Downieville sets the standard for camping, with epic seasonal activities from swimming to skiing.
Downieville is nestled in northern California, just west of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Close to several national forests and a wealth of campgrounds, Downieville is well-known for outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, and mountain biking. The Downieville Downhill, a 17-mile track running from Sierra City to the heart of Downieville, is undoubtedly the most famous. Campers can also dive into Lake Tahoe’s refreshing water in hot summer months or ski soothing groomers in the middle of winter. Stay the night in a yurt, wood cabin rental, or RV campground nearby. For fantastic hiking, head to Tahoe National Forest and walk beneath giant sequoia canopies, or get spritzed by misty air when watching waterfalls in Plumas National Forest before pitching a tent by the water at a dispersed campsite.
Roughly 1.5 hours from Downieville, Tahoe National Forest has 76 designated campgrounds to choose from. Book a fire lookout tower featuring propane-powered appliances, roll the RV into campgrounds equipped with toilet facilities and drinking water, or opt for primitive backcountry tent camping for an untamed experience in the local wilderness. Then, spend the day viewing giant sequoias in Placer County Big Trees Grove, discover preserved mining towns, or explore one of the many hiking trails that lead to natural gems like waterfalls, scenic vistas, and wildflower-filled meadows in spring.
The biggest freshwater lake within the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Lake Tahoe offers unbeatable summer fun and world-renowned ski resorts in winter. Although dispersed camping isn’t allowed in the Lake Tahoe area, there are plenty of other options including wood cabin rentals, glamping in canvas yurts, and RV-friendly campgrounds. Many tent and motorhome campgrounds provide convenient amenities like drinking water, restrooms, and laundry facilities, with individual campsites featuring picnic tables and grill-top fire rings. Head to Emerald Bay for sandy beaches in warmer months, and spend snowy winter days cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, or sledding at one of the nearby local ski resorts.
Get acquainted with Plumas National Forest’s awe-inspiring beauty and excellent camping options. There are dozens of RV and tent campgrounds to choose from, some with drinking water, flush toilets, picnic tables, and firepits. Dispersed camping is also allowed, just make sure to respect fire bans. There are eight separate recreation areas within Plumas National Forest to explore. Some well-known highlights include Feather Falls, scenic views at the Sierra Buttes Lookout, and Lake Davis for swimming and trout fishing.
Downieville offers year-round outdoor entertainment and camping accommodations, just be prepared for cold winters. An average annual snowfall of 115 inches makes it one of the snowiest areas in California. July and August are the warmest and driest months, but they’re also the busiest. Double-check for road and campground closures in wintertime, as well as campfire bans in the summertime. Many areas don’t allow fires seasonally, and the freezing winter temperatures shut down water access in higher-elevation campgrounds.