crystal basin recreation area in eldorado national forest

Crystal Basin Recreation Area

Pollock Pines, California
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Local Phone: (888) 742-7683

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) administers a series of hydroelectric power plants along with a network of beautiful mountain reservoirs hosting recreational facilities in the Crystal Basin area west of Lake Tahoe. The basin encompasses 85,000 acres, five main lakes and reservoirs (Loon, Gerle Creek, Wrights, Ice House and Union Valley) and 25 developed campgrounds with more than 700 sites between them. Two cabins, Loon Lake Chalet and Robbs Hut, are available for year-round lodging of larger groups. 

More than 100 miles of trails crisscross the Crystal Basin, affording many easy to moderate day hikes as well as access to the rugged Desolation Wilderness Area. A 4.5 mile paved bike trail skirts one side of Union Valley Reservoir.

Five lakes and reservoirs  are the focal points of most recreation in Crystal Basin. The largest, Union Valley Reservoir, has 2,890 surface acres and 24 miles of shoreline. Other lakes include Ice House Reservoir, Loon Lake, Gerle Reservoir and Wrights Lake. They all have campgrounds.

Stop at the information station on Ice House Road for maps and trail information. The Crystal Basin Recreation Area is accessed from Ice House Road off of Highway 50 east of Pollock Pines.

All campgrounds and trails are dog-friendly. Dogs must be leashed while in campgrounds and kept away from swimming beaches. For information on campgrounds, roads and trails, cabins and fire restrictions, call the Eldorado National Forest at 1-530-647-5400.

campgrounds, trails, dog-friendly, SMID, lakes, boating, recreation, tahoe

Wrights Lake <br/>Photo Credit: @lillytheaussie
Wrights Lake
Photo Credit: @lillytheaussie
Almost every public campground in California is dog-friendly, but that doesn’t mean your dog is welcome to hike with you, even on a leash. At most state and national parks, dogs are confined to paved paths, fire roads and picnic areas. If those rules don’t fit your free-roaming style, take heart: There are plenty of other places to camp and hike with your best four-legged friend. Here are two campground-rich areas in Northern California that get the DogTrekker paw of approval. more »
Camping! Photo BIlly Goodman
Camping! Photo BIlly Goodman
Rise above the summer heat at these high-elevation campgrounds. more »
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