Get away from it all with some of the best camping in Tahoe area

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Fall in the Sierra can sound a little like the first snowfall: quiet. And that can be a good thing for shoulder-season campers who want to miss the summer crowds and enjoy the fall foliage, cooler days and crisp nights. To further enhance the feeling of getting away from it all, former Sonoma County resident Patrick Wilkes has co-authored and photographed a book, “Lake Tahoe Camping with Privacy,” that identifies and rates campsites in the Tahoe area for privacy and other key attributes.

Wilkes was a longtime Sonoma County resident before moving to Northern Nevada in 2011. There, he met his wife and co-author, Kimberly.

He raised his five children in Santa Rosa, Cotati and Rohnert Park. His daughter, April, grandchildren Lynnea and Wilbert, and his sons, Daniel and Wesley, still live in Sonoma County.

When Wilkes’ kids were young, the family were frequent campers. When he heard Kimberly’s idea to write a series of books about campsites hidden from view of the neighbors, he loved the idea.

In researching and writing the book series, the couple has looked at nearly 7,000 campsites for the Lake Tahoe book and its predecessor, “Eastern Sierra And Death Valley Camping With Privacy.”

Wilkes was in Kenwood during the October 2017 fires and evacuated with his grandchildren and daughter while flames burned on either side of the road. Patrick’s car was totaled when winds during the fires blew down a tree on the vehicle.

“Losing the car was stressful, but it was nothing compared to the people who lost their lives and homes,” Wilkes said.

Here is an excerpt with some suggestions from Kimberly and Patrick Wilkes on where to camp in the fall, based on their “Lake Tahoe Camping With Privacy” and “Eastern Sierra And Death Valley Camping With Privacy” books.

Pinecone Strip Campground — Sly Park Recreation Area

Directions

From Placerville, take U.S. 50 east about 13 miles to the Sly Park Road Exit 60. Turn right onto Sly Park Road and travel 4.11 miles to the Sly Park Recreation Area entrance gate. Drive 1.2 miles into the park to the Pinecone Peninsula Campground. You will drive through Pinecone Peninsula Campground to reach Pinecone Strip.

What’s It Like?

Spread out on a strip of land next to Jenkinson Lake, Pinecone Strip Campground, which is tent only, has a good selection of campsites with privacy. Large manzanita bushes and/or evergreen trees separate many of the Pinecone Strip camp spaces. Many of the spots on the strip have lake views. The campground is open all year long (except after heavy snow). A lot of deciduous vegetation throughout the recreation area, including dogwood trees, decks out the park with fall color.

Pinecone Strip Campsite With The Most Privacy

Campsite 38 Privacy Rating: A

Reservable? Yes. Visit. eid.org/recreation/spra-campsite-photos-and-reservations or call 530-295-6810.

Best For: Tent Only

Look out over the manzanita and between the trees in front of 38, and you’ll have a good — but not perfect — view of the lake. This long, narrow, shady spot has a massive cedar tree shading the picnic table. Large manzanita grow behind the site. No other camp spaces are in view. To the left, it looks up over a pine-covered hill. One minor disadvantage is that the campground road loops around the site, so it’s partially visible in front and behind through a curtain of vegetation.

Lundy Canyon Campground

Directions

As Highway 50 descends into the Tahoe Basin, turn right on Highway 89. Where Highway 89 intersects with Highway 88, turn left (east). At the intersection of Highway 88 and U.S. 395, turn right (south). Follow U.S. 395 south for about two hours. Turn right at the sign for Lundy Lake (Lundy Lake Road). Travel approximately 5 miles to the campground on the left.

What’s It Like?

Lundy Canyon Campground sits among the aspens alongside Mill Creek. Aspens surround most of the campsites, although a few are in pines or sagebrush. This campground is in a beautiful setting, filled with the music of leaves shivering in the afternoon Zephyr breezes. A spectacular foliage show throughout most of October against a backdrop of 11,000-foot peaks makes this canyon an idyllic spot. Note: No potable water is available.

Lundy Canyon Campground Campsite With The Most Privacy

Campsite 24 Privacy Rating: A

Reservable? No. First-Come, First-Served

In a meadow with aspens to the left and willows across the meadow to the right, this tent-only spot is more open than some of the campsites in this campground. But with no neighbors visible on any side, it’s a very private spot. The only reason we didn’t give it an A+ rating is because it’s within clear view of the campground road. Conifers growing behind it mixed in with the aspens and willows offer some shade even though the spot is out in the open. A nice campsite for stargazing.

Words of Warning: This site does not have a bear box.

Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park — General Creek Campground

Directions

From Tahoe City, drive 10 miles south on State Route 89. The campground is on the right.

What’s It Like?

Camp among tall sugar pines with their giant pine cones as well as white and red firs, cedars and Jeffrey and ponderosa pines. The campground isn’t right on Lake Tahoe, but it’s a 15-minute moderately easy walk down to the beach. Some spots in the first loop (Eastern Loop) are open all winter long (except in heavy snow years), so this is a great option for late-season camping. It’s centrally located to look at fall foliage on both the north and south shores of the lake, as well as Truckee.

Sugar Pine Point State Park General Creek Campsite With The Most Privacy

Space 52 Privacy Rating: B+

Driveway Privacy Rating: A+ or D+ (See below)

Reservable? Yes. Visit reservecalifornia.com or call 800-444-7275

Best For: Tents, Truck Campers, Camper Vans, Travel Trailers, Motorhomes, RVs

Driveway Length: Motorhomes 32 Feet, Travel Trailers 26 Feet

Tall pines and firs create a pleasant forested backdrop to partly sunny 52. Cedars mingle with other evergreens on the left. This campsite and the one on the right are angled so that the neighboring site is more to the right-front and 52 is spaced farther to the left, creating more room between the camp spots. The other site’s bear box and 52’s are close, but the rest of that campsite is farther away. Cedars grow on the right and beyond that is a sunny area. A wall of pines, cedars, and firs curtains off 52 from the campground road. No neighboring spaces are across the street. You could fit two tents here in a place that’s far away from the neighbor, surrounded by tall pines, cedars and firs. There’s the barest hint of road noise here from Highway 89, since it’s located on the loop closest to that road. But it’s not enough to be a deal breaker.

About the Parking Pad

On one side of the driveway you’ll look out at your campsite and the forest beyond. That’s the A+ side. On the other side the neighbor’s vehicle is right next to yours. That’s the D+ side. But close the curtains or blinds on that side of your camper and you’ll have a winning spot.

For a full listing of other private campsites, “Lake Tahoe Camping With Privacy,” is available at Copperfield’s Books and on Amazon.

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