Wrights Lake,  Eldorado National Forest, California

Discover Echo Summit

Along the Highway 50 Corridor
From Pollock Pines to Meyers

Mileages From Sacramento

  • Placerville - 44 miles
  • Crystal Basin - 82 miles
  • Wrights Lake - 87 miles
  • Twin Bridges - 85 miles
  • Echo Summit - 92 miles
  • S. Lake Tahoe - 103 miles

High Sierra Trails

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Discover the Wonders of Echo Summit

The Highway 50 corridor over Echo Summit offers magnificent scenery, wonderful camping destinations, and outstanding recreation. Unknown to many travelers who zip up Highway 50 to Lake Tahoe is the scenic Crystal Basin several miles north of the highway. Crystal Basin is a cluster of forest-lined reservoirs with quality campgrounds, boating, waterskiing, fishing, and hiking. Families who know the area return year after year.

Winter brings different adventures. Sierra at Tahoe ski resort draws skiers and boarders while Adventure Mountain and Blizzard Mountain are favorites for groomed tubing hills. Cross country skiers explore trails on Echo Summit and out at beautiful Loon Lake.

Loon Lake, Crystal Basin, Eldorado National Forest, California

Loon Lake

map of Echo Summit region, Eldorado National Forest, CA

Highlights of the Echo Summit Area

Union Valley Reservoir

Photo of Union Valley Reservoir, Eldorado National Forest, CA

Union Valley Reservoir is among the most popular destinations in the Crystal Basin. Nearly a dozen campgrounds are situated among the trees around the shores of the 277,000-acre lake. At an elevation of 4,900 feet, it is high enough to offer relief during summer heat yet low enough for mild nights for camping. The lake is a favorite with boaters, water skiers, anglers, and swimmers.


All kinds of boating is available in the Crystal Basin, from quiet kayaking and canoeing to waterskiing, wakeboarding, and jet skiing. Launch ramps at the reservoirs provide easy access to the water. Those who prefer white water rafting or kayaking head to the American River.

Camping along Highway 50

tent camping, Eldorado National Forest, CA

Many of the best campgrounds are found in the Crystal Basin. Off the main highway, Crystal Basin makes an ideal place for families to spend days or even a week or two camped on the shore of one of the many lakes that are scattered about the basin. Farther up the pass are more campgrounds, some right along the American River near Kybruz and Strawberry, others hidden along the Silver Fork.


Anglers have plenty of waters to explore up and down the slopes of Echo Summit. The lakes in the Crystal Basin offer great boat and shore fishing, while the nearby streams are favorite haunts of fly fishermen. For those seeking a little more adventure, the Desolation Wilderness is littered with lakes. Some of them are popular spots, but others a little more out of the way are rarely fished.

Backpacking, Day Hikes, Bicycling, and Mountain Biking

Echo Summit has a variety of outdoor recreation possibilities. Backpackers set off into the Desolation Wilderness to favorite destinations like Lake Aloha, while day hikers find interesting trails from easy nature walks at Gerle Reservoir to summit assaults on mountains like Pyramid Peak. Echo summit has miles of great mountain biking trails and cycling routes.

Horseback Riding and Everything Else

Horseback riders take advantage of the several equestrian camps in the Crystal Basin or at Jenkinson Lake. No shortage of trails beckon riders to explore.

The American River Canyon

American River, Eldorado National Forest, CA

As you drive up Highway 50, take time to stop along the way for waterfalls and scenic features. Just 2 miles east of the Pacific Ranger Station Bridal Veil Falls tumble from the cliff right beside the highway. Farther up is spectacular Lovers Leap. With binoculars you can follow the progress of rock climbers on the face of the rock. Also plan to spend some time at Strawberry, a historic spot along the road. A little farther up, just past Twin Bridges, pull into the parking lot for a view of Horsetail Falls.

Winter Sports

Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding

Sierra at Tahoe ski resort is a fabulous place to ski and board away from the Tahoe crowds. The resort has 3 Express Quad Chairs along with a multitude of other lifts, 2,000 acres of skiable terrain with more than 2,200 feet in vertical drop, and 5 terrain parks and several pipes.

Snow Play

Sierra at Tahoe's Blizzard Mountain is next door for those who prefer sledding and tubing to the big hills. A pair of lifts carry sliders up the hill. Nearby right at Echo Summit is Adventure Mountain snow play area with 16 machine-groomed sledding runs and plenty of space for making snowmen or just playing in the snow. A secure parking lot, a lodge with restrooms and food service, and tubes for sliding make it a great place for families to spend the day.

Cross Country Skiing

Cross country skiers and snowshoers will find miles of groomed trails at Echo Summit, all leading out from the convenient Echo Lake SnoPark. Or for the more adventurous, head out to Loon Lake in the Crystal Basin where many more trails have been marked. A warming hut there is open on weekends.

Other Sierra Passes
Other Adventures

Donner Summit

At the north end of Lake Tahoe around Donner Summit (Interstate 80) are countless places worth visiting, from Donner Lake to the emigrant trails, from Giant Sequoias to spectacular fishing lakes. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy miles of hiking trails, boating, and cycling. It's all waiting for you at Around Donner Summit.

Carson Pass

Just a short jaunt to the south Carson Pass (Highway 88) has many opportunities for adventure. Silver Lake and Caples Lake draw fishermen and hikers every summer. Beautiful Hope Valley is popular with snowmobilers and cross country skiers in the winter, while in the summer it is a favorite destination for fly fishermen, photographers, painters, and bird watchers. Learn all about Carson Pass on Up and Over Carson Pass.

Ebbetts Pass

Only a few miles to the south, Ebbetts Pass Scenic Byway (Highway 4) offers mountain lakes, winter skiing, wonderful camping, and a multitude of other outdoor recreation opportunities. You'll find it all on Ebbetts Pass Adventures.

Sonora Pass

A little farther to the south is beautiful Sonora Pass (Highway 108) with Dodge Ridge Ski Resort, Pinecrest Lake, Kennedy Meadows, and dozens of other great destinations and recreation opportunities. Everything about the Sonora Pass region is on Sonora Pass Vacations.