Tahoe National Forest
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    Recreation on the Tahoe National Forest

    With breathtaking mountain peaks, lush meadows filled with wildflowers, historic mining towns, destination vacation spots at Goodyears Bar, Downieville, Sierra City, Truckee, Yuba River, the Lakes Basin Area and the Jackson Meadows Region, the Tahoe National Forest is one of the most popular recreation forests in the US.

    • In winter, there are outstanding winter sports opportunities including world renowned downhill ski areas and extensive snowmobile and cross-country ski trails to experience.
    • In the summer, an extensive array of hiking trails (including a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail) , OHV, equestrian and mountain biking trails provide access to many lakes, rivers, and mountain tops.

    Developed recreation sites including campgrounds, boat ramps, picnic areas, nature trails and even a fire lookout or two that can be rented for overnight occupancy.

    Travel Corridors

    The recreation information is primarily organized by travel corridor. The main travel corridors are: Interstate 80, Highway 49, Highway 20, Highway 89 (North and South), Foresthill Divide Road, Mosquito Ridge Road, Bowman Road, Marysville Road, and Gold Lakes Road. Activities such as camping and hiking will also have related links to boating, biking, trailheads, parking, and OHV riding in the same corridor.

    Accessible Recreation Facilities

    Our accessible recreation guide lists facilities and recreation opportunities by Ranger District with features that are accessible for people with disabilities. (Not all locations/facilities listed are 100% accessible.) Because we are continually adding new accessible sites, please call ahead to the Ranger District for more information. The facilities listed meet federal accessibility standards (32-inch minimum width for doorways, adequate room for turning etc).


    The Tahoe National Forest is a mountain biking paradise. Many of the Forest's best mountain biking routes are on roads and trails that are rough and un-maintained. Always wear your helmet and gloves, and for safety, ride with a buddy. Carry basic tools—wrenches, screwdriver, chain breaker, pump, patch kit and spare tube.

    Bikes are not permitted within any designated wilderness area or on the Pacific Crest Trail.

    Camping & Cabins

    Camping opportunities in a variety of settings are abundant on the Forest. You can choose to camp in one of the 76 designated campgrounds on the Tahoe National Forest with assorted facilities or select more primitive camping with no constructed facilities.  

    General Camping Information

    General Camping Information

    Reservations: Most family and group campgrounds can be reserved by calling 877-444-6777 or going on line at www.recreation.gov. A portion of each family campground is open on a first-come, first-serve basis. Each campsite has a table, a fireplace, fire ring or cooking stove/grill. No showers or electrical hookups are available at these campgrounds. Group camps are available for use by advance reservation. All picnic areas are available only on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

    Length of Stay: Camping is limited to fourteen days per year within each family campground. Exception: In the Truckee River Corridor, State Route 89 south, there is a limit of 14 days per year for the entire corridor between I-380 and Tahoe City. 

    Camping outside of developed campgrounds or dispersed camping is limited to fourteen days per Ranger District. Dispersed camping is not available on all forest land. Check the local Ranger District to inquire about available locations and current fire restrictions.

    Season: The main camping season in the Tahoe National Forest is from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Although some campgrounds remain open for public use after the regular season, water systems are shut down to prevent freeze damage, and garbage collection is discontinued. Snow pack may inhibit vehicle access to open campgrounds during the winter, and care must be taken to park off roadways where snow removal equipment may operate.

    Garbage and Sanitation: Most developed sites have garbage containers and we ask you to please use them. When garbage service is not available, please take all your refuse with you. Leave a clean camp!

    Pets: Pets are allowed in developed sites, but must be on a 6' leash. Please be considerate for your pet's safety as well as the enjoyment and safety of other forest visitors. 

    Campfire Permits: Campfire permits are not required in designated recreation sites. A permit is required for all camping and cooking fires on undeveloped National Forest land. In periods of high fire danger, fire restrictions may be in effect. Check on current fire conditions with a Ranger Station before your outing. For a safer and more enjoyable outing, carefully follow the regulations and safety guidelines outlined in your campfire permit or posted in your campground.

    Site Capacity: In order to preserve soils and vegetation, the number of campers is limited to six people per individual site, except for group campgrounds or to a single family comprised of parents and dependent children.

    Firearms and Fireworks: You may bring firearms into developed camps and picnic grounds; however, you may not discharge them near any developed sites or areas of public recreation use within 150 yards. It is illegal to discharge or ignite any type of firecracker, rocket or other firework or explosive on all National Forest lands. 


    There are a few climbing areas that offer bouldering, sport climbing and rock climbing on the Tahoe National Forest. On Old Hwy 40 at Donner Summit, the climbing enthusiast can find traditional and sport climbing areas. This area offers slabs, cracks, faces and some overhangs to provide a variety of challenges and skill levels. Granite Chief Wilderness and the Bowman Lake area are also known for some climbing. For more specific information, visitors are urged to check with local equipment providers and/or search the internet as this site will not be developed to a more detailed level. 


    Tahoe National Forest is a favorite recreation area for fishing. The Tahoe NF is located within a three hour driving distance from San Francisco Bay Area; it is an hour and a half from Sacramento and about an hour from Reno. The proximity of these major urban areas to the Tahoe NF with its large and varied number of lakes, rivers, and streams has made recreation and particularly sport fishing a major activity on the Forest.

    Opportunities to fish on the Tahoe National are endless. Waters here are home to rainbow, brook, brown and some areas have Lahontan cutthroat.


    Hiking and backpacking get you up close and personal with the great outdoors. You notice the small things; the lichen growing on the trees, the tiny mammal footprints crossing the trail in front of you, the sound of scolding chipmunks.

    Hikers are advised to carry plenty of water and snacks for day hikes. Consider carrying a water filter or be prepared to boil surface water as all water sources should be considered contaminated with micro-organisms that can make you ill. Wear shoes with good support and be aware of wildlife and insects in the area. 

    Each area is unique and offers opportunities for all levels of hiking. So what are you waiting for, get out there and start walking. The journey is its own reward!

    Horse Riding & Camping

    The Forest contains abundant and varied natural resources and provides countless opportunities for your enjoyment as an equestrian. There are 7 developed campgrounds and 11 undeveloped sites available for equestrian use. 

    There are also approximately 500 miles of riding and hiking trails in the Tahoe NF. Some of these trails will lead you into the wilderness, where camping, without constructed facilities, is available.


    Hunting is a seasonal activity, and the rules are simple: Follow the state laws and regulations pertaining to hunting, including seasons, dates and licensing. Forests and grasslands may place some areas as off limits to hunting. So check in with your local Forest Service ranger to be sure you are following all the rules.

    Most of the public land on the Tahoe National Forest is open to hunting. There are sections within the Forest boundaries that are privately owned land holdings and their owners often post their lands against hunting, fishing or trespass.

    OHV Riding and Camping

    Many people with different interests may be enjoying an area at the same time. Trail and camping courtesy are essential for everyone to have an enjoyable experience. Be a good neighbor and extend the same courtesy and consideration to those around you as you expect from them. If you are using a Off-Highway Vehicle please follow the rules below when using trails: 

    •Motorcycles Yield to All

    •Bicycles Yield to Equestrians and Hikers

    •Hikers Yield to Equestrians

    For Open/Closed status on Tahoe National Forest Off-highway recreation areas, please call the appropriate Ranger District to verify the current status.

    Scenic Driving

    Several major highways run throughout the forest making much of the Tahoe National Forest easy to access--including Interstate 80 which connects Sacramento, California to Reno, Nevada and bisects the Sierra Nevada. Many of these roads can be considered scenic, although Interstate 80 and Highway 89 leading to Lake Tahoe are sometimes heavily impacted with traffic.

    A loop can be made around the northern part of the forest in about four hours by starting in Nevada City and following Highway 49 through Downieville and Sierra City over Yuba Pass; in Sierraville follow Highway 89 south to Truckee; in Truckee take Interstate 80 west over Donner Summit to Highway 20 to return to Nevada City. Or continue west on Interstate 80 if returning to Sacramento or the Bay Area.

    Water Activities

    From mountain lakes to white water, there are abundant opportunities available for water sports on the Tahoe National Forest. 

    Waterskiing, boating, sailing, kayaking, swimming, paddleboarding, windsurfing, and jet skiing are among the more popular activities at the larger lakes. 

    Experienced kayakers and rafters can find white water stretches on the Yuba, American and Truckee Rivers. There are also more gentle stretches for beginner level enthusiasts and float tubing. 

    No matter what level of water sport you're planning be safe and wear a lifejacket at all times. Remember conditions change from year to year. Watch out for fallen trees, sand bars, rocks and other obstacles.  

    Winter Sports

    Weather Can Change Rapidly

    In all your winter recreation, remember to plan carefully and use safety precautions. Winter in the Sierra is harsh, and conditions can change rapidly. Without thorough preparation, a brisk winter weekend of fun can turn into tragedy. Take the extra time to plan carefully. Carry the extra weight for possible weather changes.