September 6, 2017
South Lake Tahoe
After our visit to Lassen Volcanic NP, we drove back out via route 44 through Susanville, hopping on US 395 to Reno, and then I-580 to Carson City. Along the way, we filled up the gas tank and our pantry at a friendly Costco in Reno. From Carson City, we entered the Tahoe basin from the east via US Route 50 and then drove south along the eastern shore to reach South Lake Tahoe. That is a strange and funny town. On the NV side of the state line, there are huge hotels, casinos, and a fair amount of campy glitz. As soon as you cross into CA, it becomes a much more pleasant and somewhat old-fashioned tourist town with smaller hotels, and more pleasant surroundings.
Despite being post-Labor Day, the area was quite busy and road traffic along the south shore of the lake was fairly heavy. Still, we were pleased to be here and loved the scenery.
While visiting the area, be sure to stop by the lakeside Tallac historic site on the lake near Camp Richardson, only a mile from the Fallen Leaf campground. It's a beautiful location, and it is interesting to see how the rich used to hang out at the lake when it was much more challenging to get here.
Fallen Leaf Lake
Fallen Leaf Lake is a beautiful, pristine-looking lake within the Tahoe basin, just south of Lake Tahoe. Fallen Leaf is much smaller, but stunning in its beauty. There are cabins on the far shore and you'll see the occasional boat or jet-skier, but it's still a amazing location.
Without a doubt, Fallen Leaf Campground is the best place to camp in the Lake Tahoe basin. It is a National Forest campground, and thus attractively priced. As with many NF campgrounds, there were no hookups, but we didn't mind a bit.
They do have a potable water fill-up here. Highly recommended as the water here is fantastic for drinking and anything. Fill up your fresh water tank before setting up camp and again as you leave! We found a dump station at a nearby Thousand Trails / Encore campground. The dump station was easy enough to access, and only cost $5.00. We'd never camp at this Thousand Trails site, however, because the rest rooms / showers are old and tired and everyone is squeezed in like sardines. Fallen Leaf Campground, primitive and unpretentious though it may be, is far superior.
Kingsbury Grade (NV Route 206)
Given our planned route south and east into the Nevada / California desert, and fires that prevented us from taking Route 89, we decided to leave Lake Tahoe via the Kingsbury Grade, NV route 206. This route would save us valuable time.
The Kingsbury Grade is a relatively famous and dramatic drive with grades of up to 9% as you drop down from Lake Tahoe into the desert below. However, there are no hairpin turns that put you at risk of dragging the back of your RV, and the road is comfortably wide all the way down. We found it a delightfully spectacular ride, and would absolutely take it again in good weather. Climbing this grade might prove to be more of a challenge, but we're confident our rig could handle the upward path as well, though we would likely be quite slow about it.
It's a slow ride due to the grade, of course. We used down-shifting to avoid over-heating our brakes, sometimes going as low as 2nd gear, and that strategy worked fine.
If you are uneasy with steep grades, sharp curves and incredible vistas while the driver keeps all wheels on the road and speeds under control, you may want to take another route - especially if the weather is questionable. We would never consider this route if there were any risk of snow and would probably take another route if heavy rain was in the forecast. Lastly, if you aren't familiar with down-shifting to control your RV's speed vs. just using your brakes, you should avoid this road. If the driver is into this route but the passenger has a fear of heights, this would be a great time for said passenger to take a nap!