Campground: Sardine Lake

Back in March of this year, a friend told me that I had to go camping at Sardine Lake because it was just too pretty to not visit. Of course, after I booked a site there he flaked on the trip a few months later. Sucks for him.

Sardine Lake is one of many campgrounds in Tahoe National Forest (not to be confused with Lake Tahoe, which is over an hour away in a completely different area) – but I’m sure it’s one of the best there is out there. Why? Mainly because you don’t get to see this near most campgrounds…

Lower Sardine Lake = fishing galore

Upper Sardine Lake, with the Sierra Buttes in the background

My friend R-Dizzle said that this was the best looking lake he’s ever seen before.

While Lower Sardine lake is strictly used for fishing, Upper Sardine lake is a short hike away and is a pretty gorgeous spot for swimming and basking on granite rocks all day long. It also has some amazing rock formations that make for great (minor) cliff-jumping (AKA big rock jumping) and squid-disk playing (if you don’t know, ask somebody).     

The other great things about Sardine Lake are: 1) the small “Sand Pond” near the campground that families can use for swimming, and 2) the Tamarak Ridge trail that you can either take for a short distance (to the lakes overlook) or for much longer (it eventually crosses paths with the Pacific Crest Trail). A few lakes can be found along the Tamarak Ridge trail, but we didn’t make it that far — I think that the first lake was about 3 or 4 miles from the trailhead. If you do choose to hike it, just make sure to carry plenty of water. The trail has a great view of both Sardine Lakes and the Sierra Buttes – and is also very exposed for the first 3 miles.

Hiking back to the campsite for butter corn ramen

The campground itself is pretty nice, but some sites (in the lower numbers) are pretty open and close to their neighbors. We had campsite #10 – not too bad, but not too big either. Some of the campsites in the higher numbers (around the edge of the campground) tend to be bigger, nicer, and more out-of-view from the rest of the sites. Each site is equipped with a bear locker, a low campfire (with a grill to cook on), and a picnic table (of course) – but no standing BBQ grill.

Just remember that Sardine Lake campground has no showers (that’s what the lakes are for) or flush toilets. It does has running water (spigots and sinks), but when you go take a deuce, you gotta use the outhouse. HOWEVER, I have to say that this campground’s outhouses are the least disgusting ones I’ve ever experienced in my life. The secret to stink-free, useable outhouse toilets is shutting the toilet lid after you do your thang. The stink then floats to the outside of the building, instead of wafting up into the room. Oh the wonders of science.

If, during your stay, you get tired of swimming in one of the best looking lakes you’ve ever seen, you can also take a very short trip up the highway to Salmon Lake, where a lot of families go to swim, float, and kayak all day. And fish. Salmon Lake has some dope little islands in the middle of the lake that are awesome for sunbathing and a little bit of lake jumping. It also has a huge cliff at the far end of the lake that some people jump off of, but as R-Dizzle told me, “it looks 10 times higher than the one you jumped off”. One girl said that she did it and bruised her whole thigh when she hit the water. Sounds…kinda fun.

Last note: the weather out there is AMAZING during the summer. 80’s to low 90’s during the day, 60 degrees at night. I spent every night at Sardine Lake looking at the stars in my hoodie sweatshirt and shorts. No tent fly needed (unless you’re from southern California…)

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5 thoughts on “Campground: Sardine Lake

  1. Janet says:

    Ah…this brings back memories. I spent one week every year here (and Packer Lake, and the Sand Pond) with my hubby & 4 kids in the 1990s. My hubby and his family spent summers here in the 1970s. Great place! Beautiful photos.

  2. Unfortunately not 😦 That’s also on the to-do list!
    I guess there IS a trail (and some staircases) up to the buttes after all:

    • Janet says:

      Yes. I couldn’t go up to the lookout the first time I hiked up there with my family. I was too afraid. I’ve used the kevingong website before. It’s great.

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