Editor’s note: J. Brandon, who is helping to coordinate the upcoming Carson Valley/Lake Tahoe Adventure Motorcycle Ride & Rendezvous, recently put together this piece on some of the various camping spots available in the area. It’s a great read!
by J. Brandon, http://www.carsontahoemoto.com
Want to camp? Carson Valley and the surrounding area offer lots of choices. Some are close enough to be good choices for camping during the event. Others would be a great way to extend your stay and get out into the backcountry for a little motorcycle adventure.
Adventure motorcycle camping in the Sierra Nevada, near Carson Valley.
There are two RV parks in Minden, Nevada and another at Topaz Lake, approximately 22 miles south on US 395. RV camping is also available at several public campgrounds within a few miles of Carson Valley. Most of these RV parks do not allow tent camping, so they are not the place to stay if you are camping off the bike. But if you are traveling in a large RV and hauling your motorcycles, these could be great choices.
The Carson Valley RV Resort is located at event headquarters, the Carson Valley Inn. The park offers 59 full-hookup sites with electric, water, sewer, and cable TV. There are a 25 pull-through sites and 34 back-in sites.
The Silver City RV Park Resort is just north on US 395, approximately eight miles from event headquarters. The park offers 206 full-hookup sites with electric, water, sewer, and cable TV.
The Topaz Lodge RV Park is located at beautiful Topaz Lake, approximately 22 miles south of event headquarters on US 395. The park has 60 RV sites, 30 and 50 amp electrical service, and pull-throughs. Amenities include restrooms, hot showers, and a complimentary dump station.
Also at Topaz Lake is a public campground operated by Douglas County. The Topaz Lake Recreation Area offers 15 RV campsites with water and power hookups, 13 RV campsites with water only, and 42 dry campsites. It also offers primitive camping in undeveloped areas. This campground does allow tent camping.
The US Bureau of Land Management operates a developed campground at Indian Creek Recreation Area near Markleeville in Alpine County, California. It’s about 23 miles of scenic road to Minden, with some nice twisties along the way. The campground has 19 campsites for RV or tent camping. There is also a separate tent-camping-only area. The campground has drinking water, flush toilets, and hot showers, but no RV hookups.
The US Forest Service operates several developed camping areas not far from Carson Valley:
Crystal Springs Campground is about 16 miles from Minden, near Woodfords, California, in a beautiful location on the West Fork of the Carson River. It has 19 campsites suitable for tent camping, car camping, or camping trailers up to 35 feet long. The campground has drinking water and vault toilets.
Just up the road is the Kit Carson Campground, also about 16 miles from Minden, and also on the Carson River. It has 12 campsites suitable for tent camping, car camping, or camping trailers up to 30 feet long. The campground has drinking water and vault toilets.
Markleeville Campground is a half-mile from the little town of Markleeville, California. It’s about 22 miles and maybe 30 minutes of fun riding to Minden. It’s a small campground with just 10 sites for tents or camping trailers up to 24 feet long. There’s drinking water and a vault toilet.
Hope Valley Campground is about 25 miles and 35 minutes from Minden; probably too far away for camping during the event. But it’s a beautiful spot with even more remote options right nearby. There are 22 single campsites plus six double sites. The campground can accommodate trailers up to 35 feet long and it has drinking water and toilets. This is a very popular campground and sites can be reserved ahead of time. There are also several areas very nearby for undeveloped camping.
Desert Creek Campground is an interesting developed campground with toilets, tables, and fire rings that is also fairly remote and can be difficult to get to. It lies in a narrow canyon. The road in and out crosses Desert Creek several times in quick succession. Depending on which direction you head in you may face two to five water crossings to get to the campground. Early in the summer the creek runs high and fast. It may be difficult to impossible to make the water crossings on a motorcycle. Later in the year the creek is nearly dry and the crossings are much easier. In winter the creek freezes over and the road can be buried by snow. Under the best of conditions it is at least an hour’s ride to Carson Valley. If you visit Desert Creek during the week there is a very good chance you will have the entire area to yourself.
Just one of several water crossings on Desert Creek. Challenging adventure motorcycle travel.
Grover Hot Springs is a California State Park near Markleeville, about 25 miles and 40 minutes from Minden. Probably not a great choice for camping during the Adventure Moto event but an interesting idea for an extended exploration afterward. Besides developed camping with 76 sites for tents and trailers up to 24 feet long, drinking water, and toilets, the park also includes two concrete pools filled with water from natural hot springs. Grover Hot Springs is very popular and offers a reservations system for camping.
Undeveloped camping is camping outside of formally designated campgrounds. It is also called dispersed camping. Undeveloped camping is allowed on much of the public land in and surrounding Carson Valley. To find out if it is allowed in the area you want to visit, check with the agency that manages the land. That’s usually the US Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management. Occasionally, the land will be managed by the state or county.
Undeveloped camping usually means dirt roads, dry campsites, no facilities, no fees, and lots of solitude and quiet. If you are used to camping in developed campgrounds and want a more challenging, and perhaps more rewarding, experience, dispersed camping might be right for you. It is almost certainly not the best choice if you are new to camping. There won’t be any toilets, picnic tables, water faucets, bear boxes, or rangers to come by and see if you are OK. In summer it will probably be illegal to build a campfire and to smoke. In severe fire seasons your camping stove might even be prohibited.
Adventure motorcycle riding in the Pine Nut Mountains, east of Carson Valley, Nevada.
If you want to try camping in undeveloped areas near Carson Valley, we recommend exploring the Carson Range up around Genoa Peak, overlooking Lake Tahoe. For a more high desert experience, consider the Pine Nut Mountains on the east side of the Valley. There are some surprisingly beautiful camping opportunities there, including cool, shady aspen groves, natural springs, and dramatic, sub-alpine environments.
Check with the responsible land-management agency for the current fire restrictions where you want to camp. Most likely during the summer, fires including charcoal fires, and sometimes even camp stoves, will be prohibited outside of developed campgrounds. Often in summer smoking is not allowed outside of buildings or enclosed vehicles. Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center is a good place to start looking for the current information.