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9 Best Campgrounds at South Lake Tahoe

Dec 1, 2017

The cobalt blue water and turquoise bays lined with glorious stretches of beach make Lake Tahoe a dream destination for summer camping in California. Watersports, hiking trails, and the surrounding mountains entice campers, who come here to relax or find adventure. Daytime temperatures are not oppressively hot, and nights are a wonderful temperature for sitting around a campfire.

South Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful and popular areas around the lake. You can find private, city-operated, and government-run campgrounds, some of which have only a dozen campsites or less, and others that can accommodate 200 to 300 tents and RVs. Campgrounds are seasonal and only operate from spring until fall, usually from mid-May to mid-October, but some campgrounds may have a more limited season depending on the year and conditions.

1 D.L Bliss State Park Campground

D.L Bliss State Park Campground
D.L Bliss State Park Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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D.L. Bliss State Park has one of the most scenic locations on Lake Tahoe. A beautiful stretch of golden sand, bounded by scenic rock outcroppings, lines the waterfront. The water is crystal clear, and in the distance, you can see the mountains on the opposite shore. Kayakers can put in from the beach and explore the shores, children can play in the shallow water, and hikers can access the popular Rubicon hiking trail directly from the park.

The park's campground is set high up above the lake, with sites closest to the lake offering glimpses of the water through the pine trees. Sites are set in a heavily wooded area and are generally well-spaced and private. The campground is divided into five loops, all of which are more than acceptable. The Beach Camp Loop, which includes sites 142 to 165, is closest to the beach and is the most desirable camping area in the park.

2 Meeks Bay Resort and Marina

Meeks Bay Resort and Marina
Meeks Bay Resort and Marina | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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If you are looking for more amenities and a summer camp or resort type of atmosphere, Meeks Bay Resort and Marina is the perfect choice. Along the waterfront of Meeks Bay is a large, crescent-shaped beach with shallow water, perfect for young children. The resort backing the beach is a large-scale operation, with cabins overlooking the lake, a beachside restaurant, and a campground.

This is a large campground with spacious sites, towering pine trees, and easy access to the beach. The campground offers tent and RV sites, full hookups, some pull-through sites, and restrooms and showers. Pets are not accepted at this resort. Reservations should be made as far out as possible and are accepted in spring for the following summer, a year out.

3 Meeks Bay Campground

Meeks Bay Campground
Meeks Bay Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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Located just down the beach from Meeks Bay Beach Resort and Marina is the small, federally operated Meeks Bay Campground. This is a much quieter and more primitive camping experience than the resort, but still set along the same fabulous stretch of beach. Sites are big and bright but generally quite close together. Large pine trees offer shade here and there, and some sites have nice views over the lake. The campground is set relatively close to the highway, so traffic noise can be a factor. Facilities include flush toilets but no showers. Sites are all back-in and do not have hookups. RV sites can typically accommodate equipment of 18 to 25 feet in length, with a few exceptions for longer units. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance.

4 Fallen Leaf Campground

Fallen Leaf Lake
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If you don't have your heart set on camping along the lake, Fallen Leaf Campground is the perfect choice. Set amid towering pines and surrounded by forest, this campground offers a more wilderness style experience. A short trail to Fallen Leaf Lake leaves from the campground, offering a nice escape from the crowds along Lake Tahoe, a little less than a mile away. Other trailheads in the area include Glen Alpine and Mt. Tallac, as well as the Moraine Trail, which leaves directly from the campground.

Fallen Leaf Campground offers 200 tent and RV sites, as well as six yurts. Parking pads are paved, and some sites are pull-through. The maximum length varies by campsite, but some sites can accommodate very large units. Facilities include flush toilets. Reservations must be made in advance.

5 Eagle Point Campground

Eagle Point
Eagle Point Eli Duke / photo modified
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Eagle Point Campground is located in Emerald Bay State Park, on a point of land at the entrance to Emerald Bay. This scenic spot is a good base for exploring the area. The trailhead for the Rubicon hiking trail, one of the most popular hikes near South Lake Tahoe, is located in this campground. Farther up the highway is Eagle Falls, as well as more hiking trails.

This campground opens later in the season than many of the other campgrounds in the area. Sites are small and can accommodate tents, trailers up to 18 feet, and motorhomes up to 21 feet. Make sure the campsite you book is large enough to contain your equipment. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance.

6 Campground by the Lake

Campground by the Lake
Campground by the Lake | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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Located right in the town of South Lake Tahoe, Campground by the Lake is extremely convenient for visitors who are simply here to enjoy the lake, beaches, and town. Large pine trees provide plenty of shade, but a lack of ground cover, particularly on sites closest to the lake, means campers may have little privacy. The sparkling blue lake can be seen through the trees from many of the campsites.

This large campground is operated by the City of South Lake Tahoe. The 178 sites can accommodate tents and RVs of almost all sizes. Loop A has full hookups and Loop B has only electrical hookups. The campground has Wi-Fi and some cell phone reception, which is a serious advantage for campers who want to stay connected. Nearby are a public playground, basketball courts, and a heated swimming pool, which can be accessed for a small fee. It's also pet-friendly, with up to three dogs allowed per site.

7 Bayview Campground

View from Inspiration Point
View from Inspiration Point | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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Directly across the highway from Inspiration Point Lookout on Emerald Bay is the small Bayview Campground. For hikers and sightseers, it's hard to beat this fabulous location. You can hike right from this campground to some of the most popular hiking trails in the area, including Cascade Falls/Cascade Lake, Granite Lake, and beyond to other connecting trails that run through Desolation Wilderness. It is right off Highway 89, so traffic noise is a factor. However, considering parking can be very difficult to find along this scenic stretch, being able to access many of the sites on foot is a real advantage. You can't see Emerald Bay from the campground, but there are views through the large trees to the surrounding mountains. For nice views over the water, walk across the highway to the lookout.

This campground has 12 first-come, first-served campsites, which can accommodate tents and small RVs. Facilities include pit toilets, and each site has a picnic table, fire pit, barbecue, and food storage locker.

8 Campgrounds at Camp Richardson Historic Resort and Marina

Campgrounds at Camp Richardson Historic Resort and Marina
Campgrounds at Camp Richardson Historic Resort and Marina Sandip Bhattacharya / photo modified
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Just west of South Lake Tahoe, Camp Richardson Historic Resort and Marina is a large operation with various accommodation options, including a hotel, cabins, and three campgrounds. Two campgrounds, Eagle's Nest and Badger's Den, offer well over 100 tent sites. The separate RV Village, complete with full hookups, can accommodate approximately 100 RVs. Its convenient waterfront location and full range of on-site amenities, from a store and restaurant to sports equipment rentals, make this a great choice for families. However, they do not accept pets.

9 Ed Z'berg Sugar Pine Point State Park Campground

Ed Z'berg Sugar Pine Point State Park
Ed Z'berg Sugar Pine Point State Park | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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Located about a 40-minute drive northwest of South Lake Tahoe, just north of Meeks Bay, Ed Z'Berg Sugar Pine Point State Park is set on a beautiful point of land on the edge of Lake Tahoe. The park's most famous feature is the Ehrman Mansion, but its real charm is the setting. Tall pines line the rocky shoreline and look out over the shallow, turquoise waters that transition to a glistening dark blue before reaching the mountains on the far side of the lake.

The campground is well back from the water and on the opposite side of the highway from the lake, a little less than a mile from the main area of the park. The camping area is heavily treed with large pines, which block much of the light and leave the campsites a little dark. Most sites are very large and well-spaced. This is forest camping, and the campground is not near the lake, but a walking trail connects the campground with the waterfront area. Facilities include flush toilets, showers, and an RV dump station. Trailers up to 26 feet and motorhomes up to 32 feet are accepted.

Where to Stay in South Lake Tahoe when Campgrounds are Closed or Full

South Lake Tahoe's hotel selection leans heavily towards mid-range in terms of quality, although prices are often quite high during peak times. Below are some highly rated mid-range and budget hotels:

  • Mid-Range Hotels: At the top-end of mid-range, the Deerfield Lodge at Heavenly is a newly renovated hotel known for outstanding customer service. Rooms come in a variety of sizes, including suites with full kitchens, and the hotel is pet-friendly. This property is conveniently located between Heavenly ski hill and downtown South Lake Tahoe. Within easy walking distance of the beach and restaurants, the 7 Seas Inn at Tahoe features elegantly decorated rooms and suites. Fireplaces in some rooms make this a cozy option on cool nights, and the outdoor hot tub is perfect for shaking a chill. Americana Village is another great choice, with a large outdoor pool and spacious rooms and suites with kitchenettes. For a mid-range beachfront location, you can't beat the Beach Retreat & Lodge at Tahoe, featuring two on-site restaurants; beautiful common areas; and large rooms, including some with partial lake views and fireplaces.
  • Budget Hotels: With a mix of different sized rooms and suites, the Big Pines Mountain House of Tahoe is a good choice for all types of budget travelers, including families and groups. Some rooms have kitchenettes, and breakfast is included with your stay. With a little less ambience, but clean, basic rooms, the Matterhorn Motel is another good option for budget-minded travelers.

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Deer at a campsite in Kings Canyon National Park
Deer at a campsite in Kings Canyon National Park | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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