Boasting 72 miles of picturesque shoreline situated amongst the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Lake Tahoe is a bucket list trip for campers around the world.
But Lake Tahoe is so much more than photo ops! Whether you’re in it for water sports, hiking trails, or relaxing family time, a Lake Tahoe RV camping trip is one you’ll cherish forever.
To learn more about what RV camping in Lake Tahoe has to offer, keep reading!
The History of Lake Tahoe
The history of Lake Tahoe is deeply intertwined with the history of indigenous peoples in Nevada and California.
The Washoe people have lived in the Great Basin and the Sierra Nevada area for nearly 10,000 years, with their territory centered around Lake Tahoe.
Lake Tahoe’s name is derived from the Washo word Dáʔaw, which translates to “The Lake.”
Located on the eastern shore, Cave Rock, or De ek Wadapush, was a very sacred ceremonial space for the Washoe people. However, in 1931, a tunnel was blasted through the rock to build a highway.
European settlers first stumbled upon Lake Tahoe in 1844. From that point forward, the history of Lake Tahoe was fraught.
Border battles between Nevada and California, as well as the introduction of logging and mining, eventually pushed the indigenous people out of their homeland.
In 1945, the lake was officially named Lake Tahoe by the state of California.
Despite all the conflict, the native history of the area remains ready for you to discover on your Lake Tahoe RV camping trip.
Camping at Lake Tahoe
There are more than 20 different developed campsites in the Lake Tahoe area, but only some sites are RV-friendly. Most campsites are open in season (May to October), but Sugar Pine Point, Tahoe Valley, and Zephyr Cove are open year-round.
Unlike national parks and forests, dispersed camping throughout the Lake Tahoe area is not allowed. Due to the fire restrictions in California and Nevada, wood and charcoal fires are verboten anywhere besides the metal fire pits and barbeque grills installed at the campsites.
Lake Tahoe RV camping is very popular, so be prepared to make a reservation and do so far in advance.
Best Lake Tahoe RV Camping Sites
Though the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe is small, it’s home to some great views and great camping options. If you want to obtain any permit or license for your Lake Tahoe RV camping trip, keep in mind that this area is in Nevada, not California.
Nevada Beach Campground
The Nevada Beach Campground is home to 54 campsites, all open to tent and RV camping and many with gorgeous lake views.
Each campsite has tables, fire pits, grills, toilets, and drinking water provided on-site.
Though welcoming to RVs, there are no hookups or dumpsites.
Nevada Beach itself is the widest beach on Lake Tahoe, with plenty of room to dine, sport, read, tan, and play. Fishing is plentiful, and access to the Lam Wa Tah hiking trail is just outside the campground.
Zephyr Cove Resort
By and large, Zephyr Cove Resort is the top spot for Lake Tahoe RV camping.
The 93 RV sites with full hookups, water, and sewage sit pretty by the shore while still benefiting from the privacy and calm of a forested campsite.
Additional facilities include laundry, showers, toilers, vending machines, wifi, picnic tables, a fire pit, and even cable TV access.
Within the resort itself, you can find a restaurant as well as access to some of the resort’s amenities.
As far as Lake Tahoe RV camping goes, Zephyr Cove is the cream of the crop.
The north shore of Lake Tahoe is smaller and less busy than other areas around the lake. There are usually fewer people overall, as well as fewer campsites. For a quieter, more primitive camping experience, try exploring the north shore area!
But, as far as Lake Tahoe RV camping goes, there’s really only one good option.
Tahoe State Recreation Area
Tahoe State Recreation Area, or Tahoe SRA, is a small campground with only 23 sites.
Despite its compact size, it still welcomes RVs up to 21 feet long. There are no hookups or dump sites, but there are showers, bathrooms, drinking water, and picnic areas.
Though short on amenities, Tahoe SRA is excellent for easy access to outdoor activities.
There’s a picturesque bike path from the campground right into Tahoe City, as well as other hiking and biking choices all around.
The Tahoe SRA beach area is great for swimming, fishing, surfing, windsurfing, and stand-up paddleboarding.
Lake Tahoe’s south shore area is much larger than the east or north shore and tends to have bigger, more family-oriented campgrounds with better amenities.
Camp Richardson has 210 campsites that are spread around three different campgrounds. However, only one is RV friendly.
The Camp Richardson RV park has 96 sites, all with partial or full hookups. Each site has tables, a fire pit, and bear-proof food storage boxes.
Camp Richardson also has a large marina, where you can find watersport rentals, a general store, and a restaurant.
You’ll have ample access to fun activities at any of the three campgrounds, including day hiking, mountain biking, boating, waterskiing, and horseback riding!
Campground by the Lake
Right in the center of south Lake Tahoe, Campground by the Lake is a great choice if you want to camp without forfeiting your access to civilization.
For Campground by the Lake campers, you’ll be within walking distance from grocery stores, cafes, sandwich shops, and concessions.
El Dorado Beach is right outside the site, offering non-motorized water sports and mountain bike rentals.
While the campground is RV friendly, there are no hookups or dumpsites. There are, however, showers, bathrooms, picnic tables, fire pits, and barbeques.
Fallen Leaf Campground
Alongside its 206 campsites open to tents and RVs, Fallen Leaf Campground also has six reservable yurts!
It’s typically a less busy campground despite its location on the south shore of Lake Tahoe. There are gorgeous views and recreational activities galore, great for exploring with the whole family.
There are no hookups or dumpsites, but there are showers, tables, bear-proof storage boxes, grills, and firepits.
Fallen Leaf Campground is also known for its stargazing and wildlife observation opportunities.
Tahoe Valley Campground
With over 400 sites and year-round availability, Tahoe Valley Campground is a dream location for your Lake Tahoe RV camping trip.
Of the plentiful campsites, you’ll find a mix of tent camping, RV sites with no hookups, and RV sites with full hookups.
The campground is more than 60 acres and offers a plethora of amenities, including laundry, showers, sports courts, a camp store, a playground, and even a pool!
With all it offers, Tahoe Valley is a great campsite for a Lake Tahoe RV camping trip with your family.
The majority of the area’s campgrounds can be found along the western side of Lake Tahoe. However, the Lake Tahoe RV camping opportunities are slightly less sophisticated than other sites.
But that certainly won’t stop you from having an excellent time if you choose one of these options for your Lake Tahoe RV camping trip!
Emerald Bay State Park
Emerald Bay State Park consists of two looped campsites: Upper Eagle Point and Lower Eagle Point.
Upper Eagle is smaller, with 33 tent-only sites. Lower Eagle has 67 sites that are tent and RV-friendly up to 18 feet.
There aren’t any dump sites or hookups in either camp, but there are showers, restrooms, and potable water, as well as firewood and ice for purchase.
What makes camping at Emerald Bay State Park unique from other campgrounds is the first come, first serve boat-in campsites.
Throughout the area, the outdoor activity options are plentiful.
Fishing, boating, watersports (with rentals available), hiking, fishing, scuba diving, and snorkeling are all on the table and just outside your door when you camp at Emerald Bay State Park.
Meeks Bay Campground
Meeks Bay, or mayála wáťa in Washo, is a small but well-managed campground. Of the 37 available spaces, there are 14 non-electric sites and 23 sites with full hookups.
There’s shopping and dining nearby, as well as a marina where you can rent all kinds of fun outdoor gear, like kayaks and paddleboards.
On-site amenities include potable water, toilets, showers, and a picnic area, as well as firewood for sale.
Alongside the tiny but mighty campground, the area also boasts access to trailheads, Desolation Wilderness, and Phipps Pass. Fishing here is also fruitful.
Meeks Bay Campground and Beach provide some of the best views of the remnants of the sacred Cave Rock, which serves as a reminder of the area’s rich indigenous history.
Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park
With its two miles of shoreline and acres of beautiful forest, The Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park is a true gem of the Lake Tahoe area.
As such, camping in the park is a desirable opportunity. The 120 standard sites and 10 group sites welcome RVs but do not have hookups.
However, the campground does have an RV dumpsite, a picnic area, potable water, restrooms, and showers.
William Kent Campground
The William Kent Campground is particularly well suited to campers interested in exploring the area by bike.
The campground is relatively small, with only 80 sites available for tent and RV camping and no hookups.
Amenities include tables, a fire pit, grills, toilets, potable water, and a bear-proof storage locker.
Alongside the ample access to bike trails, the William Kent Campground is also great for anglers as its stretch along Lake Tahoe is known for its healthy, thriving fish populations.
Things To Do While RV Camping at Lake Tahoe
Sightseeing and Natural Wonders
The Lake Tahoe area is so storied it’s hard to set an itinerary for all the historical spots you want to check out. But a good place to start is the preserved turn-of-the-century architecture.
For lovers of the Roaring ‘20s and Dirty ‘30s, you’ll want to make time to see the Thunderbird Lodge, the historic home of the titan of industry George Whittell Jr. that has been frozen in time.
The lodge and surrounding area is now a museum and open for tours.
Another famous building on the premises is the Fleur du Lac Estate which you might recognize from The Godfather II.
It’s a private estate, but you can mosey up to the grounds to glimpse the stunning building.
Just round the bend, you’ll find Vikingsholm, a massive castle-like mansion on the water that once served as a prime example of Scandinavian architecture in the United States.
Nowadays, the mansion is a National Natural Landmark and is open to tours.
Sunsets over Lake Tahoe are nothing short of breathtaking. As dusk settles, folks scramble to their lookout points to watch the sun go down.
The best spots to watch the sunset around Lake Tahoe will be on the east shore facing west, particularly at Cave Rock, Sand Harbor, Crystal Bay Scenic Overlook, Monkey Rock, and Bonsai Rock.
When the last bit of orange disappears past the horizon, be sure to scoot on up north for a star tour.
At the Northstar California Resort, you can catch a presentation on the cosmos above Lake Tahoe and finish the night with some stargazing through Celestron telescopes.
When you’re RV camping at Lake Tahoe, there are so many outdoor activities to try and enjoy!
The calm, crystal-clear freshwater lake provides the perfect surface to kayak, paddleboard, float, and snorkel.
If you want to get more adventurous on the water, there are windsurfing, water skiing, tubing, and boating opportunities all throughout the area.
Don’t fret if you don’t have the gear yourself! There are ample locations to rent almost anything you may need for a day on the water.
For those happier on land, there are hundreds of scenic hiking and mountain biking trails around the lake and through the mountains. No matter your skill set, there’s a trail out there for you.
In the cooler months, take to the snow-capped Sierra Nevadas for some skiing, snowboarding, and snow biking, as well as any lessons you may need in these wintery sports.
Lake Tahoe Wilderness
The Lake Tahoe area is home to over 290 different animals.
The habitat here is fragile. California has 305 species on the endangered species list, including a few that can be found around Lake Tahoe.
Endangered animals in the area are Mountain Yellow-Legged Frogs, Northern Goshawk, California Spotted Owls, Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, Forster’s Tern, Mountain Beaves, Sierra Red Foxes, and Bufflehead Ducks.
On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll be sure to spot some mule deer, Douglas Squirrels, mallards, woodpeckers, raccoons, and porcupines.
Most of the fish in Lake Tahoe are trout, most predominantly the Mackinaw Trout. Other fish species include Kokanee Salmon, rainbow trout, and the endangered Lahontan Cutthroat Trout.
Black bears are pretty common in the area and have been known to be rather bold, hence the numerous bear-proof storage areas throughout the Lake Tahoe RV camping sites.
Overall, you should stay at least 100 meters away from large, dangerous animals in the Lake Tahoe area (and everywhere else you might camp).
There are 377 plants native to Lake Tahoe.
The dense forests are lush with cedars, pines, firs, alders, and aspens, making for a diverse relief against the mountainous backdrop.
The open, grassy areas dance with wildflowers of all shapes, sizes, colors, and species.
No matter where you look on your Lake Tahoe RV camping trip, you will surely find a lovely view overflowing with flora and fauna.
Things to Bring on Your Lake Tahoe RV Camping Trip
Though Lake Tahoe basks in the sun 80% of the time, it’s not summer year-round.
Lake Tahoe does see four distinct seasons, and with its proximity to the Sierra Nevada mountains, the temperature and weather conditions can vary from hour to hour.
With that being said, it’s crucial to dress in layers on your Lake Tahoe RV camping trip and pack plenty of options.
Prepare for the sun with some sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and of course, sunscreen. But be sure to have some cool weather gear with you, especially for nights out on the water.
The mountainous terrain around Lake Tahoe can be a bit uneven, so hiking boots or shoes with good traction are a must!
At Lake Tahoe, you can partake in just about any outdoor activity you can think of. Kayaking, mountain biking, surfing, and skiing are all fair game. Therefore, you’ll want your gear with you!
And, of course, you can’t forget your essential camping gear (check out this RV camping packing list for more details).
Wrapping up the Guide to Lake Tahoe RV Camping
Any amount of time taken to enjoy the beauty of Lake Tahoe is time well spent! And now, you’re ready to tackle your Lake Tahoe RV camping trip with a little more wisdom.
To ensure you have the best Lake Tahoe RV Camping trip possible, check out our recommendations for RV Camping Essentials.