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Camping at Eldorado National Forest

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Eldorado National Forest is a U.S. National Forest located in the central Sierra Nevada mountain range, in eastern California. It spans more than 500,000 acres, offering a wide array of recreational activities, including camping, hiking, fishing, and winter sports, amidst stunning natural beauty.

Camping Options

Developed Campgrounds Eldorado National Forest features numerous developed campgrounds that provide amenities such as picnic tables, fire rings, potable water, and toilet facilities. Some of the popular campgrounds include:

  • Crystal Basin Area Campgrounds
  • Desolation Wilderness Area Campgrounds
  • Lake Tahoe Basin Campgrounds

Dispersed Camping For those looking for a more primitive experience, dispersed camping is allowed in many areas of the forest. No amenities are provided, and campers must follow Leave No Trace principles to minimize their impact on the environment.

Campground Reservations

Some campgrounds require reservations, which can often be made up to six months in advance. Reservations are handled through Recreation.gov. However, other campgrounds operate on a first-come, first-served basis.

Camping Etiquette and Rules

  • Fire Safety: Due to wildfire risks, campfires are typically only allowed in designated fire rings, and fire restrictions may be in place during dry conditions. Always check the current fire restrictions before your trip.

  • Wildlife Precautions: Store food and scented items securely to avoid attracting bears and other wildlife.

  • Quiet Hours: Observe quiet hours typically set from 10 PM to 6 AM to respect your fellow campers.

  • Garbage: Pack out all trash since many campsites do not have trash removal services.

  • Stay Limit: There is usually a limit to how long you can stay in the same spot, commonly 14 days within any 30-day period.

  • Vehicle Restrictions: Keep vehicles on designated roads and parking areas to prevent resource damage.

Weather and Best Time to Visit

Conditions can vary greatly depending on the elevation. Summers are generally warm and dry, perfect for camping and other outdoor activities, while winters are cold with heavy snowfall, attracting winter sports enthusiasts. For most camping activities, the best time to visit is late spring through early fall.

Permits and Fees

Wilderness Permits If you plan to hike or camp within the Desolation Wilderness or other wilderness areas within the forest, you will need a wilderness permit. During peak periods, quotas are in place to limit the number of visitors.

Fees Many developed campgrounds charge a fee for overnight stays. Day-use fees might also be applied in certain areas.


Parts of Eldorado National Forest are accessible to those with disabilities. Select campgrounds and facilities have been modified with accessibility in mind, though the rugged terrain can pose challenges. Contact the Forest Service for the most current information on accessible facilities.

Contact Information

Before planning your trip to Eldorado National Forest, it is advised to contact the U.S. Forest Service for the most recent information regarding campgrounds, conditions, fire restrictions, and any other concerns.

Always check for updates close to your trip date, as conditions and regulations can change due to weather events, forest management, or other factors.

Map of Campgrounds in Eldorado National Forest
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