If you’ve been following along with us for awhile, you know we take a road trip in the pop up camper every summer. This year, our goal was to get up to the Pacific Northwest. Our first stop was Sequoia National Park, which you can read all about here. Our second stop was a place I’ve been dying to visit for years… Lake Tahoe!
I did a lot of research when planning this stop on the trip. I wanted to be able to see and do some of the iconic, touristy things Tahoe is famous for–like Emerald Bay–but we also wanted a secluded campsite. After poring over campground reviews, we settled on Fallen Leaf Campground, and I am so glad we did.
The campground is nestled between Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Tahoe, just off Highway 89. There are about 200 sites available to reserve through Recreation.gov at $32/night. There are no hookups, but potable water spigots are plentiful. There aren’t any laundry facilities either, but we were able to find a laundromat just up the road in South Lake Tahoe. Fallen Leaf has the best campground bathrooms we’ve ever experienced. Showers were $2 for six minutes (quarters only), and they were heavenly–great water pressure, instantly warm water, and always clean. My kids loved the fact that the bathrooms and showers were private and well maintained.
Mr. TypeTwoFun loved the fact that the campground was spread out and the sites were fairly large. When we visited in early June, the campground was busy but not hectic, and the sites were so large and spread out that we felt secluded. We knew we had neighbors, but they weren’t on top of us, which was nice. Each site has a bear box (although we didn’t see any bears), a fire ring, picnic table, and a standing BBQ.
We reserved site #73, and our main complaint about the site was that it wasn’t an ideal set up for our pop up camper–it might be perfect for another camper. It was a narrow, paved back-in site, and the pavement dropped off just outside our camper. We weren’t able to set up the outdoor kitchen the way we usually do, and had to find rocks to prop up the outdoor stove we brought. We hook it up to the propane from the camper, so setting up away from the pop up wasn’t an option. We also weren’t able to open up the awning, as there was a large tree right outside the door. We maneuvered the camper the best we could, but if we were to return, we’d definitely pick another spot–maybe a pull-through site across the road.
On the plus side, there was plenty of shade at our site, so we didn’t really need the awning. The picnic table was huge and sturdy, and the site was pretty spread out. This is definitely a family-friendly place. There were kids riding bikes and playing all throughout the campground, and there is a short hiking trail from the campground to Fallen Leaf Lake. The girls enjoyed a hike down to the water a couple times during our stay. We were definitely comfortable here, and even with all the campers around, it was blissfully peaceful at night.
Fallen Leaf Campground is about 10 minutes away from Emerald Bay, and the recreation opportunities there are amazing. We packed up our Camelbaks with lunch and snacks for the day and headed down to Emerald Bay to do some kayaking. Since this was our first time kayaking, we decided to take it easy. We researched our options beforehand and decided to rent from Kayak Tahoe. They had plenty of information for first-timers on their website, so we had no problem finding the best option for our family. We parked our car in the parking lot for Vikingsholm, and hiked about a mile down to Emerald Bay. This did cost us $10, but we had access to any of the California State Parks in the area for that day. And get there early! The parking lot did fill up by early afternoon, and we visited on a Wednesday.
The plan was to visit the Tea House atop Fannette Island. The Tea House is a stone structure that looks like a miniature castle on top of the island. It was built by Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight (the woman who built Vikingsholm) during the same time that Vikingsholm was constructed, from 1928-29. After being transported to the island by motorboat, Mrs. Knight and her guests would occasionally be served tea there. It’s mostly in ruins now, but we thought it would be a fun stop.
And it definitely was! We docked on Fannette Island and explored for about 30 minutes. There is a trail up to the Tea House, and we stopped to snack and take in our surroundings. The beauty of Lake Tahoe takes your breath away.
We had so much fun that we blew through our 2-hour rental in no time. We ended up keeping the kayaks for the full day. We explored Emerald Bay most of the day, stopping for lunch at a sandy beach. The scenery was so gorgeous and the weather so beautiful, we completely lost track of time.
When our arms were thoroughly tired, we explored Vikingsholm from the outside before heading back to the car. If you have the time (and your kids aren’t too worn out), you can also tour the inside. Tours prices are $10/adults and $8/kids 7-17. Kids under 6 are free. We were ready to head back to camp, so we skipped the tour, but the outside itself is pretty amazing. It’s definitely worth exploring. There are also some amazing trails in Emerald Bay that begged to be hiked. Next time! 😀
After exploring Emerald Bay all day, we headed into South Lake Tahoe for dinner. I was too wiped out to cook. It was nice to be staying in a campground close enough to town to have that option. It was definitely the best of both worlds, because once we got back to camp, it felt like we were well away from all the bustle of downtown. Although we got a pretty good signal in South Lake Tahoe, there was no cell service in camp. That meant the kids had to find other ways to entertain themselves. I call that a definite win! 😛
Helpful Tips for Pop Up Camping in Fallen Leaf Campground
- There are NO hookups, although potable water is available at several water spigots around the campground. We were able to dispose of our gray water in the campground toilets.
- There is a store at the campground entrance, where you can buy firewood and ice. The camp hosts and rangers were exceptionally friendly and all too glad to offer help or give directions.
- Each campsite has a bear box, and all food must be stored in it at all times. We were allowed to store our toiletries inside the pop up camper–at our own risk and as long as they were inside a cabinet. We were also allowed to use the cassette potty without restrictions. No food could be stored in the PUP, though.
- The showers and bathrooms were the best we’ve ever seen. They were always clean, and the shower prices were reasonable. Shower prices were $2 for 6 minutes, and the machines took quarters only. There were no change machines on site, so make sure you have lots of quarters.
- Fallen Leaf Campground feels secluded, but it is only a short drive from downtown South Lake Tahoe. If you forget supplies or want to go into town for a meal or to do laundry, you won’t have to drive far. 😉
- Our particular site wasn’t very level. Make sure you’ve got some sort of leveling system, and be prepared to take a little extra time getting the camper set up at the campsite. We weren’t able to setup our outdoor kitchen in our usual way, so make sure to have a back up plan!
Have you stayed in Fallen Leaf Campground with your pop up camper? Do you have another Lake Tahoe campground you love? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section below!
New to The Pop Up Princess? Would you like to catch up on our road trip adventures from the past five years? You can find those links here: