Shop by day and camp by night at this busy resort town on the cobalt waters of Lake Tahoe.
On the tip of Lake Tahoe in California, this resort town is the largest on the Lake. The small city is known for blending busy energy and natural beauty. Snow-capped mountains rise above restaurants and hotels on Highway 50, blocks from the beach's cobalt waters. Just over the Nevada border, casinos line the strip. You might think you couldn't possibly pitch a tent here. Not so—South Lake Tahoe has over a dozen campgrounds, both public and private. The unusual mix of nature and nightlife is great for campers who want to hit the town, then sleep under the stars. To stay close to the action, check out the city-operated Campground by the Lake. Next to El Dorado Beach, the camp has cabins, tent sites, and partial hook-ups for RVs, plus a swimming pool and boat rentals. The green waters and pine trees of Emerald Bay make for seriously scenic camping. This large state park has secluded sandy beaches, boat launches, and hiking trails that hug the bay. Walk or drive to Inspiration Point on the south shore, an outlook on the bay overlooking Vikingsholm, a historic Scandinavian mansion. The park has two public campgrounds open seasonally. Eagle Point has camping sites set back above a small beach—a picturesque location that fills up fast. Emerald Bay Boat Camp offers a buoy for your boat and primitive tent sites on shore. Both camps have active black bears, so proper food storage is a must. Close by, Bayview Campground has primitive camping on a first-come, first-serve basis. The grounds are near the trailhead for Desolation Wilderness, a vast alpine forest with granite outcroppings. Grab a permit from the rangers office before you enter, even just for the day. Fallen Leaf Lake is one of Lake Tahoe's little sisters. This small glacial Lake has quiet shores that are great for relaxed camping and boating. Fallen Leaf Campground is a short walk from the beaches, offering yurts, tent and trailer sites. Trailers who need full hook-ups and Wi-Fi can check out several private RV parks off Highway 50. Or drive up the shore to Zephyr Cove in Nevada, where you can find RV resorts close to the marina. When scheduling your trip, keep in mind that just because you're in California doesn't mean it's always warm. The mountain weather brings snowy winters and dry, sunny summers. July and August are your best bets for tent camping. Even then, it's not unusual for the thermostat to dip under 50 degrees F.