Are you looking for a fun place to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life that is not too far away? Pack your family in the RV and head toward the Tahoe National Forest. In northeastern California just a few hours east of Sacramento, Tahoe National Forest is full of gorgeous mature pine, fir, oak, cedar, and sequoias. You can also find some of the most colorful meadows of vibrant wildflowers, deep canyons, hidden waterfalls, and even some rivers, streams, and lakes to cool off in.
This massive forest has more than 850,000 acres of land available for public use for camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, boating, and many other activities. In fact, the forest has almost six million visitors every year. One popular thing to do in the Tahoe National Forest is hiking and there are hundreds of trails to choose from. Some of these are historical sites such as the Donner Camp Trail, Kentucky Mine, and the Boca Townsite Trail.
Whether you are driving a campervan, or pulling a camper, there are plenty of campgrounds in the Tahoe National Forest to choose from. In fact, there are 11 RV-friendly campgrounds in the forest which are open year-round and provide lots of amenities for your convenience. We have highlighted the top four campgrounds in the Tahoe National Forest to help you find what you need.
Tahoe National Forest is located in northeastern California about an hour from Reno, Nevada and three hours from Sacramento. Many of the campgrounds and other sites of interest in the forest are right on major highways such as 49, 80, and 89, making it easy to access. However, these are mountainous roads and can be tricky if you are driving a large RV or pulling a trailer. All of the roads leading into and through the Tahoe National Forest are considered scenic and you should keep your camera handy because you will see some shots you may never get the chance to see again.
There is also a lot of wildlife in the Tahoe National Forest so take it slow no matter what you are driving because sometimes animals will wander onto the road. Most, but not all, of the points of interest in the forest are accessible by RV or camper so you will just have to explore and use your best judgment. Some roads and highways have periodic closures due to fire, floods, and other acts of nature so you will need to keep track of that. You can find more about that and other pertinent information on the Tahoe National Forest website.
Cottonwood Creek Campground is one of the largest and most popular campgrounds with 48 campsites open from Memorial weekend until mid-October. Reservations can be made from May until October. Each campsite has a picnic table, fire ring, and pads up to 35 feet in length. Vault toilets, trash dumpsters, and drinking water are provided nearby. The beautiful serene setting is nestled in a stand of fir and pine trees along the banks of Cottonwood Creek and the trees provide plenty of shade and privacy between campsites. It is located just a few miles south of Sierraville on Highway 89, which is about 40 miles from the popular Lake Tahoe. There are also two trails, Cottonwood Creek Botanical Trail and Overlook Trail, which are both short hiking paths that begin in the campground. You can bring your pets along too, but make sure they are kept on a leash.
Lower Little Truckee Campground has 15 basic campsites with picnic tables, fire rings, and pads ranging from 20 to 40 feet long. There are vault toilets and water available nearby and pets are allowed as long as they are kept restrained or on a leash. The campground is situated on the banks of the Little Truckee River and many sites are on the waterfront. You will have plenty of shade with all the lush pine, aspen, and juniper trees and the most popular sport here is trout fishing, which can be done at any time of year. However, the campground is only open from the end of May until the end of October, with reservations taken from May through September.
Located on Highway 89, just a dozen miles north of Truckee, you can find the Upper Little Truckee Campground. With a gorgeous view of the Sierra Mountains and access to the Little Truckee River, the site is surrounded by mature lodgepole pine, juniper, and aspens for plenty of shade. Each of the 26 sites offers a fire pit and picnic table and there are vault toilets and drinking water stations nearby. The pad lengths range from 25 to 60 feet long so your RV should fit, and pets are welcome as long as they are on a leash. The Little Truckee boasts an abundance of trout and there are miles of biking and hiking paths to enjoy during your stay.
Hampshire Rocks has 30 campsites on the banks of the South Yuba River, each with a maximum pad length of 35 feet for your RV or trailer. These are basic campsites that come equipped with a fire ring and picnic table with potable water and vault toilets available nearby. There is a self-pay station, but the campground also has a host on site if you need anything. You can enjoy swimming, boating, and fishing in the South Yuba River and biking, hiking, and ATV trails at the campground. Pets are welcome but must be kept on a leash at all times. This campground is located on Interstate 80 near the Big Bend/Rainbow exit and reservations are taken on a six-month rolling basis from mid-June to October.
There are a variety of water sources in Tahoe National Forest to play in so don’t forget to attach your boat trailer to the RV. You can do some boating and waterskiing or sailing on one of the large lakes or do some tubing, kayaking, or rafting on the Truckee, American, or Yuba Rivers. Whether you are a party boat enthusiast, a sailor, or just want to float around on a raft, you can find a body of water in this forest that suits you.
Be sure to pack your climbing gear in your RV before heading to the Tahoe National Forest because there are some fantastic places to do some rock climbing. At Donner Summit on Highway 40, you will find sport and traditional climbing areas as well as bouldering spots. There are many overhangs, cracks, slabs, and rock faces for a variety of skill levels and challenges. The Bowman Lake area and Granite Chief Wilderness area are also well-known places to climb and some of the climbing routes include Bear’s Reach and Corrugation Corner on Highway 50 and Farewell to Arms and Peter Principle on the I-80 corridor.
Bring along your OHVs as well because Tahoe National Forest has over 100 trails that allow OHV use. There are also several camping areas in the forest that are specially for OHV users, some of which are Foresthill, Parker Flat, Bear Valley, Lakeside, and Prosser Hill. You are required to have a license and your vehicle must be properly registered. Also, you need to have spark arrestors installed before you ride. Each area may have their own noise and speed limits so check with a Tahoe National Forest Ranger or Forest Officer.
Tahoe National Forest has some of the best fishing spots in the country and there are many different bodies of water to explore depending on what you are trying to catch. Some of the best trout fishing is done on the Truckee and Yuba Rivers with large brown, brook, and rainbow trout recorded being caught there. If you want to do some ice fishing, the Prosser Reservoir and Boca Reservoir are both excellent choices. And with over 20,000 acres of lakes in the forest, you can find just about any species of fish you want.
Pack your hunting gear in the RV so you can get out there and catch your dinner. If you are looking to get something large, such as a deer or bear, head to one of the Highway 89 campgrounds like Cottonwood Creek, Lower Little Truckee, and Upper Little Truckee. For waterfowl, other game birds, and small game try East Meadow, Pass Creek, or Woodcamp on Highway 89 North. Make sure you follow the state laws and get the proper permits or licenses to hunt before heading out.
With over 100 trails in Tahoe National Forest, there is going to be a trail for everyone, whether you are a beginner or an experienced hiker. Some of the trails are for day hiking while others are long enough to be backpacking areas. Whether you want to go for a short and easy walk after dinner or lock up the RV and head out for a weekend backpacking adventure, you can definitely find what you are looking for in Tahoe National Forest.