Bear Valley Campground: What’s New?

Bear Valley Campground, Tahoe National Forest, Northern California

Last week my husband and I planned to spend most of our vacation traveling in the Nevada desert, followed by a couple of days in the Sierras.   But the Nevada desert was white hot and we were soon singed so we packed up and retreated to the Sierras a day early.

We arrived at Bear Valley Campground in the Tahoe National Forest–a favorite campground of ours–to a big surprise.  Food lockers have been installed in an attempt to make campers safer from bears.  The food lockers are a bonus because, previously, we had to pack up all of our food every night and stow it away in the car, then unpack it in the morning.  Now, we simply stow it in the locker which is much like a cupboard next to the picnic table.  Of course this cupboard is made of steel and contains a bear-proof lock.

Bear Valley Campground is a small, remote, intimate campground which tends to attract experienced campers.  Camping is free and campers are accommodated on a first-come basis.  There are 10 camp sites.  Frequently the campground is less than half full.

During past years, Mr. Jelly Bean, a naturalist and a World War II vet, has served as the on-site volunteer ranger at Bear Valley Campground, living there for the summer in his RV.  We recently heard that he is not well enough to hold the position this year.  Jelly Bean is beloved in the Bear Valley camping community and is missed by all.  My husband and I will always associate Bear Valley Campground with Mr. Jelly Bean; in fact. we routinely refer to the campground as “Jelly Bean’s.”

Currently there is no on-site ranger on staff but rangers do periodically make the rounds and check on the status of the campground and its campers.  The nearest ranger station is in Sierraville.  It is open from 8:00-4:30 M-F.  Maps of Tahoe National Forest roads are available for purchase at the ranger station.

A major supply run requires a trip to Tahoe.  The Safeway there is well-stocked and prepared to accommodate the crowds that are Tahoe at this time of year.  If you only need a couple of items or are bent on avoiding crowds, try the small general store in Loyalton or the smaller store in Sierraville.  Both Loyalton and Sierraville are accessible by scenic dirt roads that depart from the campground.  Look for the signs at the 4-way.

Bear Valley Campground is located approximately 12 miles north of Truckee via Highway 89, just past Upper Little Truckee River Campground.  Watch for the sign for “Bear Valley Campground” on the right.  Turn right and drive five miles down the dirt road.   In the summer it’s not necessary to have a 4-wheel drive.

Personal comfort amenities at the campground are limited to two toilets.  For those who enjoy bathing, a solar shower is recommended or it is 15 miles to Stampede Reservoir.

Each campsite has a picnic table and a fire pit.  Campfires are permitted in the fire pits only.