Off-Road Camping: Gold Lake, California
Summertime in the Sierras is in full-swing and I was so happy to get a camping trip in this past weekend. Because of other commitments on the weekends and a snowpack that is still monstrous at high elevations, this was our first camping trip in the mountains this year. Either way, it felt good to get back in the woods for a few nights, cook over an open fire, and swim in a cold mountain lake.
Our choice this past weekend was Gold Lake, located off of Gold Lake Highway in Plumas National Forest. The lake is one of dozens of lakes in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area. A couple of summers ago when we hiked the nearby Sierra Buttes, you could see all the lakes in the area from the peak. It is definitely a beautiful sight.
A couple of our friends told us about Gold Lake when we hiked the Buttes and we have been wanting to get out there. Luckily they were able to join us this year and recommended they head out on Thursday afternoon to secure a spot. Both Brian and I had to work on Friday and headed out after work to meet them. We were so grateful they got out a day early. Had we tried to come in Friday afternoon, there wouldn’t have been any sites left.
The Gold Lake 4×4 campground is located on the West end of the lake. There are about 15 sites and no facilities (yes, bring a shovel for squatting in the woods). It is also first come, first serve, with no options for reservations. To get to the campground, you’ll turn off of Gold Lake Highway at the sign for the Gold Lake Boat Ramp. At the boat ramp, hang a left and you’ll see the 4×4 trail. From here, it is a slooooow and rocky 1 1/2 miles to the campsites. One word of warning, this is a true 4×4 trail. Please, don’t try this with your Subaru Forrester. If you do, let me know if your Subi survived to tell the tale. If you still want to checkout Gold Lake but don’t have the right vehicle for the 4×4 trail, there is also the main campground on the Southeast side of the lake, or a nice lodge with real beds, if that is your thing.
We arrived at the campground at about 7:30 on Friday night, set-up, and put our pre-made hobo pockets in the fire. If you’ve never made a hobo, load up a piece of foil with whatever meat, veggies, seasoning, cheese, or whatever, then wrap that a few more times with even more foil. Put the packet in some hot coals, flip it occasionally, and wait for about an hour for everything to be done and delicious. It is the best way to cook dinner on the first night when you don’t get there till a little later in the day.
The next day, we woke up, made an awesome berry and peach cobbler (recipe coming soon!), and spent the day swimming, paddling, and just relaxing around the campsite. To top it off, dinner was a campfire stew that we tried for the first time when we camped in Dillon Beach (another recipe coming soon!).
Our time went by too fast, as it always does, and here it is Monday. Till the next adventure—in a couple of short days when I’ll head out with some girlfriends. Leave a comment below if you have ever been to the Gold Lake 4×4 and what your favorite part of your trip was.