Most of the best campgrounds are found in the Crystal Basin. Off the main highway, Crystal Basin makes an ideal place for families to spend days or even a week or two camped on the shore of one of the many lakes that are scattered about the basin. There's never a shortage of activites with boating, fishing, waterskiing, hiking, horseback riding, and biking.
Farther up the pass are more campgrounds, some right along the American River near Kybruz and Strawberry, others hidden off on the Silver Fork. For all the information you need - maps, reservations, fees, facilities - visit our complete list of Campgrounds.
Many areas of the Eldorado National Forest are open to Dispersed Camping. There is no charge for dispersed camping. You simply select a spot in the forest, away from developed camping areas like Ice House Reservoir, and park your RV or set up your tent. Likely you'll need to bring your own water. Fire permits are required for campfires.
At the north end of Lake Tahoe around Donner Summit (Interstate 80) are countless places worth visiting, from Donner Lake to the emigrant trails, from Giant Sequoias to spectacular fishing lakes. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy miles of hiking trails, boating, and cycling. It's all waiting for you at Around Donner Summit.
Just a short jaunt to the south Carson Pass (Highway 88) has many opportunities for adventure. Silver
Lake and Caples Lake draw fishermen and hikers every summer. Beautiful Hope Valley is popular with snowmobilers and
cross country skiers in the winter, while in the summer it is a favorite destination for fly fishermen, photographers,
painters, and bird watchers. Learn all about Carson Pass on
Up and Over Carson Pass.
Only a few miles to the south, Ebbetts Pass Scenic Byway (Highway 4) offers mountain lakes, winter skiing,
wonderful camping, and a multitude of other outdoor recreation opportunities. You'll find it all on
Ebbetts Pass Adventures.
A little farther to the south is beautiful Sonora Pass (Highway 108) with Dodge Ridge Ski Resort, Pinecrest Lake,
Kennedy Meadows, and dozens of other great destinations and recreation opportunities. Everything about the
Sonora Pass region is on
Sonora Pass Vacations.
For those who have the time to explore, the drive up Highway 50 over Echo Summit has many interesting side roads and stopping places worth visiting. Begin by turning south at Pollock Pines to Sly Park and investigating Jenkinson Lake and the lower portion of the Mormon Emigrant Trail.
Then turn your attention to the fabulous Crystal Basin. Pick up Ice House Road at a little spot on Highway 50 known as Riverton and strike out north into the land of lakes and streams. You'll want a good map, a camera, a full tank of gas and perhaps a picnic lunch to eat on the shore of Loon Lake. Ice House Road is the main route through Crystal Basin, but there are lots of side-roads to explore leading around reservoirs and off to waterfalls. On your way out, swing up to Wrights Lake and then back to Highway 50 by the Wrights Lake road.
Continuing up Highway 50 you find yourself in the deep canyon created by the American River. Stop along the way for waterfalls and amazing features like Lovers Leap. With binoculars you can follow the progress of rock climbers on the face of the rock. Also plan to spend some time at Strawberry, a historic spot along the road. A little farther up, just past Twin Bridges, pull into the parking lot for a view of Horsetail Falls.
At Echo Summit turn down Echo Lake Road and treat yourself to an afternoon on the shores of Echo Lakes. You can take the water taxi to the other end of the lake or hike along the shore on the Pacific Crest Trail. Afterwards stop in the Echo Lakes Chalet for an ice cream. On your way down the eastern slope of the pass glance upward (briefly) at the slopes above the road. Every winter CalTrans has to blast snow from the hillside to keep it from avalanching onto the highway.
Sierra at Tahoe ski resort is a fabulous place to ski and board away from the Tahoe crowds. The resort has 3 Express Quad Chairs along with a mulititude of other lifts. Skiers and boarders enjoy 2,000 acres of skiable terrain with more than 2,200 feet in vertical drop. They also have 5 terrain parks and several pipes.
Sierra at Tahoe's Blizzard Mountain is next door for those who prefer sledding and tubing to the big hills. A pair of lifts carry sliders up the hill. Nearby right at Echo Summit is Adventure Mountain snow play area with 16 machine-groomed sledding runs and plenty of space for making snowmen or just playing in the snow. A secure parking lot, a lodge with restrooms and food service, and sled and tube rentals make it a great place for families to spend the day.
Cross country skiers and snowshoers will find miles of groomed trails at Echo Summit, all leading out from the conventient Echo Lake SnoPark. Or for the more adventurous, head out to Loon Lake in the Crystal Basin where many more trails have been marked. A warming hut there is open on weekends.
All kinds of boating is available in the Crystal Basin, from quiet kayaking and canoeing to waterskiing, wakeboarding, and jet skiing. Launch ramps at the reservoirs provide easy access to the water. Those who prefer kayaking or white water rafting head to the American River. For anyone interested in larger lakes at lower elevations such as Folsom Lake can find more information on California's Greatest Lakes.
Anglers have plenty of waters to explore up and down the slopes of Echo Summit. The lakes in the Crystal Basin offer great boat and shore fishing, while the nearby streams are favorite haunts of fly fishermen. For those seeking a little more adventure, the Desolation Wilderness is littered with lakes. Some of them are popular spots, but others a little more out of the way are rarely fished.
Echo Summit has a variety of outdoor recreation possibilities.. Backpackers set off into the Deoslation Wilderness to favorite destinations like Lake Aloha, while day hikers find interesting trails from easy nature walks at Gerle Reservoir to summit assaults on mountains like Pyramid Peak. Echo summit has miles of great mountain biking trails and cycling routes.
Horseback riders take advantage of the several equestrian camps in the Crystal Basin or at Jenkinson Lake. No shortage of trails await exploring.