Camp Date: July 12, 2013
Campground: Sunset Campground
Site(s): 52, 54, 56
Where’s it at? Crystal Basin off Hwy 50 east of Pollock Pines


Sunset Campground is personally my favorite of the campgrounds in the Cystal Basin Recreation Area. It is on a small peninsula on the eastern shores of Union Valley Reservoir 22 miles or so down Ice House Road off Highway 50. There are a lot of good campgrounds in this area including those around Ice House Reservoir and Loon Lake. You can camp for free here in a few places and around the El Dorado National Forest but you should remember to get a campfire permit if you’re doing that. This trip was in paid sites 52, 54 and 56 in Sunset Campground.

The only downside, if it is one, is that the toilets aren’t flush toilets. They were a little bit rank but I’ve definitely seen worse. There are water faucets all over the place and those were well kept. The sites all have a charcoal BBQ with adjustable grill height, fire pits and picnic tables, and they are generally very spacious often having large downed trees separating the property lines with the adjacent sites.

I’ve been camping here for many years now and while it’s not my very favorite, it’s a great combination of affordability, proximity, serenity and activity options. On this trip I went with 4 of my sisters, most of their kids and a close friend of mine. Obviously there are a few lakes here so bring those flotation devices or boats if you’re headed this way. You can waterski, jet ski, windsurf or float around on the fairly large Union Valley Reservoir. There is a boat launch and most of the campsites are a very easy walk down to the shore. We set up our beach base camp on the northwestern shore near to our sites. The water was the perfect temperature and the shoreline is for the most part a nice sand that is easy on the feet and just big enough to set up shade canopies and a picnic.

The campsites we had were nice. My sisters had booked 4 sites originally but gave one up with the revised headcount. Megan and I slept in site 56 but the meals and fires were at site 52. We all took a meal and prepared it while enjoying the others. Saturday the kids treated us to a lunch that they prepared on their own.

There is a general store at Ice House on the way in but if you’re on a budget you’ll want to bring all your food and drinks. This is a great place to camp with water sports, hiking, biking, camping and general relaxation going for it.

Photos from Sunset Campground (click to enlarge)

Camping at Sunset Campground in Crystal Basin Recreation Area Camping at Sunset Campground in Crystal Basin Recreation Area Camping at Sunset Campground in Crystal Basin Recreation Area
Camping at Sunset Campground in Crystal Basin Recreation Area Camping at Sunset Campground in Crystal Basin Recreation Area Camping at Sunset Campground in Crystal Basin Recreation Area
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Directions to Sunset Campground


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