Loon Lake Camping and Recreation

Loon Lake Crystal Basin Pano
Written by sierrarecmagazine

Camping and more in the Crystal Basins Loon Lake area.

Loon lake is one of the jewels of the central Sierra. As clear as lake Tahoe this large high alpine lake is home to a starting stage of the Rubicon trail, desolation wilderness access and hundreds of other crystal basin favorites. Loon lake is located 23 miles north of Highway 50 on Ice House Road.

Loon Lake campgrounds are at about 6,400 feet in elevation and are usually open from mid-June through mid-October. Single sites are limited to 1 vehicle and 6 people. An extra vehicle is allowed for an additional fee if parking space permits. Trailers are counted as vehicles. Loon Lake in the Crystal Basin of El Dorado County has been known in the angling community for decades as a pristine location for trollers and bank anglers to catch large numbers of holdover and planted rainbow trout.

Loon Lake Day use

Loon Lake Day use fee. Located near Loon Lake Campground on Loon Lake, 33 miles north of
Highway 50 on Ice House Road. There are 5 picnic sites with tables and grills. Vault toilets are fully
accessible for wheelchairs. Fishing, boating, and hiking opportunities.

Loon Lake Campground

Loon lake crystal basin
Loon lake crystal basin

Located at the south shore of Loon Lake, 23 miles north of Highway 50 on Ice House Road. The campground is at 6,500 feet and is usually open from mid-June. to mid-October.

Campground Amenities

  • 53 campsites for tents and RVs,, vault toilets, piped water, dump station
  • Picnic tables, grills, fire rings, bear boxes

Reservations: (877) 444-6777 or Recreation.gov – Loon Lake Campground
Fees: $28

Loon Lake Boatramp

Located at the south shore of Loon Lake, 23 miles north of Highway 50 on Ice House Road. The campground is at 6,500 feet and is usually open from mid-June. to mid-October. This is an RV only area, a designated portion of the boat ramp parking lot.

Campground Amenities

  • 15 parking slots for RVs, vault toilets, piped water, dump station
  • No picnic tables, hook-ups, or fire rings

Reservations: None
Fees: $22

Loon Lake Equestrian Campground

Located as part of Loon Lake Campground at the south shore of Loon Lake, 23 miles north of Highway 50 on Ice House Road. The campground is at 6,500 feet and is usually open from mid-June. to mid-October.

Campground Amenities

  • 9 campsites for tents and RVs, vault toilets, piped water, dump station
  • Picnic tables, grills, fire rings, bear boxes
  • Horseback riding to the Van Vleck area

Reservations: (877) 444-6777 or Recreation.gov – Loon Lake Campground
Fees: $28

Loon Lake Group Campground and
Group Equestrian Campground

Located as part of Loon Lake Campground at the south shore of Loon Lake, 23 miles north of Highway 50 on Ice House Road. The campground is at 6,500 feet and is usually open from mid-June. to mid-October.

Campground Amenities

  • 3 Group Sites: #1 walk-in tent sites for up to 50 campers, #2 tent or RV site for up to 35 campers, #3 Equestrian site for tent or RVs and up to 25 campers
  • vault toilets, piped water, dump station
  • Picnic tables, grills, fire rings
  • Horseback riding to the Van Vleck area

Reservations: (877) 444-6777 or Recreation.gov – Loon Lake Campground
Fees: Campsites #1 or #2 $130, campsite #3 $160

Northshore Campground

Located on the northwest shore of Loon Lake, 31 miles north of Highway 50 on Ice House Road. The campground is at 6,200 feet and is usually open from mid-June. to mid-October.

Campground Amenities

  • 15 campsites for tents or RVs, vault toilets, no piped water
  • Picnic tables, grills, fire rings
  • Near Rubicon OHV Trail

Reservations: None
Fees: $10

Pleasant Boat-In Campground

Located on the northeast shore of Loon Lake, 29 miles north of Highway 50 on Ice House Road and 3 miles by boat across Loon lake. The campground is also accessible by trail. The campground is at 6,400 feet and is usually open from mid-June. to mid-October.

Campground Amenities

  • 10 campsites for tents, no toilets, no piped water
  • Picnic tables, grills, fire rings

Reservations: None
Fees: None

Red Fir Group Campground

Located on the northwest shore of Loon Lake, 31 miles north of Highway 50 on Ice House Road and 3 miles by boat across Loon lake. The campground is also accessible by trail. The campground is at 6,400 feet and is usually open from mid-June. to mid-October.

Campground Amenities

  • 1 group site for tents only (up to 25 people), vault toilets, piped water
  • Picnic tables, group grills, fire rings
  • Near Rubicon OHV Trail

Reservations: (877) 444-6777 or Recreation.gov – Red Fir Group Campground
Fees: $40


Backpacking /Hiking Desolation Wilderness from Loon Lake Area

There are two access trails into Desolation Wilderness near Loon Lake. The first is located near Loon Lake campground and is a common access point for Rockbound Lake or Rubicon Reservoir. The other trail head is the Van Vleck Trailhead popular into Reds peak. Overnight permits can be reserved up to 6 months
in advance through Recreation.gov or 1-877-444- 6777. Due to limited zone quotas, reservations for overnight permits are strongly encouraged during the quota season, especially for holidays and weekends.

Rubicon Trail Starting Point

The Rubicon Trail is with out a doubt the most famous jeep trail in North America. Four wheel drive manufactures often test out the abilities of their vehicles here while off road enthusiast come from all over the world to test their nerve. 

Difficulty Rating:   Extreme
* Trail Length:   17.2 Miles – point to point
** Elevation Range:   6024′ – 7156′
Operating Season:   Closed for the winter
Loon Lake Trailhead – As you approach the dam toward the west side of Loon Lake the paved road ends. Continue across the dam and down to the left, this is the staging area. There are no bathroom facilities at the staging area, although there are facilities within the campground areas and boat ramp. Permits are required for multiple days while day use remains free.

Mountain Biking Trails

Nearby Trails

  • Loon Lake Trail 6 miles.
  • Lost Lake Trail (west) 11 miles.
  • Richardson Lake Road 11 miles.
  • General Creek Trail (hike-a-bike) 12 miles.
  • Lost Lake Trail (east) 12 miles.
  • Van Vleck Trailhead to Loon Lake
    • Distance: 4.5 miles one way
    • Elevation changes: +200 (6,300′ – 6,800′)
    • Starting Point: Van Vleck Trailhead on Cheese Camp Road near the Van Vleck Bunkhouse (not the winter trailhead near Loon Lake)The trail to Loon Lake has a fairly steady, easy grade. It offers several scenic overlooks of the Rubicon drainage and Chipmunk Ridge. A good map of the area and a GPS would help in being sure you are on the right trail.

Winter Recreation

Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing

Winter recreation at Loon lake is available. Although paved, the roads to Loon Lake are often icy
and storms can make them impassible to all vehicles, including four‐wheel drives. The Sacramento Municipal
Utility District plows the access roads on an interment basis, which means that Ice House road may not be
plowed on weekends or holidays.

Loon Lake Chalet
A large deck with picnic tables is open to the public during the day. The restroom is accessed from the
outside of the building and is always open. Pets are not allowed inside the building and smoking is prohibited.
The Chalet can be rented for over‐night stays year‐ round. For more information, or to make reservations,
visit Recreation.gov or call the National Recreation Reservation System at 1‐877‐444‐6667

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sierrarecmagazine

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