The Best Camping in Lake Tahoe
Camping near Lake Tahoe, a pristine alpine lake resting on the border of California and Nevada, is a destination that shouldn’t be missed.
While the towns surrounding Lake Tahoe become more and more exclusive as real estate prices rise, the good news for those interested in Lake Tahoe camping is there are still plenty of affordable opportunities to enjoy everything the area offers, whether you get your kicks from hiking dramatic cliffs overlooking the lake below or trying your luck at the casinos.
The Top 5 Lake Tahoe Campgrounds
There’s something about visiting Tahoe that just puts people in the mood to have a good time and few places where RVers can camp in Tahoe receive negative reviews. Still, someone has to be the best. Here are the top five places to stay in your RV, most of them on the south and western shores of the lake.
At $36 per night, this Lake Tahoe Basin Management campground is one of the best deals for lodging, especially given nearly every site comes with a view of the lake and only a short walk from your spot to the sandy beach that lines the water. As it’s strictly dry camping (see boondocking), don’t expect amenities like water, electric or showers, but the restrooms do have flush toilets, but as far as scenic campgrounds in one of the nation’s most beautiful areas, the trade-off is worth it if you don’t need hookups.
Note that even though this is a national forest campground, reservations are accepted and so planning in advance is key to getting into this campground.
Another national forest campground, this time in the Lake Tahoe Basin, Fallen Leaf is one of seven places to camp in South Lake Tahoe, the area’s most populous town and decidedly more “happening” than the sleepier North Shore. Like Nevada Beach, this is dry camping only, however in addition to flushing restrooms, campers are treated to showers as well.
Otherwise, expect relatively roomy spaces among the pines, which means that while the setting may be serene, your access to the
healing battery-charging powers of the sun will be limited. Luckily, should you need power, they do allow generators as well. All of this only two and a half miles from the action that is South Lake Tahoe.
The only private RV park to make the top five list, Zephyr Cove is the only one to offer full-hookups as well, so you can plug into city water, electric and sewer, not to mention cable, WiFi, laundry, an on-site restaurant and, of course, beach access. Otherwise, Zephyr’s campsites are similar to what you might expect from a national forest campground — large Ponderosa pine trees reminiscent of camping in the forest, even if they are a bit tight.
The resort is within walking distance to the handful of shops and restaurants in Zephyr Cove and less than five miles to bustling South Lake Tahoe. All of this modern convenience does come with a price tag which is more than double the most expensive national forest and state park campgrounds.
If you’ve come to live up the arts scene, kick back drinks and live the South Lake Tahoe city life, this is the campground for you. Just across the street from the beach and with restaurants, museums, galleries, and more within easy walking distance — in all directions — it’s hard to find a more convenient spot to all of what makes South Lake so popular.
As a city park, there’s a library, and a hockey rink, more or less immediately within the park, making it even more kid-friendly than it would have been as an RV park with slow speed limits tucked into a forest on the lake.
Hot showers, clean toilets, bike paths, and no shortage of serenity have hoisted Sugar Pine Point State Park to the front of a very close race. Or the top of a forest full of very tall trees, you might say. Massive pine cones — dropped by the trees for which the park gets its name — fill decent-sized sites equipped with picnic tables and fire rings. Despite not being immediately on the water, or having particularly good cell service, this state park on the western shore keeps campers coming year-round!
Affordable Camping Near Lake Tahoe
If you’re looking for a campsite for under $30 per night, you’re a) not alone and b) in great luck! To be able to stay on the shores of a lake known for its less-than-affordable vacations in exchange for but three pictures of Alexander Hamilton is one of many ways RVers have realized living the traveling life accessible to everyone.
William Kent Campground, on the North Shore but still the western side of the lake, just missed making it into the top five list, but thanks to large campsites that put one perfectly in the mood for s’mores and spooky stories, deserves its place among the more popular places to camp at Lake Tahoe. And while nearby Tahoe City isn’t as jingly as the offerings at South Lake, the combination of a quaint town on the water and rustic place to call home each night makes for many a visitor’s ideal Tahoe experience.
A few miles south, Meeks Bay — another national forest campground — offers a similar experience, but replace Tahoe City with the more spread out, tinier and quiet village of Tacoma, California.
Is $30 too much for a night of camping in your book? Goose Meadow and Lake Forest Campground both in the northwestern side of the region, run around $20 a night. While Lake Forest, a county campground, is on the water, Goose Meadow will drop you back several miles from the lake itself, on the road to Truckee, California.
Lake Tahoe RV Parks
In addition to the previously mentioned Zephyr Cove Resort, Meeks Bay Resort and Marina is another popular resort located across the lake, with beach access, full-hookups, laundry and all of the glorious summer vacation activities one would expect from a resort positioned on Lake Tahoe. Just leave Fido at home, as pets are not allowed anywhere on the resort property.
In South Lake Tahoe, Historic Camp Richardson hosts three campgrounds, with full-hookups and more of the usual suspects you’ll find rummaging about a resort setting.
Free Camping Near Lake Tahoe
While tenters may have better luck if they’re willing to hike into the many national forests or find the increasingly rare slice of the beach where camping hasn’t been specifically marked as prohibited, free camping in a van or RV near Lake Tahoe is next to impossible to find.