Crystal Basin Recreation Area

A sparkling jewel in the Sierras, Crystal Basin Reservoir provides outdoor recreation as well as clean, affordable energy

Since 1957, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, we’ve worked to make Crystal Basin a spectacular destination in the Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s not only home to our Upper American River hydroelectric system, but is also open to the public for enjoyment of outdoor recreation.

Looking at the sparkling beauty, it’s easy to forget that the area annually produces enough clean, affordable energy to power about 180,000 Sacramento homes. Crystal Basin proves it’s possible to create clean, affordable energy and protect our wild spaces for future generations.

Ready to plan your trip?

Crystal Basin the perfect place for a family vacation. Many of the developed areas are accessible for people with disabilities. Get online information about campgrounds, roads and trails, cabins and fire restrictions or call the Eldorado National Forest at 1-530-647-5400.

Reserve your campsite online or by calling 1-877-444-6777.

Get directions

Download our Crystal Basin brochure   View trout planting schedule

The average high temperature at Crystal Basin is 72 in July and August. Nights can be cool, so pack accordingly. See regularly updated information about conditions and weather at Crystal Basin below.

Average weather conditions

  Temperature  Precipitation   Snow pack?
 January  41°F  10.1"   Yes
 February  43°F  8.2"   Yes
 March  45°F  7.5"   Yes
 April  49°F  4.9"   Yes
 May  56°F  2.3"   Yes
 June  65°F  0.8"   No
 July  72°F  0.2"  No
 August  72°F  0.3"   No
 September  66°F  1.0"   No
 October  57°F  3.0"  No
 November  47°F  7.1"   Yes
 December  42°F  9.5"  Yes

(Precipitation data from 1962-2007 at 5 Upper American River Project locations)

Upper American River Project: Stream flows and reservoir conditions


More than 700 developed drive-in campsites are available, each with a fire ring and barbecue grate and table. Piped water, trash containers and toilets are available at most campgrounds. Loon Lake Chalet and Robbs Hut offer year-round lodging for larger groups.


Anglers cast for small-mouth bass, mackinaw, German brown or rainbow trout in the area's lakes and streams. 25,000 pounds of rainbow trout are planted each summer.  View Trout planting schedule.


All lakes have ramp access. Ice House Reservoir, Union Valley Reservoir and Loon Lake have paved boat ramps and are large enough to accommodate motorboats.

Horseback riding

Group and individual equestrian campgrounds are available at both Loon Lake and Wrights Lake, with access to scenic trails.


Hikers can access more than 117 miles of trails across the Sierra Nevada. Many offer easy-to-moderate day hikes.

Snow skiing

Cross-country skiers can traverse miles of pristine ski trails near Loon Lake.


Enjoy a 4.5-mile paved bike trail that meanders through beautiful timber stands of old grove sugar and ponderosa pine trees and offers great views of the Union Valley Reservoir.