Alpine Meadows (at Martis Creek Lake) Truckee, CA

Emerald Bay and Lake Tahoe
This view of Emerald Bay and Lake Tahoe was taken a few steps from the roadway a little North of Inspiration Point where there are some roadside Turnouts.

CAMPGROUND NAME: Alpine Meadows (at Martis Creek Lake, Truckee, CA)
KIND: ACE (Army Corps of Engineers)
SEASONAL: Yes, mid-may to mid- October
RATES: $20, or $10 with an interagency pass
STAY LIMIT: 14 days
CAMPGROUND MAP: None I could find, but I’m including a Google Maps satellite view below
PHONE: 530-587-8113 (Ranger)
GPS: 39.320103, -120.122253
ACCESS: Paved roads
# OF SITES: 24-25
PULL THRU: Turnout sites similar to pull-thrus
MAXIMUM RIG SIZE: Officially, 30′ but rigs as big as 60′ can probably fit in some sites. The ranger told me they  didn’t really have size restrictions.
LEVELNESS: Most sites will require some leveling.
SHADE: Partial in most sites, full in sites 1 and 2 as I recall
SPACING: Reasonable as in many ACE campgrounds. #14 was perhaps the most separated from the others
PETS: On leash


CELLULAR: We had workable Verizon and AT&T

Over-the-air: I don’t think we received any channels
Cable: No

RESTROOM RATING: Fail. I failed the restrooms even though they were generally not too bad. There was no hand soap or any way to dry your hands. The floors stayed wet for days after they were mopped so unless you like wet pants or have some method by which to avoid letting your clothes touch the floor the toilets were unusable when the floors were wet. One of the two restrooms had lights that would inexplicably shut off when you needed them the most, if you know what I mean. You would find yourself sitting in pitch black with nothing you could do about it. Bring your flashlight at night! I mean, c’mon… really??? (I assign a Pass or Fail rating based on many considerations including: cleanliness, usability, hot water availability, hand soap availability, ease or difficulty it is to use the toilet paper, condition of fixtures, if using the restroom is a pleasant or unpleasant experience, etc.)
SOAP: Nope
WATER: Water fill at the campground entry, spigots around the campground which may not be used for RV tank filling.
RECYCLING: If you can figure out what they want and don’t. It seemed bottles and cans only but they don’t say.

BUGS: Not a problem when we were there in early to mid July

NEAREST FACILITIES: Truckee & Kings Beach
Gas, Diesel: Fast Lane just outside the campground
Dump: Coachland RV in Truckee
Propane: Ace Hardware in Truckee
Groceries: Safeway in Truckee and Kings Beach
RV Parks: Coachland and Truckee River RV Parks in Truckee. There are also some Forest Service campgrounds up that way.

Site 23, Alpine Meadows
Site 23 was just long enough for our 37′ RV (including bikes) with our truck parked at a slight angle. We got mid to late morning sun and shade in the afternoons. Easy leveling in this site.

This campground is situated about half way between Truckee and Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. This would make for great mountain weather in the summer and winter sports in the winter but the campground is only open from May 15 to Oct. 15, so you’ll have to settle for the great weather 🙂

Sites 1 and 2, Alpine Meadows Campground
I think site #1 is on the left and #2 the right, but don’t hold me to it. Both of these sites are well shaded. As I recall the sites on the left side of the campground road in this section slope downward quite a bit as they get nearer the campground road.

The campground in a thin forest of tall pines which provides partial shade to most sites and rather full shade to a few, #’s 1 and 2 and maybe a few others. The campground road and campsites driveways are paved. Campsites include picnic tables, BBQ grills and fire rings. The campground was well kept by the hosts when we were there except that on the day of the week they mopped the floors the toilet stalls were difficult or impossible to use because of puddling on the floors. There is no excuse for this in my book but we’ve all seen similar at other campgrounds. The bathrooms have vault toilets, the sinks cold water. Except for the problem with wet floors they were clean, well kept.

Site 14, Alpine Meadows
Of the 3 sites we stayed at here, #14 was the most separated from the others. Views out the passenger side were of the adjoining meadow. Bluebirds landed at my feet and in the tree outside. The site leans to the roadside a bit but we got level without too much fuss. With our 42″ slide we were close to being outside the painted line on the pavement marking the site boundary, but we were still inside it by a few inches. Our fifth wheel is 37′ with our bike rack on back.

We spent our first night in site 1st #5, a turnout that required squeezing way over to the passenger side so as not to stick out into the campground road and wood blocks on that side. The ground drops away outside and we needed a step stool at the entry door in order that the last step down to the ground be manageable. Leveling at this site was tricky with one wheel half off the pavement. It would be easier for a less wide RV. There was pretty good sun for solar. Site 23 where we spent the next several days is a back in. This site is close to level. Here too there was decent sun for solar production in the morning but shaded in the afternoons from trees to the west.

Waters Edge, Martis Creek Lake
Some areas of the lakeshore at Martis Creek Lake are brushy or marshy–good habitat for birds. showed the size limit for this campground at 30′ but Greg, the ranger at phone number above said there are larger sites. We fit fine in 5, 23 and 14 and rigs as large as us (53′ when hitched to our 5th wheel) can fit in many sites in the campground. We had enough room to unhitch at all 3 sites we used. The campground is near the Truckee airport and we did indeed notice noise from air traffic at times as well as a little road noise from CA 267, but both quieted down at night. There is a water fill for RVs at the campground entry. Spigots are spread around throughout the campground but these are not for filling RV tanks. There are no hookups in the campground and no dump station. The dump station at Coachland RV Park (530-587-3071) about 20 minutes away is available for a fee. There is no place provided for dishwashing and it seems they expect tent campers to spill gray water from washing dishes on the ground. I found this rather inexplicable while at the same time bear vaults are provided in which to store food. So, store your food in a vault while distributing water with food waste around the campground? Doesn’t make sense to me. Sometimes it seems the ACE does a half-ass job of things.

Alpine Meadows Campground Satellite View
In this Google Maps satellite view of Alpine Meadows campground in Truckee the campground entry road is bottom center to the right of the small white building which is the ranger station (unstaffed). The campground road is one way to the right beginning at the Y just north of the entry. Sites 1 & 2 are in the clump of trees just after the right turn. At about 4 o’clock a white car is in site #5 if I’m not mistaken. Site 14 is at 12 o’clock. You have an unobstructed view of site 23 at about 7 o’clock where a truck and camper are parked.

Quite a few bird houses have been installed in the meadows adjacent to the campground and many of them were occupied when we were there in early July. We saw green-tailed towhee, mountain bluebirds with fledglings that delighted us, red-tailed hawk, blackbirds (either tricolor, red-wing or both), Steller’s jay, American robin, gadwall, killdeer, house wren, northern flicker, Canada goose, tree swallow, American white pelican, western wood peewee, white-breasted nuthatch and others.

View near Alpine Meadows
It takes maybe 10 minutes to walk down to Martis Creek Lake. This shot looks back from the lake access road to the nearby Sierra Nevada Peaks.

Diesel, and I expect gas is much less in NV if you’re going that way but it’s too far to go just to gill up. Check the Maverik truck stop for diesel In Carson City if you’re heading that way. (We tend to look for truck stops because we know we can fit.) Near the campground is a Fast Lane that has better prices than either Truckee or around Lake Tahoe with the possible exception of the Nevada side which we did not travel. We put just enough diesel in the tank to get around while in the Truckee/Tahoe area arriving at the Maverik in Carson City near empty where we filled up with diesel for $1 a gallon less than Fast Lane.

Lake Tahoe from Kings Beach
Lake Tahoe from the town of Kings Beach. It’s the largest alpine lake in North America and very deep. It wasn’t until recently they know how deep it is.

For medical care there is an emergency room 20 minutes from the campground: Tahoe Forest Hospital, Donner Pass Road and Pine Ave, 10121 Pine Avenue, PO Box 759, Truckee, CA 96160, (530) 587-6011. There is also Gateway Urgent Care at 11105 Donner Pass Rd., Truckee, CA, 530-582-2070 and Truckee Tahoe Medical Group, 10956 Donner Pass Road Suite 110 Truckee, CA 96161. Please check for yourself to see if these are still in operation when you plan to be in the area.

Fireworks, Kings Beach
We were camped at Alpine Meadows over the 4th of July weekend and went down to Kings Beach to take in the fireworks. They have their display on July 3 and nearby Tahoe City has theirs on the 4th.

Figure about 3 hours to drive around Lake Tahoe from the campground, if that is something you want to do. If I recall it’s a 71 mile circuit to circumnavigate the lake and then there is getting to it and back from the campground. We drove down the west shore as far as Emerald Bay to take in that famous view. There are lots of hiking and mountain biking trails in the area. We had a lovely time riding the tame, paved Truckee River Legacy Bike Trail that parallels the Truckee river. We also rode a mostly dirt track trail called the Martis Creek Trail just across the highway from the campground. Check your skill level and equipment before riding this. I think most novices with hybrids can handle it and where it gets a little tricky it can be walked. We also hiked down to and partially around Martis Creek Lake.

Railroad Float, Truckee CA, 4th of July Parade
Truckee had a parade on July 4. We drove in early for breakfast at Marty’s dropping off our camp chairs on the curb before breakfast to save our spot in order to catch the parade when we were done. This float commemorates the building of the first transcontinental railroad that passed through.

I found one YouTube video of the campground although it was mislabeled Martis Creek Lake Campground. While the campground very close to Martis Creek Lake, it is called Alpine Meadows Campground. The video is here.

Along the Truckee River Legacy Trail
The Truckee River Legacy Trail (multi-use) runs from the Disc Golf Course parking lot along the Truckee River for several miles. It’s a paved path in very good condition. It’s mostly a slight downgrade as it follows the river. Of course coming back its uphill. We rode as far as a vista point we found at the end of a steep uphill with switchbacks. There are a number of benches along the trail where you can sit and enjoy a view of the surroundings which are quite pleasant.

The town of Truckee is a short distance to the north and has a very interesting history surrounding the building of the first transcontinental railroad, largely built in the area by Chinese immigrants who were treated rather like slaves. You can spend a lot of time in the area exploring. There is a Safeway in Truckee, a delightful Ace Hardware next door to it with a propane filling station, and a small natural foods kitty corner called New Moon. Prices seemed high at all stores. Another Safeway can be found south of the campground in Kings Beach. Truckee has some art galleries and we happened into Glassforms at 10072 Donner Pass Road on the second floor where we chatted with Frank Rossbach who has been blowing glass for 45 years and was sitting at his work station doing just that when we wandered in. You can blow some glass with him if you like. Just ask.

Rainbow Bridge, Donner Lake
I took this shot from the top of some rocks just above Rainbow Bridge along highway 40. Donner Lake is visible in the background. The history of the bridge is interesting as well, of course as the lake itself and the famous Donner Party pioneers for whom the summit and lake are named.

Not far from the campground and Truckee is Donner Lake and Donner Lake State Park which mark the location of the famous and tragic story of the Donner Party, a group of pioneers traveling by covered wagon that crossing the Sierra Nevada in the fall and winter of 1846-47 lost many of their number and some who survived did so only by cannibalising the remains of others that died. To the west of Donner Lake along Scenic Route 40, the Lincoln Highway, can be found the Chinese Wall and some railroad tunnels built by Chinese laborers, and the Rainbow Bridge which has its own interesting history.

Donner Lake
Lots of people were on the water at Donner Lake the weekend of July 4. I think this little area is Called China Cove. People lined the shore with their chairs and blankets. We hiked around part of the lake and into the woods for some exercise, to take in the scenery and bird watching.

For the adventurous, glider rides and parachuting are available at the airport near the campground.

We could easily have stayed a month or more in the area while only scratching the surface of all the outdoor activities and explorations of the history of the area but the campground limit is 14 days and we had to play musical campsites to stay the 11 days we did. The campground used to be first-come first-served but is now on the reservation system although at the time of this writing that was not reflected by the ACE web site. Finding a 14 day opening in one site may be a bit of a trick so reserve well ahead of time and/or prepare to switch sites.

We would stay at Alpine Meadows again.

2 thoughts on “Alpine Meadows (at Martis Creek Lake) Truckee, CA”

  1. Nice detailed and helpful review. Your photographs are a wonderful accompaniment to the blog. It’s great to have you out recording your travels again. I always enjoy the quality of your images. You have a knack of capturing the feel of where you are at.

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