Wednesday Wave Vol. 35: Fall Camping in Tahoe National Forest

Wednesday Wave Vol. 35: Fall Camping in Tahoe National Forest
tahoe national forest

Getting Out There

This last weekend my boyfriend and I headed up toward Nevada City on Hwy 80. We didn't know exactly where we were going to go or what we were going to do, but we did know we wanted to camp somewhere with great views and surrounded by nature. My boyfriend made it sound easy and nice, but in reality, I knew we'd be on Forest roads for extended periods of time.. and that we were indeed. We made our way to Tahoe National Forest by taking Hwy 80 until it met the 20 at a little place called Emigrant Gap. From 20, we got onto Forest Road 18 (also considered Bowman Lake Road). You can put "Bowman Lake Road, CA" into your GPS and you should get there just fine. 

(If you know how to camp and what to bring, go ahead and skip the detailed part below and continue on to the adventure part)

What To Bring

NOTES:

  • We car camped for 2 nights in 2 different spots
  • We had a dog with us
  • We are very last minute planners

Ok, so now that you understand that we were a little tight romping around in our Nissan Pathfinder, my packing list will make a little more sense

Practical (wanted and needed) Gear

Kitchen

  • 1 Coleman camp stove (bring some propane bottles too of course)
  • 1 cast iron pan
  • 1 nonstick pan
  • 4 gallons of water (drinking/washing/cooking)
  • 1 spatula, a small knife, a cutting board
  • 2 fork/knife/spoon combos
  • paper plates
  • garbage bags

I loveeee to cook and don't skimp out when camping either. We had 2 medium ice chests, and I took advantage of that. We have small seasoning packets of salt and pepper that we bring, as well as a small bottle of oil. I always bring butter, peeled garlic, and chopped onions as well. 

My favorite camping meal is my own rendition of the KFC famous bowl. 

  • 1 pack of dehydrated mashed potatoes (get one that's pre-seasoned so it's extra tasty)
  • However much chicken you want, fried in butter, garlic, and salt
  • 1 can of mixed veggies (I buy the cans with a pull top similar to soda cans so that if I forget a can opener for whatever reason, I'm not out of luck)
  • more butter and more cheese.

Clothing

You all know what to bring for camping in standard weather but I want to encourage you to bring the following when fall camping

  • beanie
  • gloves
  • scarf
  • hand warmers or a hot water bottle for at night. 

The Lakes

#1 When you get off of Hwy 20 and onto Forest Road 18, the first lake pops up on your right-hand side: Fuller Lake. Here we saw many people fishing and a few kids that were brave enough had jumped in. There were also restrooms here so we stopped and took advantage of that before continuing on.

#2 The 2nd lake, and potentially my favorite lake, was called Rucker Lake. It's literally a 3-minute drive from Fuller lake but it is sooo cute and nice. There are a handful of campgrounds here as well as places to launch your kayaks. See the photo below to catch a glimpse of the beauty 

The road to both of these lakes is actually paved and in pretty good condition. Up past these lakes, the road does become more difficult, or, fun, depending on who you are. That being said, with more challenging road conditions, we took it slow and made our way to the next cluster of lakes. 

Broken road = go around 

NOTE: it had snowed 2 days before we made our way there and had rained the morning of our pursuit. This was in fact AMAZING. It wasn't muddy, but the ground had enough moisture to prevent any and all dust from forming when driving on the roads. This was super nice especially on our way to the next lakes because we somehow made our way into a caravan of cars. Anyway, we proceeded up to Carr, Freeley, and Lindsey lakes to continue our adventure. At this point, it was almost 5 pm and we decided we would continue the lake play the following day, so we hopped back in the car and continued up to Bowman Lake. Check out the photo below to see the backpacking trails that go around those lakes.

We arrived at Bowman lake and decided to go past there and check to see if there were any camping spots at Sawmill Lake - there were, and that's where we camped! 

This was the view out of our car 

NOTE: Neither my boyfriend nor I are hunters, but it is currently hunting season. That being said, every hunter and their brother was out last weekend and I mean there were men standing in their campsites with their guns in hand. It wasn't something I was used to seeing but it was exciting to hear guns go off throughout the day. I want to note this because I've never been camping in a location that had hunters there and it was different. So, make sure you call the forestry department if you feel the need to double check these things. 

The next day we packed up, made breakfast, and went to do some exploring around the South Fork Yuba River. We hiked to different swimming holes to make some notes for where to go next summer.

This spot you're looking at is just past Emerald Pools trail. Hike past the pools for about 15 minutes and feast your eyes on some crystal clear river water!

The second place we went to on the river was called Golden Quartz Picnic Ground. It's a larger swimming hole with day-use facilities such as picnic tables and bathrooms. After we continued driving around the river we decided to pick our next camp spot. We went a little more traditional and decided to get cozy at Scott's Flat Reservoir. This campground has a boat launch, marina, general store, showers, etc. There were large sailboats, kayaks, and wakeboarding boats all out on the water at the same time! We hadn't made a reservation and with only 2 open camp spots left at the campground, we selected 1, bought our firewood, and got our fishing poles ready for some sunset fishing. We walked the campground and I have hand selected the best campsites for you if you decide to ever venture that way. T13, T15 and 217 were ultimately our favorites. They are all very close to the water and far enough from the bathroom that you aren't disturbed by users, but not too far to be inconvenient. (217 was the best one though). 

All in all, I'd consider our weekend camping pretty successful! Even if you never make it out to Forest Road 18, or any of the small lakes I mentioned, I encourage you to see Tahoe National Forest even if it's only a drive by. 

Cheers,
Kirsten

 

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