NorCal Roadtrips

An Explorer's Guide to Northern California

Exploring Eldorado National Forest


Compared to many, Eldorado National Forest is on the small size but it makes up for that in natural beauty. It is bordered to the north by Tahoe and Plumas National Forests, to the south by Stanislaus National Forest and to the east by Toiyabe National Forest. For backpackers, there are two wilderness areas in the forest, the Desolation Wilderness and the Mokelumne Wilderness. It boasts more than 400 miles of hiking trails, hundreds of lakes and functions year-round. Warm-weather fans hike, camp, fish, swim, kayak, bike and ride horses. Cold-weather fans ski (alpine & cross-country), snowmobile, ice-fish and hunt. Two roads take road-tripping to new heights: Highways 50 and 88. Parts of the former has been designated the Pony Express National Historic Trail and the latter the Carson Pass National Scenic Byway. Even without nicknames they're both pretty nice drives.

The Destinations- Hwy. 88 Corridor

Salt Springs Reservoir- A 961 acre PG&E facility set at 3,900 feet where all types of boating is allowed, as well as swimming, hiking and fishing for native trout. The lake is not stocked. There is no camping at the lake, but primitive sites are nearby on the Mokelumne River. Click the Salt Springs Reservoir link for more information & directions.

Bear River & Lower Bear River Reservoirs- the lower reservoir is where the action is; Bear River Reservoir is a hike-to spot for a picnic. Lower Bear River Reservoir sits at 5,849 feet with 727 surface acres and offers all types of boating and fishing for stocked rainbow, brown & brook trout. There are less than 50 public campsites total, so it's somewhat exclusive. A private resort offers 125 more. For anglers, fish are stocked by both DFG and an on-site resort operator so folks in the mood should be able to stock up on their omega acids, or whatever it is that's supposed to be good for you; maybe it's the taste. Click the Lower Bear River Reservoir link for more information and directions.

Silver Lake- one of our favorite alpine lakes. Sitting at 7,200 feet along Hwy. 88 it offers boating of all types, swimming, hiking and fishing for stocked rainbow trout. There are 2 full-service marinas with boat rentals and more and plenty of camping. Click the Silver Lake link for more information & directions.

Caples Lake- Another jewel, just up the road from Silver Lake. It sits at 7,950 feet with 600 surface acres and offers camping and fishing for stocked rainbow, brown and brook trout. There are some Mackinaw too. A beautiful rustic resort with boat rentals completes the picture. There's a 10 MPH speed limit. Click the Caples Lake link for more information & directions.

Kirkwood Lake- a small lake with no facilities and a somewhat challenging access road not suitable to larger RV's or trailers. Boating is limited as motors are not allowed. There is swimming and limited fishing for rainbow trout.

Woods Lake- This is a small lake just up the road from Caples Lake, 2 miles off of Hwy. 88. It sits at 8,200 feet and offers camping and fishing for stocked rainbow trout. Boats with motors are not allowed. There's a home directly across from the picnic area and this feels like their private lake. Click the Woods Lake link for more information & directions.

Red Lake- across the line in Toiyabe National Forest, this small lake (but bigger than Woods Lake) has 2 undeveloped campgrounds on the east shore, along with an uninproved launch area near the dam. It sits on DFG land.

Upper & Lower Blue Lakes- these conjoined lakes sit off Hwy. 88 near the West Fork of the Carson River in the midst of some really pretty country. The lakes themselves are somewhat homely for this area, as are the nearby campgrounds. But they're not horrible; they just suffer by comparison to their neighbors. One big virtue, the fishing for stocked rainbow trout can be good and the shoreline allows easy access. You can fish from the earthen dam with success. Click the Blue Lakes link for more information & directions. Tiny hike-to lakes are nearby.

The Destinations- Hwy. 50 Corridor

Jenkinson Lake- a 640 surface acre lake set at 3,500 feet elevation managed by the El Dorado Irrigation District and known as the Sly Park Recreation Area.

Destinations- Other Roads

Stumpy Meadows Lake/ Reservoir- a quality destination for the angler. Sitting at 4,260 feet this 320 surface acre lake is situated in a wooded area and offers fishing for stocked rainbow and German Brown trout. This is one of the most heavily stocked lakes in the state. It allows all boating, but with a 5 MPH speed limit. And it's only about 18 miles from Auburn, due east. Click the link for Stumpy Meadows Lake for more information and directions.

The Roads

Highway 88- Jackson to Carson Pass

Highway 50- Placerville to Echo Summit