Dispersed Camping around Donner Summit

Tahoe National Forest and PG&E Sites

Camp in Comfort

What is Dispersed Camping?

Camping in the Tahoe National Forest is not limited to developed campgrounds. Most National Forest land is open to those who prefer the quiet and solitude of a completely undeveloped setting outside established campgrounds. This type of camping is called "dispersed camping," and visitors are asked to choose a fire safe camping spot and leave a minimal impact on the site. There is no fee for dispersed camping on Forest Service land.

Pacific Gas & Electric Corporation has specific areas designated for dispersed camping on PG&E land. These are more like undeveloped campgrounds, perhaps with a few amenities and sometimes requiring a fee. You'll find a list of PG&E Dispersed Campsites below.

If you are more interested in camping at an established campground, visit our Campgrounds section of Explore Donner Summit for a complete list of National Forest Campgrounds along the Highway 80 corridor.

Guidelines for Dispersed Camping

Campfire Permits

A current California Campfire Permit is required to use a camp stove, barbecue or have a campfire outside of developed areas. Permits are now available online at California Campfire Permits. Permits can also be picked up at any Forest Service Ranger Station such as in Nevada City, Foresthill, or Truckee Local restrictions regarding campfires or use of stoves may be in effect, so check with your local ranger station.

Fire Safety

Always locate your campfire, barbeque, or camp stove away from brush, trees, or overhanging limbs. Be sure to clear away flammable vegetation from your campfire for a radius of at least five feet down to bare mineral soil; never start or maintain a campfire on a windy day; and use plenty of water and stir to completely drown your fire before leaving. Never leave a campfire unattended, even for one moment - extinguish it completely before leaving camp. Submerge your used barbeque briquettes in a pail of water and then dispose of them in the center of your campfire ring.

Camp Maintenance

  • Pack out your garbage, never burn or bury it in the forest.
  • Manage human waste. Bury it at least 200 feet from any river or lake.
  • You may collect "dead and down" firewood.
  • Do not damage vegetation or dig trenches or build structures for your camp.
  • Limit 14 days per visit per site, 30 days total per year.
  • Leave your campsite the same or better than you found it.


Where Can you Do Dispersed Camping?

Dispersed Camping is allowed on most National Forest land. There are developed areas where dispersed camping is not allowed, such as along the Truckee River south of Truckee, around Jackson Meadows Lake and Stampede and Boca reservoirs. In those areas signs indicate that camping is only allowed in developed campgrounds. Popular dispersed camping sites on the Donner Summit - Interstate 80 Corridor are up toward Grouse Ridge and Bowman Lake, along the Little Truckee River, and out Foresthill Divide Road.


P G & E Dispersed Camping Sites

Rucker Lake

Located on Rucker Lake at 5,500 feet. To reach the site drive 7 miles on Bowman Lake Road off Highway 20 and then turn on Rucker Lake Road. The campground is usually open from mid-June to the end of October.

Campground Amenities

  • 7 dispersed walk-in sites
  • Fishing, swimming, non-motorized boating

Reservations: None
Fees: None

Blue Lake

Located on Blue Lake at 5,900 feet. To reach the site drive 7 miles on Bowman Lake Road off Highway 20 and then turn on Rucker Lake Road 2 miles to the end of the road. Requires high-clearance vehicles. The campground is usually open from mid-June to the end of October.

Campground Amenities

  • 6 primitive hike-in campsites, one third mile from parking area
  • Fishing, swimming

Reservations: None
Fees: None