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view of Lake Tahoe from Van Sickle State Park on a snowy day

If you ever find yourself in the Lake Tahoe area, the beautiful Van Sickle State Park is a must visit destination.

Nestled within the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the rugged park is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, including hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians. It features several trails that wind through dense forests of pine and aspen, and offer stunning views of the surrounding peaks and valleys.

Named after Henry Van Sickle, a wealthy businessman and philanthropist who once owned the land, the park home to a variety of animal species, including black bears, mountain lions, and coyotes, as well as numerous bird species.

It is also a popular spot for picnicking and photography and as the lake straddles two states, it attracts plenty of visitors from both California and Nevada.

Activities

Visitors to the park are able to enjoy a wide range of leisurely outdoor pursuits while they are there,
Presented below is an overview of some of the main activities you can take part in during your time at Van Sickle State Park.

Trails at Van Sickle State Park

One of the park’s main highlights is its multi-use trails.

These allow visitors to explore the park’s rugged mountain terrain and scenic vistas on foot, by bike or horseback riding.

Hiking is one of the more prominent activities in the park, with a variety of trails to suit all skill levels. One of the most popular is the Van Sickle Trail which offers stunning views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains.

This trail is a 5-mile round trip that takes hikers through dense forests of pine and aspen, and features some steep sections and rocky terrain. However, if you would prefer a shorter hike, visitors can take the Eagle Ridge Trail, which is just over a mile long and offers scenic views of the Carson Valley and Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Here is a good video showing the Van Sickle Trail:

For those into biking, the Flume Trail offers a challenging 14-mile ride that showcases spectacular views of Lake Tahoe. You can also tackle the Tahoe Rim Trail, which is a 165-mile loop that circles the lake and offers a variety of terrain for mountain bikers.

If you are planning on bringing your horse with you, many of the trails are suitable for riders of all levels and offer a more unique way of seeing them.

Photography at Van Sickle State Park

It is definitely worth bringing your camera to the park because you’ll find a wealth of photographic opportunities among its stunning mountain, forest and wildflower scenery.

Visitors can capture panoramic views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains from the park’s trails and overlooks, or take close-up shots of the park’s diverse plant and animal life.

The park’s scenic picnic areas and the historic Van Sickle Barn also provide excellent photo backdrops. While photographers can also take advantage of the changing seasons, with vibrant fall foliage and snow-covered winter landscapes adding to the park’s beauty.

Picnicking at Van Sickle State Park

Van Sickle State Park has several picnic areas where visitors can enjoy a meal surrounded by stunning mountain and forest scenery.

The park’s main picnic area is located near the park entrance and features numerous picnic tables and charcoal grills, as well as restrooms and drinking water.

Another popular spot for picnicking is the Van Sickle Bi-State Park Overlook, which offers panoramic views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains.

Park guests can also picnic along the hiking and biking trails, although it’s important to pack out all trash and food waste to help preserve the natural beauty of the area.

Birding at Van Sickle State Park

The park is a popular destination for birdwatchers, with a diverse range of bird species to observe in its mountain and forest habitats.

Visitors can spot a variety of birds, including woodpeckers, warblers, owls, hawks, and eagles. Many of which you will be able to see on the park’s trails.

To maximize your birding experience, it is worth bringing your binoculars and a birding guide with you.

The park’s birdwatching community also hosts regular events and walks throughout the year, providing visitors with the chance to learn more about the area’s bird species and their habitats.

Pets

Pets are welcome to join you at Van Sickle State Park, although certain conditions must be met. This includes them not being taken to specific parts of the park, including the backcountry areas and also being restrained at all times they are there.

Visitors are also required to clean up after their pets and properly dispose of their waste in the designated trash receptacles.

To fully avail yourself of the pet’s park policy, it is worth contacting the main office staff.

Camping

While Van Sickle State Park does not have any campgrounds on-site, there are several nearby campgrounds that offer a range of options for those who need a place to stay.

One of the closest options is the Campground by the Lake, which is located just a few miles from Van Sickle State Park in the heart of South Lake Tahoe. This campground offers tent and RV sites, as well as cabins, and is located within walking distance of the lake and a variety of restaurants and shops.

Also not too far away on the south shore of Lake Tahoe is the Fallen Leaf Campground. This campground offers tent and RV sites, as well as cabins, and is situated in a beautiful forested area near the lake.

Other options to consider include the Tahoe Valley Campground, which is about 5 miles from the park and offers tent and RV sites, and the Zephyr Cove Resort & Campground, which is around 10 miles from the park and presents a selection of tent and RV sites, as well as cabins, and yurts.

Park Location

Van Sickle State Park
30 Lake Pkwy
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
Phone: 530.542.5580

Park Website

Map