Summer days with kids don’t get any better than around Lake Tahoe when your morning starts on a sandy shore with beach toys and ends with a cool drink overlooking the lake’s sapphire blue waters. Picture Hawaii Big Island with sugar pines instead of coconut trees and wood fired pizzas instead of pork luaus.
Every year we always spend a few days camping around Lake Tahoe and they are always our dedicated “beach days”. The water is cold but kids can’t resist crystal blue water that sparkles in the sun. Here are the places we’ve pitched our tent around the lake and what we thought.
#1 Ed Z-Berg Sugar Pine Point State Park – Frog Mom rating: 4.5/5
Sandy shoreline, swimming beach, sugar pines, historic mansion and easy trails – what’s not to love? Located on the west shore of Lake Tahoe 10 miles south of Tahoe City on Highway 89, Ed Z’Berg Sugar Pine Point State Park is a great campground for families. Once the tent is pitched and the food secured in the bear locker, you can pretty much say bye-bye to your car for the weekend and explore the area on foot or on your bike.
- Spacious, beautiful sites shaded by giant sugar pines
- Flat and level areas, dirt ground (very few rocks)
- Big boulders between campsites provide impromptu rock climbing fun for kids
- Camp sites are away from the car traffic
- Hot showers and restrooms
- Bike paths inside the campground
- You can walk to the historic Hellman-Ehrman mansion and show the kids how opulent families lived in the first half of the 20th century
- 15 minute walk via a hiking trail down to the small sandy beach on the lake, next to the fishing pier.
- The campground is separated from the lake by a busy road (highway 89) and it’s nestled inside a sugar pine forest. No beach-side camping with lake view here and you’ll have to watch the traffic when you cross.
- The closest general store is 4 minutes drive away in Tahoma.
Reserve your next camping trip on reserveamerica.com.
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#2 D.L. Bliss State Park – Frog Mom rating: 4/5
Oh it’s really a toss-up between D.L. Bliss and Sugar Pine Point as to which one I prefer. Both parks are amazingly beautiful, they are both part of the California state park system and the nature is fantastic. However there is a difference. What D.L. Bliss has that Sugar Pine Point doesn’t is beach campsites. For many families, that’s a hardcore selling point. Located on the West Shore, 17 miles south of Tahoe City on Highway 89, D.L. Bliss State Park is a couple of miles north of Emerald Bay. You can camp right next to the beach (reserve a spot in the Beach camp) and enjoy the beach all day, or take some hikes in the trails in the park or out onto the rocks on Rubicon Point. We did the 0.5 mile to Balancing Rock with our girls and they also spent a day getting their Junior Ranger badge by picking up trail trash and doing a couple nature activities.
- Beach sites, check
- Even if not beach sites, you can walk to the beach from your campsite easily
- Hot showers and flush restrooms
- One of the best beaches on the lake
- Active ranger station with kid programs
- Short drive to trailhead for beautiful (and short) Eagle Falls and Creek and gorgeous trails of Desolation Wilderness
- Short drive to historic mansion Vikingsholm – a Scandinavian architectural extravaganza complete with sod roof and carbed dragon beams.
- 5 minute drive to Emerald Bay, the jewel bay of Lake Tahoe
- Cramped sites, potentially noisy. Love thy neighbor!
- Sites are all on a descending slope which explains why some sites don’t have a ton of space for camping.
- No stores on site, have to drive for food.
Reserve your next camping trip at reserveamerica.com.
#3 Camp Richardson Historic Resort – Frog Mom Rating: 3/5
Historic resort, sure – campground, can do better. The only reason we ever camped at Camp Richardson was because none of the state parks around the lake had spots for us. That’s how we spent two nights at Badger’s Den on a campsite that closely resembled a parking lot.
- Part of a bigger resort so if you want to upgrade to a cabin or hotel room and they have space, it’s an option!
- Flat walking path to a sandy beach and marina
- Kayak and paddleboat rentals
- Rum Runner cruise on the lake
- Walking distance to Camp Richardson’s restaurant The Beacon. Now, I call that a big plus because if you don’t feel like cooking or getting in the car, you can just reserve a lake-front table, sip your cocktail or fresh beer, and order from the menu. The food isn’t fantastic but it’s not bad either. And if the kids are bored, they can run to play in the sand within eyesight.
- Hot showers and restrooms
- Biking trails
- Quick walk to the ice cream shop – you know the kids will like that!
- Good for inter-generational summer escapes because you can set up the gramps in a cabin or the hotel and pitch your tent in the campground.
- Wonderful Tahoe Tallac Historic Site accessible by bike or car – The Pope Estate hands down my favorite house museum around the lake. Roaring 20s thrills!
- Very dusty campsites
- Cramped therefore noisy campsites – they vary dramatically in size and appeal
- “Landscaping” is basically no frills and we were (conveniently) positioned next to a set of trash bins
- Nature is not the number one priority
- The beach is not very clean and the motorized boats can be noisy – that’s what you get with a marina on the lake
Reserve your next Camp Richardson experience here.
Next time I go to Lake Tahoe, I plan to try the Nevada side campgrounds. I hear they are simply out of this world.
What’s your favorite place to stay around Lake Tahoe?
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Laure is an author, environmental advocate, blogger, open water swimmer and now mother. She's passionate about inspiring families to enjoy the outdoors with their children, learning to unplug and living a healthy lifestyle, giving kids life skills and exploring the world around us sharing Family Friendly, Fun Ideas for the whole family on Frog Mom.