$34.50 - 36.50 • Sites 078, 156
Pulling into Tahoe via Stateline, Nevada is like pulling into a Las Vegas/Up North baby. Casinos and resorts turn into camps and fudge shops. From the East you’ll pass thru all of that, past the Camp Richardson and finally turn away from Lake Tahoe into Fallen Leaf Campground. If you’re going to camp in Tahoe you’ve made the right decision. Fallen Leaf Lake is at the rear of the camp. While smaller and not as well known it is also not overly trafficked, crystal clear and surrounded by hiking paths along the water.
Fallen Leaf Campground is a massive 206+ site compound complete with its own store, shower houses and if you travel past the camp all the way to the other side of the lake (and other campgrounds) an ice cream shop. That said, Fallen Leaf Campground does a great job of keeping an “out in the woods” vibe. It is absolutely that place that families go year after year after year, but if you can get a site on the outer loop you can still have some separation, plenty of trees and with the lake so close, feel like you’re in the heart of nature. One of the better jobs by a large scale campground I’ve experienced.
But be prepared. It’s going to be full of kids and dogs and campers who are not necessarily out there to experience nature but to see family and friends and likely drink a caseload of Bud Light a day. There may also be bears. Bears are everywhere here. Or so we heard. We never saw one, but the camp staff and campers around us all had bear stories that "just happened yesterday! or last week! or in 1950!" Basically, bears. There are bear boxes at each site, and kids everywhere you probably won't be a bears first target. Just be bear aware. Across the main road from the campground is the mighty Lake Tahoe. It was okay. Lots of people, lots of choppy waves. We preferred setting up the hammock by Fallen Leaf Lake.
The showers were nice but pricey. Four U.S. Quarters for 3 minutes. You can get done what you want but no more. There are about four per loop (give or take 25 sites) but we never had a problem finding one open. There are no outlets for charging or bathroom appliances though. The older bathrooms along the inner loop are dated and worn but have accessible outlets if you need some juice. The toilets everywhere are flush and each loop has at least one camp host staying on it. The staffers were friendly, helpful and accessible.
The outer loop is where you want to be if you are looking for any privacy or traveling alone. The inner loop, with its lack of privacy, was the spot for large groups. On our second night we stayed in the inner loop and our neighbors had booked 19 sites for incoming family and friends. It’s tough being in the middle of that when you weren’t planning on joining a new family. The outer loop sites are mostly well shaded and have a lot more privacy, as well as lake accessibility if you are in the back row which I’d recommend. At $34.50 you want the best spots. It also forced me to ask myself, “How much is too much for a campsite?”
Fallen Leaf Lake Campground gets 3 Tent Stakes of Awesomeness. In Tahoe, you’ll never escape the crowds or tourists, but Fallen Leaf Lake Campground does a good job of insulating you somewhat from that while maintaining a nice campground on the edge of a lovely lake. No blasphemy intended but I’d spend the day at Fallen Leaf Lake over Lake Tahoe any day.
Pro-Tip #1: Site 078-079 are massive pull-thru sites but great if you’re tent camping. More private, well shaded and closest to the lake and free downed firewood.
Pro-Tip #2: Site 156 sucks. Unless you want to look at stars. No shade or privacy. A long way from any shower/bath house and electric wires running above you.
Pro-Tip #3: Firewood is readily available downed by the lake or on trails if you’re willing to put in five minutes of effort.
Pro-Tip #4: The Baldwin ruins aren’t worth it, but the walk around the lake or along the Morraine Trail is.
Pro-Tip #5: There is a decent wind that starts early to mid-afternoon coming in against the shore over the lake. It is blocked to the camp, but mornings are the best time for lake time. Mornings are glassy on the lake for paddle boarding and kayaking as well, but choppier in the afternoon.