Crystal Basin Recreation Area

Crystal Basin Recreation Area

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.

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