Hope Valley

When I was a kid growing up we never camped in specified “camp grounds”.  We wilderness camped which meant that we didn’t pay any camping fees  and had more privacy.  This also meant that we didn’t have any conveniences….no water spigots, no toilets of any kind, no picnic tables, no fire pits other than the ones we made ourselves.  A lot more people did that in those days which meant that sometimes we didn’t get our favorites spots as they were already occupied when we arrived.  The other convenience we did not have was “reservations”.  

A favorite spot of my family’s was in the Woods Lake area which is off of Highway 88 just before you reach Carson Pass.  Although we continued to camp there as my kids were growing up we’ve had to give it up as the forest service has stopped maintaining the roads.  They have deteriorated to the point that a 4-wheel drive is needed and trying to get a trailer there would be unwise.  The forest service has also made it more difficult for campers by blocking off more and more areas to wilderness camping.  So, as we were getting pushed out of the Woods Lake area we drove over Carson Pass to explore and found Hope Valley.

Hope Valley is a gorgeous valley dotted with ranches and with the Carson River winding through it.


Lots of folks drive up there each fall to take in the fall colors and it was in this valley that we found our new place to camp.  We turned onto the road that takes you up to Blue Lakes.  There is a sno-park there and then just past that there is a  campground on the right.  Then if you continue on the road, past the campground, you come to a glorious, huge meadow.


 There are several different exits that will take you off of the main road and onto a dirt road that winds through the area.


A tributary of the Carson River runs through this area and because of that camping is restricted to certain areas only.  Vehicles are not permitted within a certain distance of the water.  On top of that the forest service has restricted the use of other areas by blocking off places with large boulders and preventing access.  I’m not sure why they’ve done that but I’m guessing they have their reasons.  But, it does seem that each year the section that is open to wilderness campers gets smaller and smaller.  We used to try to go in July but found that it was a little too crowded for our taste.  So, we have taken to going in early September around Labor Day.  With the kids back at school and the camping season coming to an end, we generally have our choice of where to park our rig.


It’s soooo worth it.  The scenery is stunning.  The air is fresh.  The birds are singing.  There are plenty of paths to explore.


This is a popular spot for the “horse” people.  Many come up for just the day, hauling their horse trailers and go trail riding.


Others come up to camp bringing their portable corrals that they can put up right next to their own camping rigs.  This does mean that there is ALWAYS horse poop in the area.  Some of the horse folks are respectful of others and shovel it up to dump it elsewhere and some do not.  But, we’ve never found it something we can’t work around.


This is what it looks like in September.  It’s golden instead of green and, depending on the fire danger, campfires may not be permitted.


If fires are allowed you can get a permit up at the Rangers Station on Carson Pass.  There are always plenty of rock fire rings left from other campers.  But, we prefer to bring our own fire pit made from a washing machine drum.  It works great!


Something else you need to be aware of is that, due to the high elevation, thunder storms can be fairly common.  Sometimes we experience them and sometimes we don’t.  There have been times that a thunder storm has blown in, dumped a little rain, and gone on it’s way within an few minutes.  It’s not enough to keep us way.


Even though it’s no longer green, like this, when we camp in September, there are plusses that make it worth it.  Not only do we  always get a great spot to park our rig, the chances of kiddies racing up and down the dirt roads on their mini bikes is slim and, mosquito season is OVER!  AND………


…..this is a pretty spectacular spot to enjoy a glass of wine and watch the sun go down behind the mountains.

One comment to Hope Valley

  • Nancy  says:

    Beautiful! Sad to hear they’ve closed off Woods Lake. I’ve got lots of happy memories of camping with the Clark family there.

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