Sierra Nevada Lakes

Crystal Clear Faucherie

California Sierra Lakes
Sierra Lake Destinations
Sierra Lake Campgrounds

One of the best physical features about California is the amount of lakes and reservoirs it holds – in the mountains, foothills and the canyons, throughout the state.

recreational lakes – Huge, dammed reservoirs to the secluded, alpine lakes in the high country and all the variations in between.

bowman

There are literally thousands of lakes located within the Sierra Nevada mountains and it would be ridiculous to try to list them all here. Many of them can only be reached by hiking into Wilderness.

Most California lakes are popular and well known recreation spots, but others are secluded – if you drive far and long enough back on the dirt road. Some do not allow motorized boats and most do allow fishing and swimming. Some have campsites on the waters edge, while other camps are up on a hill over looking the lake.

Below listed are some Sierra lakes that allow camping on the lakeshore or nearby. Most campgrounds are suitable for RVs, tent camping, and some may require 4 wheel drive to reach them. bass lake

huntington lake

Total Escape has several hundred more lakes & obscure camps listed under Almanor, Lakes Basin, Secluded Lakes, Yosemite Lakes, Tahoe & the Eastern Sierra Lakes page.

Or just check the tag for Lakes & Reservoir

sierra lakes

Fort Churchill Camping

Desert camping south of Reno? Well there ain’t much to choose from out here. Walker Lake near Hamilton, NV looked dismal, so keep driving northbound and hope for the best.

Maybe one of the canyons near the reservation has a level pull out along the highway. Just far enough off the main road to hear the midnight traffic, just barely.

Fort Churchill, Nevada

churchill terrain

Fort Churchill was one of the original US Army forts built to help with the flood of overland pioneers making their way to California. Adobe structures in ruin, plus the sagebrush wetlands and cottonwoods along the river make for ideal scenery. A Pony Express route too!

Shall we call it the first of the California Welcome Centers?
Or an invasion of the “wildness” of the Sierra Nevada, and the West Coast.

From the year 1800 on – trappers, hunters, miners, ranchers, prospectors, surveyors, homesteaders – and basically everyone was headed westward, across the continent. The secrets of the golden state were unfolding worldwide. After gold & silver were discovered in the hills, the real rush to Alta California began.

California [population boom] history

Nevada California border

US Highway 95A

ALT95 – The Yerrington Cutoff

Ideal “in route camping” if traveling near Reno, south of Interstate 80. You gotta be off on the side route through Yerrington, Nevada to reach this convenient road side campground. Big trucks stick to the main highway, but this rural 2-laner cuts thru residential, reservations, and ranch lands. Rural backroads are abundant and most are private property.

Fort Churchill State Historic Park
Ranger Office
10000 Highway 95A
Silver Springs, NV 89429
775-577-2345

Nevada Desert Camping

OPEN ALL YEAR LONG

Driving on rural Nevada Highway 95A you can find the park headquarters and fort on the west side of the road. The camping is on the opposite (east) side of the highway, down an embankment, near the Carson River. A very small brown sign with the word CAMPING (reflects at night) and you may see it – if you aren’t driving 70 mph.

DESERT CAR CAMPING – VEGAS TO RENO

In Route Camp

Perfect refuge for weary travelers, along the long, lonely, desert highways of Nevada. RV campers will like the wide dirt road w/ some level spots, accommodating the largest of motorhomes w/ dump station nearby. Trucks w/ trailers are often seen sleeping along the roadside at this location. Equestrian river access w/ horse trailers too.

Cottonwoods in some of the lower spots, but mostly sage brush, rabbits and open skies. This is the Carson River Basin, so dirt roads w/ mud and potholes are common. No street light near here. In the dark, the primitive roads are manageable, but the signs are minimal.

elevation 4250′
SNOW is minimal in WINTER months (DEC-MARCH)

Desperate tent campers (willing to drive dirt for a bit) can find the “scout camp”. Most nights are filled with the cries of the coyotes in the distance. Park rangers patrol in the morning to collect camp fees. Or you can find the park headquarters, across the highway.

fortchurchill

NO CAMP RESERVATIONS
Primitive campground has 20 sites suitable for travel trailers, motor homes or tents. Campsites include a table and fire ring, w/ camping limit of 14 days. Group camping is also available.

churchillruins

Lobster Festival Redondo

Redondo Pier

Redondo Beach Lobster Festival

20 years running, this Redondo Beach event is a hot hit, especially for beach-goers (near LA)

3 day event held at the Seaside Lagoon next to King Harbor, just north of the Redondo Beach Pier. Live music, entertainment, lobster recipes, celebrity chefs, craft beer, kids activities and vendor booths.

“Rat Ride” – annual beach bike ride sponsored by the Rotary Club; starts in Redondo and runs on the same weekend.

Annual event; September
310-376-6911

REDONDO BEACH California

lobsterfestival.com

Cracking lobster

Sawmill Lake Sierra

primitive camp spots

Sawmill Lake, California


N of Donner Pass, Sierra Nevada

elevation 5800′Canyon Creek connects Lake Faucherie, Sawmill Lake and Bowman Reservoir in the Sierra, Tahoe National Forest. 20+ miles of backroad travel, off I-80.

While many consider Faucherie to be the most beautiful scenic lake, Sawmill Lake just downstream a couple of miles is still quite attractive – with dense forests and a granite mountain backdrop. Sawmill is especially nice for those who like to primitive camp, ouside of developed campgrounds. Way off the interstate @ Hwy 20, tucked in way back behind Bowman Lake a few miles, you can find Sawmill Lake.

Sawmill Lake California

Fishing and camping, kayaking and canoeing are all popular recreation around this lake. A trailhead on the northend of the lake leads out to even more alpine lakes (a day hike “lake loop” or backpacking option). The Pacific Crest Trail is also routed nearby.

No motorized boats or watercraft allowed. No boat ramps, no pavement, no picnic tables, no bathrooms, no fees.

4×4 Lake
Fishing Lake
Free Camping Lake

The north shoreline is abundant with dispersed campsites: metal fire rings and a clearing only; no picnic tables, no toilets. Self sufficient campers only. Campfire permits, a water bucket and a shovel are required. During extreme fire restrictions campfires may not be allowed. Check with local rangers for up to date info.

Tahoe National Forest
Truckee Ranger Station
530-587-3558

National Forest Lake & Forest Lake Fishing Kayak lake hiking lake

Most campsites are drive up and park, while others closer to the shoreline have only walk-in access. Hauling your gear down hill won’t seem unthinkable once you’ve seen the lakeside views. There is even a camp below the dam, next to the waterfall.

waterfallfromdam

The main access Road #843-037 is very rocky and 4x4s love to frequent the area. The backroads here are best suite for truck travel, high clearance vehicles, off-roaders and SUVs. No small RVs or trailers. Passenger cars are not recommended. The access roads around the lake and up to the lake are dusty and rugged. The road below the dam is quite rough w/ rocks.

For more driving details, please see entry on Canyon Creek Campground.

road at dam
The water at Sawmill Lake is crystal clear snowmelt. The lakes around here are managed by Nevada Irrigation District, so this is why there are no engines allowed on the lake. This canyon area closes to public entry during winter months (NOV-APRIL), due to deep snow.

clear water

Faucherie Lake

Faucherie Kayak Camp

Faucherie Lake California

Lake Faucherie is set in spectacular scenery of granite mountains, with peaks and waterfalls all around. Many believe that you could only reach this kinda high elevation beauty by foot, with a backpack, but here it is – accessible by a very long, rough & rocky backroad.

No motorhomes, no camper trailers, no motorboats, no engine noises on the lake, no big families. Just well-deserved solitude, finally. Peace and quiet!

Perfect alpine lake for car-top boaters – those who carry their boats on top of a vehicle. But be warned very few ‘passenger cars’ make it back this far, due to the challenging roads.

BACKPACKING, CAMPING, CANOEING, FISHING, FLOATING, HIKING, KAYAKING, OFF-ROADING, SOAKING, STARGAZING, SWIMMING

No motorized boats or watercraft allowed. One public boat ramp; gravel parking area, vault toilets, gated entry for group campground. No more driving across dam (it is now gated).

NFS NFS NFS kayak camp hiking mountains NFS backroads snowmelt stars

Faucherie Lake Road – a spur road, off of the ‘843 Road’ leads up to both Sawmill & Faucherie Lakes, as well as the Canyon Creek Campground.

This primitive road forks off at Jackson Creek Campground, Tahoe NF, way, way back behind Bowman Lake. The rugged route is also known as Nevada County Rd #843-037. Conflicting numbers appear on USDA web site for this route, so don’t get confused.

The brown Forest Service signage is decent at Jackson Creek Campground – so if you get that far, you’re almost there. Sorta. Did I mention how crazy the road is? Any wet weather or snow will make this route “4×4 required”. This place is closed off about half the year, due to deep snow (NOV-MAY). Although on summer weekends, this area is busy for a remote high Sierra lakes region.

To reach this rugged Canyon Creek takes hours of driving with a good backcountry map and a reliable, high clearance rig. AWD Subies and mini SUVs beware, you’ll need a spotter on the bad sections of this road (or risk serious oil pan damage). Or perhaps maybe, we “shouldn’t be back on these kinda roads in that ‘lil sportwagon’ missy.”

See more details on driving directions for Canyon Creek Campground.

Crystal Clear Faucherie

Faucherie Lake Group Campground
(25 people maximum per site)

• Elevation: 6135′
• Number of Sites: 2
• Vehicle Access: High Clearance Vehicle, no trailers
• Campsites Reservation: Yes
• Camp Fee: Yes
• Season: June – October
• Trailheads: Faucherie Lake Falls, Five Lakes Basin, French Lake, Haystack Mountain

camp
Faucherie Group Camping

Campground Reservations:
Nevada Irrigation District
530-265-5302

incoming flow

Faucherie Falls – Six waterfalls above lake:
Upper Faucherie Lake Falls #1: 39.4257 N, 120.5616 W
Upper Faucherie Lake Falls #2: 39.4257 N, 120.5606 W
Upper Faucherie Lake Falls #3: 39.4262 N, 120.5568 W
Upper Faucherie Lake Falls #4: 39.4268 N, 120.5550 W
Upper Faucherie Lake Falls #5: 39.4270 N, 120.5544 W
Upper Faucherie Lake Falls #6: 39.4272 N, 120.5538 W
USGS Topo: English Mountain

Granite Faucherie

Canyon Creek Campground

Tucked way back in the granite high elevations, near Donner Pass is a wilderness water flow called Canyon Creek. Connecting small lakes and big reservoir, this creek is part of the Nevada District water supply. The Sierra Nevada region is Tahoe National Forest and the terrain is abundant rock.

Campground is perched on the edge of rock overlooking the impressive whitewater; sounds of crashing water at certain campsites is deafening. Half of the campsites are located in a forest loop and the rest are out in the open, with much granite and fewer trees, perfect for star watchers. All campsites have new bear boxes – for proper food storage in black bear country.

Canyon Creek California

creekcanyon

Lake Faucherie is a mile up the creek and Sawmill Lake is a mile down stream, so it’s a great fishing location, as well as hiking, kayaking and canoeing destination. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is also routed close by. A hiking trailhead at the north end of Sawmill Lake leads to a loop hike of small lakes.

Tahoe Rd 843

roughest roads in the region

Campground loop is paved, but the 12+ mile access road is NOT.
Twenty plus miles of paved & gravel backroads in boulder-hopping bliss, leads to granite lined lakes and forested campsites. Two different driving routes into this canyon:

  • One is the longer way Road 18 – paved access off of Gold Country Highway 20, which becomes an 8 mile long, rocky, rough, one-lane road around Bowman Lake.
  • The other is slightly shorter, county road #843 that comes in the back way from Jackson Meadow Reservoir (off Hwy 89, N of Truckee).
  • Both of these primitive roads join at Jackson Creek Campground, a favorite among off-roaders.

    Canyon Creek Campground is another few miles up Road ##843-037, a rugged canyon route towards Lake Faucherie, where the road comes to a dead end.

    Don’t let the old maps fool you: these National Forest Roads are labeled as gravel roads, but boulders and rock slides are quite common. 4×4 would be nice, but high clearance is recommended.

    Minimal signs designate trails, roads and lake access; What signs that do exist are old, faded and broken. No warning signage reading ‘high clearance’ or ‘4WD recommended’ – so obviously Tahoe NF won’t be installing new signs anytime soon.

    Grassy Picnic Faucherie Lake

    Faucherie, Sawmill and Bowman Lakes are all along this waterway called Canyon Creek.

    Latitude: 39.436863
    Longitude: -120.579564
    Canyon Creek Campground

    • Elevation: 6000′
    • Number of Sites: 20
    • Toilet: Vault
    • Vehicle Access: High Clearance Vehicle, no trailers
    • Campsites Reservation: No
    • Camp Fee: No
    • Length of Stay: 14 Days
    • Season: June – October
    • Trailheads: Faucherie & Sawmill Lakes

    Small Site

    Canyon Creek Campground is an excellent campground for staying away from the crowds, which seem to focus more around Bowman Lake & Jackson Meadows Reservoir.

    granite camp

    Prefer camping outside of developed campgrounds? then the primitive camp sites that line Canyon Creek will be a welcomed surprise. Most are clearly marked with small signs and some may require 4×4 to access. When fire restrictions are tight, campfires are only allowed in the developed campgrounds.

    granite loop

    Gold Country California

    Gold Country Sierra Nevada

    historic murphys hotel

    1849:
    California Gold Rush began

    These foothill regions below are the rivers & mountains of the infamous California Gold Rush of the mid-1800’s. Many mountain dirt roads will lead to your secluded, private camp site, near a creek or river. Or plan on camping in a developed Campground near a recreation lake lined with amenities, pine trees & oaks. River rafting & kayaking can be found throughout this area, as well as backpacking, mountain biking and hiking trails. Fishing is very popular as well.

    Waterfalls, back roads, granite features, historic mining camps, big fishing rivers all abound. Wilderness backpacking in the High Sierra can be accessed by Hwy 108 (Sonora Pass) Hwy 4 (Ebbetts Pass) Hwy 88 (Carson Pass), Sierra US Route Hwy 50 & Interstate 80. Numerous small towns populate Historic Highway 49 for every tourists need – meals, laundry, grocery, coffee, lodging & shopping.

    waterfalls Sierra Nevada

    Gold Country California forest & parks –

    Hwy 4 Ebbetts Pass & Hwy 108 Sonora Pass

    Stanislaus National Forest
    Columbia State Park

    Arnold, Columbia, Dardanelle, Jamestown, Long Barn, Mi-Wuk, Murphys, Pinecrest, Sonora, Strawberry, Twain Harte

    Sierra Nevada

    Hwy 4 Ebbetts Pass & Hwy 88 Carson Pass, US Hwy 50

    El Dorado National Forest

    Amador City, Bear Valley, Georgetown, Jackson, Kirkwood, Meyers, Placerville

    Sierra Nevada

    Interstate 80 Donner Pass

    Tahoe National Forest

    Alta, Colfax, Foresthill, Grass Valley, Norden, Sierraville, Soda Springs, Tahoe City, Tahoma, Truckee

    Sierra Nevada

    North Hwy 49 Yuba River

    Malakoff Diggins State Park

    Downieville, Nevada City

    red brick alley