Family picnic

Crystal Basin Recreation Area

We have always thought about more than just electricity, which is why our Upper American River hydroelectric system is also home to beautiful natural spaces open to the public – the Crystal Basin Recreation Area.

Crystal Basin was one of our earliest partnerships for the public good. The recreational facilities are the joint vision of SMUD and the U.S. Forest Service. Started in 1957 and constantly improved, Crystal Basin today is nothing short of spectacular, a true gem in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

It's almost easy to forget that the area also produces enough clean, affordable electricity to power about 180,000 homes a year in Sacramento.

From campsites to cabins, Crystal Basin is the perfect place for a family vacation. And of course many of the developed areas are accessible for people with disabilities.

Ready to plan a trip? Call 877-444-6777 to reserve your campsite or visit Or you can call the Eldorado National Forest line at
530-647-5400 for information on campgrounds, roads and trails, cabins or fire restrictions. To download our Crystal Basin brochure click here.


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.


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.

The Crystal Basin reservoir offers a sparkling, high-country break from the Sacramento Valley. Take a break with us!

Road construction

Upper American River Project road activity and work log

See a 2-week look ahead of project activities, road closures and impacts affecting our projects in El Dorado County.
October 23 - November 5

Crystal Basin brochure

Download a pdf brochure and map of the Crystal Basin Recreation Area.

View the brochure
Boy on bike

Great getaways close to home

Our nearby lakes offer camping, boating, hiking and more.

Watch video

A jewel in the Sierras

Take a panoramic look at the source of our hydro power.

Watch video