A number of equestrian camps are found in the Crystal Basin. They make excellent staging places for short rides in the local area or longer adventures into the Desolation Wilderness. If you enter the wilderness for the day, you need to pick up a permit, either at a nearby ranger station or at self-serve kiosks at most popular trailheads. For overnight stays in the wilderness, you will need a Wilderness Permit.
Another good riding area is at Lake Jenkinson near Sly Park. The Eldorado Irrigation District operates Black Oak Equestrian Area as part of its campgrounds at the lake. The nearby Fleming Meadow Trail system has miles of good riding trails.
Located on Loon Lake, 29 miles north of Highway 50 on Ice House Road. The campground is at 6,378 feet and is usually open from mid-June. to mid-October. Reservations are needed from June 26 through September 7.
Reservations: (877) 444-6777 or Recreation.gov - Loon Lake Equestrian Camp
Located on Loon Lake, 29 miles north of Highway 50 on Ice House Road. The campground is at 6,378 feet and is usually open from mid-June. to mid-October.
Reservations: (877) 444-6777 or
Recreation.gov - Loon Lake Equestrian Group Camp
Fees: $90 per night
Located at Tells Creek - Van Vleck Trailhead, 20 miles north of Highway 50 on Ice House Road, then 6 miles on Tells Creek Road. Primitive sites, narrow access roads. The campground is at 6,300 feet and is usually open from mid-June to mid-October.
Located on Loon Lake, 11 miles north of Highway 50 on Ice House Road, then Wrights Lake Tie Road and Wrights Lake Road. An alternate route is Wrights Lake Road off Highway 50, but trailers are not recommended on this route. The campground is at 7,000' feet and is usually open from mid-June. to mid-October. Reservations for some sites can be made for dates from July 6 through September 9.
Reservations: (877) 444-6777 or Recreation.gov - Loon Lake Campground
Located at Lake Jenkinson near Sly Park, part of the Eldorado Irrigation District's Sly Park Recreation Area. The camp is close to the Fleming Meadow Trail system. Hazel Meadow, at the eastern end of the lake, is set up as a place for riders to stop from a picnic lunch with hitching rails, picnic tables, and nearby vault toilets.
Reservations: (530) 295-6810 or Sly Park Recreation Area Reservations
2014 Summer Rates: $35 per night for individual sites on weekdays, $40 on weekends and holidays
Trailhead: Southern end of Wrights Lake Equestrian Campground
Possible Destinations: Bloodsucker Lake (2 miles), Lyons Creek Trailhead (4 miles), Lake Sylvia and Lyons Lake (5-6 miles)
Bloodsucker Trail leads south from the equestrian campground. After 1 mile it connects with Bloodsucker Lake Trail, a 1 mile side trip with a moderate grade. Continuing south, the main trail climbs 500 feet to a ridge and then drops quickly to Lyons Creek.
At Lyons Creek you can ride west 2 miles down a gentle grade to the trailhead, or you can turn east toward Lake Sylvia and Lyons Lake. Both lakes are in the Desolation Wilderness. A day permit is needed to enter the wilderness. Pick one up free at the trailhead at Wrights Lake. Lake Sylvia, at the foot of Pyramid Peak, is a gradual 1000-foot climb over 3 miles. Lyons Lake, a third of a mile to the north, involves another 300 feet of elevation gain.
Trailhead: Van Vleck Trailhead near Tells Creek Equestrian Camp
Possible Destinations: Lake No. 3 (5 miles), Lake No. 5 (5 miles), Lawrence Lake (6 miles), Barrett Lake (6 miles), Bassi Loop (14.5 miles)
Red Peak trail leads east and then southeast from the Van Vleck Trailhead. Since it soon enters the Desolation Wilderness, you will want to pick up a free day permit at the trailhead. The first 2.5 miles are nearly level. Then begin a stiff 1400-foot climb to Lake No. 3 at an elevation of 8,200 feet.
The trail to nearby Lake No 5 continues, descending past Lawrence Lake (a short side trip) to Barrett Lake. Barrett Lake is just outside the wilderness area and is a popular 4-wheeling destination coming up from Wrights Lake. To complete the loop, ride to the University of California Cow Camp less than a mile south of Barrett Lake and then soon afterward turn west, picking up the Two Peaks Trail heading northwest. That trail leads back to the Tells Creek Equestrian Camp.
Trailhead: Loon Lake Equestrian Campground
Possible Destinations: Top of the Ridge (4.5 miles), Buck Island Lake (5.5 miles), Rockbound Lake (6.3 miles), Rubicon Reservoir (8 miles)
Starting from the campground, the trail follows along the southern shoreline of Loon Lake for 3 miles. Then the trail climbs the ridge overlooking Buck Island Lake, Rockbound Lake, and the popular Rubicon Trail, a 4-wheel route across the Sierra.
From the ridge top the trail descends 400 feet to Buck Island Lake. If you continue on the trail into the Desolation Wilderness you will need a day permit, which you can pick up for free at the trailhead. Just beyond Buck Island Lake is Rockbound Lake and a little more than a mile farther is Rubicon Reservoir. The trail continues up the river into the heart of the Desolation Wilderness.
Trailhead: Echo Summit
Possible Destinations: Showers Lake (8 miles), Carson Pass (13 miles), Round Lake (12 miles)
From Echo Summit ride south on the Pacific Crest Trail. The first 2.5 miles to Benwood Meadow are quite gentle. Then begin a steep climb from 7,500 feet to 8,700 feet in less than two miles.
Beyond the big climb the trail levels out somewhat, with mild rises and descents to Showers Lake. Many riders enjoy going the full distance to Carson Pass, another 5 miles. An alternate would be to turn north into Meiss Country. The Meiss Country trail leaves the Pacific Crest Trail about 2 miles beyond Showers Lake. A 2-mile from the trail junction ride takes you to Round Lake.
Fleming Meadow Trail System: Nearly nine miles of interconnecting trails and
roads near Jenkinson Lake at Sly Park, just south of Pollock Pines.
Rockbound Trail: Heads north from Wright Lake across Rockbound Pass into the Desolation Wilderness. 7 miles to Lake Lois.
Silver Fork - Caples Creek Loop: From the Fitch Rantz Bridge near Silver Fork Campground, ride up Caples Creek to Government Meadow and then up the hillside, picking up the Silver Fork Trail to complete your 9 mile loop.
At the north end of Lake Tahoe around Donner Summit (Interstate 80) great equestrian trails lead out over beautiful terrain. A number of horse camps on both sides of the pass make great staging areas for exciting rides. Find out about all the trail riding choices to the north on Around Donner Summit.
More riding trails are available along Highway 88 over Carson Pass. Among the favorite places for equestrian activities are Silver Lake, Lower Big Bear Lake, and Blue Lakes. For all the information on horseback riding on Carson Pass, see Up and Over Carson Pass.
Not much farther south is the exciting Ebbetts Pass country with even more riding trails. Horseback riders enjoy heading out from the top of the pass, around the Wolf Creek country, and out at Spicer Meadow Reservoir. To learn more, visit Ebbetts Pass Adventures.
Sonora Pass (Highway 108) is a favorite with horseback riders. Kennedy Meadows is one of the leading high country riding trailheads in the Sierra. Routes lead into the fabulous Emigrant Wilderness. Horse camps are found all around the pass from Niagara Creek and the Clarks Fork to Crabtree. Find all the information on Sonora Pass Vacations.