Crystal Basin recreation improvements underway, alternative destinations recommended in 2018

Contact(s): Jennifer Chapman, 530 957-9660


The popular Crystal Basin Recreation Area in the Eldorado National Forest is undergoing major upgrades which will greatly enhance the visitor experience in the future, but may make other destinations a better choice this year. Sunset Campground is closed for the 2018 season. Although Sunset Campground will be closed, the Sunset Boat Launch and Fashoda Campground / Day Use Area will be open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, providing opportunities for water recreation on Union Valley Reservoir.

Azalea Cove Campground will be closed over Memorial Day weekend, but may reopen by the July 4 weekend if work goes according to schedule. Temporary closures will occur at other sites throughout the season. Check SMUD’s website for the current construction schedule before visiting the Crystal Basin.

Already completed in 2017 are the Loon Lake Boat Launch, new composting toilet facilities at Pleasant Campground, and trail improvements between Loon Lake, Buck Island Reservoir and Rubicon Reservoir.

The multi-year comprehensive plan to improve more than 20 campgrounds, as well as multiple day use areas, boat launches, roads, hiking and biking trails, and potable water systems in the Crystal Basin is part of an agreement between Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) and the USDA Forest Service, in which SMUD will invest up to $150 million in the Crystal Basin Recreation Area over the next 50 years. An outdoor amphitheater able to seat up to 200 people at Fashoda Campground is also included in the plan. This agreement was established in 2014 when SMUD’s License to operate hydroelectric facilities in the Upper American River Project was renewed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The changes underway include a redesign of campsites based on current trends in recreation in which larger families and groups of friends are needing larger campsites. For example, Sunset Campground will consolidate 22 of its 131 campsites into larger campsites, to create nine new double sites, one new triple site, and one new group site. The capacity of the redesigned Sunset Campground will accommodate 30 more visitors. Sunset Campground will also have two more campground hosts, an additional shower facility, and a new flush toilet facility in addition to the 15 existing vault toilet facilities.

New picnic tables, bear-proof food and recycling receptacles, and fire rings will be installed throughout the Crystal Basin which will add to the visitor experience, lessen bear encounter problems and support sustainable recreation practices.

Some traffic delays are expected on Ice House Road as a result of construction equipment while the upgrades are in progress. There are many alternative camping destinations in the Eldorado National Forest as well as neighboring national forests, and other public lands. Campgrounds at Stumpy Meadows Reservoir in the Georgetown Ranger District, along Silver Fork Road in the Placerville Ranger District, or Pipi Campground and Middle Fork Cosumnes Campgrounds in the Amador Ranger District are just a few of the many other places to explore.

For campground reservations, visit www.Recreation.gov. For additional information, contact the Eldorado National Forest Supervisor’s Office at 530-622-5061 or visit the forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/eldorado.

For a schedule of current and future facility closures in the Crystal Basin, visit https://www.smud.org/en/Giving-Back-to-Community/Visit-our-Recreational-Areas/Crystal-Basin

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https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/eldorado/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD580258