Located in the rolling foothills of the Sierra Mountains, Folsom Lake State Recreation Area offers the best of Northern California. Scenic views abound across the 19,500 acres that feature open grasslands, and two reservoirs, Folsom and Natoma. The park is located 25 miles east of Sacramento, and day-use guests and campers can enjoy easy access to both the sights of California’s capital city and the serenity of the Sierra Mountains all in one trip.
In the summer, visitors don hats and sunscreen to enjoy the hot weather. In the spring and fall, cooler weather sets in with a touch of rain. In the winter, campers may feel a chill as the fog rolls off the lake.
The park’s miles of pristine shoreline and extensive trail attract millions of people each year, and there is something for everyone to enjoy during their stay. Hike or ride horses through the park’s trail system, or bike the 32-mile long cycling path that connects through neighboring parks and into Old Sacramento. Spend the morning touring the historic Folsom Powerhouse, and in the afternoon, catch fresh fish for dinner. After a day of outdoor recreation, return to your campsite and enjoy hot showers and an evening by the fire.
With beautiful sites and ample amenities, Folsom Lake State Recreation Area is a prime-RV destination at any time of the year, not just during peak season, which typically runs from April through September.
RV Rentals in Folsom Lake State Recreation Area
Transportation in Folsom Lake State Recreation Area
Folsom Lake State Recreation Area is easily accessible by both RV and car. Since it is located only 25 miles east of Sacramento, visitors can also reach this state park using local bus services. Less than five miles south of the recreation area is the small town of Folsom, which is easy to reach from the Beals Point Campground. If you are destined for Beals Point Campground, keep an eye out for the signs indicating the turn-off along Auburn-Folsom Road. They are clear, but not particularly conspicuous.
The road to the Peninsula Campground from Folsom, however, winds around Folsom Lake, turning it into a 30-mile trip, so travelers may find it easier to start their trip from north or east. If you are heading to Peninsula Campground, note that all pathways will take you through the small town of Pilot Hill and onto Rattlesnake Bar Road, which leads directly to the campground. This road is paved, but it is also narrow, and it has several twists and turns that may make navigation in a larger rig or towing a trailer somewhat tricky.
Campgrounds and parking in Folsom Lake State Recreation Area
Campsites in Folsom Lake State Recreation Area
When you choose to stay at the Placerville KOA, you’ll be within easy reach of a wide range of both adult and family-friendly attractions, including a casino, Gold Country, rivers and rafting, wineries and orchards, Old Town Sacramento, mountains and much more. The Placerville KOA campground features a casino shuttle, a weekend buffet, ice cream, a tent and arcade, recreational facilities, a toddler playground, a dog run, a pool and hot tub, a Kamping Kitchen, fishing, bike rentals, movie nights and planned activities, catering for groups and miniature goats to pet.
Beals Point Campground
Located north of the majestic Folsom Dam and just a few miles north of the town of Folsom, CA, the Beals Point Campground features 19 campsites that can accommodate trailers and motor homes up to 31 feet. Each site has a paved parking area for your campervan, a fire-ring, and picnic table, and comes with full electrical, water, and sewer hookups. ADA accessible restrooms with hot showers and potable drinking water are located at the southern end of the loop. The tent-only campground to the south also has two additional plumbed bathrooms with showers. A sanitary dump station is conveniently located just south of the camping loop, situated between the RV campground and the tent-only campground. Beals Point is open to campers year-round. Overflow parking can be found at the far eastern end of the loop. Leashed or contained pets are welcome at Beals Point Campground and in the parking lot, but are not allowed on the swimming beaches or the trails.
The Peninsula Campground, located at the northern end of the lake just over 10 miles southwest of the town of Pilot Hill, offers 100 primitive campsites with 31-foot parking pads. While these sites do not have electrical, water, or sewer hookups, they each provide a fire ring with a hibachi-style grill and a picnic table. Generator use is only permitted between 10 AM and 8 PM. There are several faucets with potable drinking water and restrooms scattered throughout the park, and in the southern tip of the campground, there is a place to take a hot shower. The campgrounds also provide a sanitary dump station near the eastern edge of the campsites. Campers have easy access to two launch ramps, and there is overflow parking at the western side of the campground as well. Peninsula Campground is only open from April to October.
Seasonal activities in Folsom Lake State Recreation Area
You will want to be sure that you pack your camera in your camper when you are preparing for your trip to Folsom Lake State Recreation Area. The views of the lakes in this park are gorgeous, and there is a variety of stately trees to photograph, including ancient blue oak trees that are between 400 and 500 years old. There are many black-tailed deer in the forest to take pictures of, as well as raccoons, gray foxes, and three different species of squirrel. Not only is it an ideal place to get panoramic snapshots of the lakes, mountains, and trees in this area, it is also a great place to get some amazing macro shots. There are tons of colorful flowers, such as Indian paintbrush, monkey flower, and California fuchsias, as well as the many varieties of butterflies, dragonflies, and other insects that visit them.
There’s no better way to explore the hills that surround Folsom Lake than on horseback. Park roads are wide and designed for easy trailer navigation, and you can also park outside the lake area and ride in. There are several equestrian staging areas throughout the park which provide hitching rails and water troughs. You’ll find the largest of these at the Granite Bay trail area. With 95 miles of trails to explore, you’ll join other equine enthusiasts, bicyclists, and hikers as you enjoy gorgeous views of the lake.
During the warm summer months, Folsom Lake is dotted with boats of every shape and size. Guests can enjoy water skiing, tubing, and windsurfing. Rent a boat at the marina, or bring your own watercraft. There are a dozen boat ramp areas in the park, including two launch ramps at Peninsula Campground. To legally drive a motorized boat in California waters, individuals must be 16 years of age or older and possess a California Boaters Card, or, if between the ages of 12-15, supervised by a licensed individual who is over the age of 18. The park is also home to Lake Natoma, which sits downstream from Folsom Lake. Natoma welcomes non-motorized watercraft and sports like sailing, crew racing, rowing, and kayaking. There is a 5-mph speed limit enforced.
Be sure to pack your rod and reel in your campervan so you can spend the day at the park enjoying the tranquility of chasing the perfect catch. Anglers of all skill levels and ages can enjoy casting a line in both Folsom Lake and Lake Natoma. Be sure to get a valid California fishing license for anglers over the age of 16. The water is home to trout, catfish, largemouth and smallmouth bass, perch, and even kokanee salmon. Trophy-sized bass tends to hang out in the south fork section of the lake, and the areas around Anderson Island and near the Rattlesnake Bar generally have superior results. Lake Natoma, which is best known for its rainbow trout, also offers an ADA accessible fishing pier and an open platform at Nimbus Flat. Other species in this lake include crappie, sunfish, bluegill, carp, and several varieties of bass.
Birdwatching is a popular year-round activity at Folsom Lake State Recreational Area, but the autumn and spring months both bring massive bird migrations through the park. Between the two lakes, there are around 80,000 gulls and other waterfowl that winter in this state park. Around February, great blue herons, great egrets, and double-crested cormorants, a vulnerable species, begin setting up breeding territories, often showing off their young starting as early as March. The forests around the lake are filled with woodpeckers, hummingbirds, and smaller songbirds, including kinglets, towhees, sparrows, and goldfinches.
Visiting Folsom Powerhouse
The historic Folsom Powerhouse was built in 1885 and was known during its peak as the greatest electrical plant in America. Until 1952, it harnessed the power of the American River and produced electricity for the city of Sacramento. Today, the powerhouse is a landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it is a State Historic Park. Visitors can tour the Folsom Powerhouse, view vintage equipment, and learn about the extensive canal system that directed water from the dam.
Bicycle enthusiasts will want to ensure that their bike comes along in their trailer because of the extensive bike trails. Folsom Lake State Recreation Park features 95 miles of trails that are open to bikers of all ages. Mountain bikers can enjoy the popular Darrington Trail, a moderately steep trail nearly 16 miles long with views of the south fork of Folsom Lake and Salmon Falls. For street bikes or those who prefer a paved trail, a 32-mile long bike path loops around Lake Natoma and links Folsom Lake with additional parks located in Sacramento County. Some of the trails take riders through Old Town Sacramento, so biking is both a nature and city experience in one.
When the weather is cooler, Folsom Lake is a great place for a picnic. There are seven family picnic sites throughout the park, all of which feature charcoal grills. Picnic areas at Beals Point, Nimbus Flat, and Peninsula Campground also have accessible picnic tables, restrooms, and designated parking. Granite Bay Main Beach is home to two group picnic sites that accommodate up to 100 people. The sites include 11 picnic tables, a large charcoal grill, restrooms, and running water.