenty of water, cut way back on consumption of alcohol and rich foods, and take it easy for the first day or so. If symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and shortness of breath, persist or are severe, see a doctor immediately.

The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit is a land of towering peaks, wide glacier-carved valleys, forests of dabbled shade, and the most beautiful high-altitude lake in North America. This is a world-class place for recreation with something for everyone, making it great for a family camping vacation. Come and enjoy ". . . the fairest picture the whole earth affords."

Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit 35 College Dr. South Lake Tahoe, California 96150 530-543-2600

Fred and Suzi Dow