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The Yuba River is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful stretches of water in the United States. This northern California river is central to the lives of Nevada County residents, and with good reason—its glorious swimming holes, surrounding forests, and sweeping waters render it fitting for all sorts of rejuvenating outdoor activities.
The area undoubtedly draws campers to the area for a peek at its native history and importance during the Gold Rush, as well as for the natural beauty of the northern California Sierras. Luckily, there’s plenty of campgrounds in the area for visitors to enjoy.
Camp On California History At These Yuba River Camping Destinations
The Yuba River, especially for campers, is best visited during the late spring and early fall. This is when the weather is fair, with highs in the 70s (F), and the lows in the 40s (F) overnight. Also during these times, swimming holes in the river and nearby lakes are warm enough to enjoy. These are the campgrounds we suggest using during these times of the year.
1. Collins Lake
Collins Lake is a famous Yuba River camping destination, particularly for fishing. More than 50,000 trout are planted in the lake every spring, making it the largest private planting program north of Sacramento. There are also habitat areas for other species such as catfish, bluegill, and crappie. Collins Lake is only about 25 miles north of where the Yuba River passes through the South Yuba River State Park, making it an excellent lakeside experience for those also wanting to see and experience the river.
The campground at Collins lake provides cabins, tent cabins, group campsites, and RV camping. Drinking water is provided and pets, as well as fires, are allowed. Each site contains a picnic table, fire ring, toilet access, and WiFi access.
“I love this campground. Really nice lake always stocked with fish. Quiet at night and not rowdy during the day. Great place for family camping. They also have boat rentals.” — The Dyrt camper Veronica N.
2. Rucker Park
Located in the Tahoe National Forest, Rucker Lake offers some ideal camping for visitors wanting a quiet Yuba River camping trip without having to backpack for miles and miles. Rucker Lake campground is a small primitive campground that contains tent sites only. Each site contains picnic tables and fire rings, as well as nearby trash cans and toilets.
“Definitely a gorgeous view all the way around! Lake was very warm and had an epic rope swing if you can find it. The camp spots were a good size and with fire pits and bench tables.” — The Dyrt camper Haidon M.
The South Yuba Primitive Campground can be reached via the South Yuba trail near the South Yuba River State Park. The trail brings journeyers through spectacular stretches of the river, through pine forest, and on past inviting blue pools.
Ultimately, this trail and Yuba River camping are for backpackers aiming to be fully submerged in the wilderness. The trail to the campground is over 10 miles. Be mindful that, as with most primitive campgrounds, water is not supplied. Hike in with plenty of food and water. Pets and fires are allowed.
“This river trail is the best in the state. Clear water, lovely pools. Expect nudity as it is Northern California. The river is beloved by kayakers and swimmers. Perfect snowmelt means August is the prime time.” — The Dyrt camper Anna R.
If your vision of a Yuba River camping trip looks a lot better from the window of your RV, check out Lake of the Springs RV Resort. This is a 950-acre campground nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains, on the border of the Sacramento Valley. Lake Mildred, a private 120-acre lake, is reserved for campers and is an exciting option for fishing, boating, and enjoying wildlife.
The resort hosts campsite options for virtually any camping style. They provide yurts, cabins, RV sites, group sites, tent sites, and even tent cabins! They also provide a plethora of amenities including WiFi, drinking water, toilets, fire pits, and sewer hookups.
“Great views on first loop and wildlife throughout! Lake is beautiful too.” — The Dyrt camper Nicole R.
Nearby Nature & Activities
The main stem of the Yuba River is about 40 miles long. It passes through towns, a state park, trails, historic sites, and national forests. While in the area, visitors find that there’s plenty to do and see on and nearby the river.
The South Fork of the Yuba River runs through the South Yuba River State Park. This is a charming natural area that features a visitor center and 11,000 acres of wildlife protected by the California Department of Parks and Recreation and by the Tahoe National Forest. The Yuba River itself passes through the park, over giant granite ledges and winding riparian areas.
The most popular hiking trail in the park is a stretch of the Independence Trail which is an ADA approved wheelchair-accessible trail. It is famous for once being a gold mining ditch and eventually becoming the nation’s first handicapped-accessible trail.
Other notable leisure activities in the park include exploring the park’s natural and gold mining history, birdwatching, and enjoying the many swimming holes.
The Tahoe National Forest is where the southern branch of the Yuba originates. An excellent place to experience its origins is Lake Angela near Donner Lake, just up the 89 from Tahoe City. The Angela Lake Hike brings hikers through pine forests and across mountainous terrain until arriving at the quaint, clear blue lake. The trail also passes particularly close to the Pacific Crest Trail.
There are endless ways to spend your days in the Tahoe National Forest. There are blue, glassy lakes scattered all over the place, tons of hiking, and of course, the opportunity to visit Lake Tahoe itself, the largest lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Sounds like an ideal road trip!
Nevada City, formerly a Native Nisenan village called Ustumah, is the county seat of Nevada County, California. This is a place to experience history. The city—which is more like a town with its population of just 3,100—hosts a number of historic buildings. For example, the Nevada Theatre on Broad Street is the oldest original-use theatre in California. Also located in town is the National Exchange Hotel which has been open since 1856. And finally, most visitors are curious to see the Nevada Brewery which operated throughout the late 1800s selling lager to the mining community.