Matt Johnson

Exploring Dark Day Campground – A Guide to Tahoe National Forest

Author: Matt JohnsonPhotos/Graphics: Mike HawthornePublished: May 30, 2023Updated: Dec 13, 2023

Have you ever dreamed of escaping into the wilderness, surrounded by picturesque landscapes and breathtaking views? Well, we’ve got the place for you. Dark Day Campground, nestled in the heart of Tahoe National Forest, offers nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts a serene and adventurous camping experience.

We’ll take you through everything you need to know about this hidden gem, from its stunning location overlooking Bullards Bar Reservoir to the vast array of activities and amenities available to campers. There is plenty to do from their several developed hiking trails to the Emerald Cove Marina.

Discovering Dark Day Campground.

Imagine waking up to birds chirping, the gentle rustle of leaves, and a crisp, fresh breeze blowing through your tent. At Dark Day Campground, this dream becomes a reality. With ten tent-only campsites, this secluded campground is perfect for those seeking an authentic and intimate camping experience.

Located on the stunning brink of the New Bullards Bar Reservoir, the campground offers stunning panoramic views and convenient entry to several aquatic pursuits. With the provision of three double and one triple site, Dark Day Campground is capable of accommodating a maximum of 18 individuals, catering to different group sizes. Despite the fact that our party consisted of only four individuals, the campsites and parking area were ample and generously spaced.

This versatility makes it an ideal destination for couples, families, and groups of friends looking to reconnect with nature and create unforgettable memories. So, whether you’re planning a romantic weekend getaway or a fun-filled adventure with your closest friends, Dark Day Campground is the perfect setting.

Campground basics.

Dark Day Campground Campsites

When planning your camping trip, it’s essential to note that Dark Day Campground’s opening and closing dates are estimates, generally from mid-April to mid-October. While the maximum vehicle length varies from site to site, 29 to 44 feet is the range to keep in mind, bearing in mind that not all sites can accommodate trailers or RVs of any size. There are double and triple sites available, which is excellent if you have a group of friends with RVs.

To ensure the health of the surrounding ecosystem, Dark Day Campground prohibits using outside firewood. This measure is in place to protect the area from invasive insects that can hitch a ride on firewood from other locations. So remember to leave your firewood at home and use the on-site fire rings to keep warm and toast those marshmallows.

Of course, this is standard practice for many campgrounds, so checking for any local fire regulations before you arrive is essential.

Getting to the campground.

Dark Day Campground is easily accessible from Nevada City, California. To reach this idyllic location, head north on Highway 49 for approximately 20 miles until you reach Maryville Road. Take a left onto Maryville Road and continue west for about 3 miles until you reach the campground on the southern shore of New Bullards Bar Reservoir.

With these directions, you’re well on your way to discovering this hidden gem in the heart of Tahoe National Forest.

Although Dark Day Campgrounds is secluded, it is rather uncomplicated to locate. We have encountered campgrounds in the past that were so isolated, it took us hours to find them.

Exploring Bullards Bar Reservoir.

Bullards Bar Reservoir is a substantial man-made lake located in California on the North Yuba River with an impressive capacity of 996,103 acre-feet. Its steep sides create a distinctive and striking landscape, ideal for adventurous individuals seeking exploration. Although there are limitations on public boating access, the surrounding area is abundant in conifer and hardwood forests, providing ample shade at campsites.

Yearlong fishing opportunities for warm and cold-water fish species attract anglers from far and wide to Bullards Bar Reservoir. With so much to see and do, it’s no wonder that this stunning location is a favorite among outdoor enthusiasts.

Boating and water activities.

Bullards Bar Reservoir Boating on the Water

The shimmering waters of Bullards Bar Reservoir are a haven for water sports enthusiasts. There’s no shortage of fun and excitement, from fishing and water skiing to wakeboarding and jet skiing. For a more laid-back experience, the Dark Day Boating Site provides the perfect setting for non-motorized boating activities like kayaking, canoeing, or paddleboarding.

There is a boat ramp inside the campground, so dropping your toys in the water is easy.

With so many options available, it’s easy to see why Bullards Bar Reservoir has become a popular destination for adventure seekers and those looking to unwind in the tranquil beauty of nature. So whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or a leisurely paddler, the reservoir has something for everyone.

Limited swimming opportunities.

Although swimming opportunities at Bullards Bar Reservoir are limited due to the steep slopes, boaters can still take advantage of the numerous spots around the reservoir for a refreshing dip. So, while you may not be able to dive in from the shore, don’t let that stop you from enjoying the cool, refreshing waters of the reservoir during your stay at Dark Day Campground.

That’s not to say you can’t swim from the shore; we just say it could be rather tricky.

The campground offers plenty of other activities, such as fishing, hiking, and biking, so you can still make the most of your time at the reservoir. We loved the Bullards Bar Trail and the Rebel Ridge Trail. Of course, we’re hikers, so keep that in mind. These trails weren’t too challenging.

There are also plenty of picnic areas and campgrounds to choose from, so you can enjoy a relaxing vacation.

Amenities and facilities.

At Dark Day Campground, your comfort and convenience are a top priority. On-site services include picnic tables, fire rings, and vault toilets, ensuring you have everything you need for a comfortable and enjoyable camping experience.

For those looking to venture beyond the campground, there’s plenty to explore in the surrounding area. A non-motorized trail system with five trails to choose from is just a stone’s throw away, providing hours of hiking and biking fun. To help you navigate this beautiful landscape, maps are available at the nearby North Yuba Ranger Station or the Yuba River Ranger Station.

On-site services.

Dark Day Campground strives to make your stay as pleasant as possible by providing a range of on-site amenities. Each campsite is equipped with picnic tables and fire rings, perfect for enjoying meals with family and friends while basking in the beauty of your surroundings.

For your convenience, vault toilets are also available on-site, ensuring that you have access to basic facilities during your stay. With these amenities at your disposal, you can focus on what’s truly important – soaking up the natural beauty of Dark Day Campground and creating lifelong memories.

Nearby Attractions

If you’re looking to expand your outdoor adventure beyond the boundaries of Dark Day Campground, there are numerous nearby attractions to explore. The non-motorized trail system offers five trails for hiking and biking enthusiasts, each varying in difficulty and terrain.

Maps are available at the North Yuba Ranger Station, just a short drive from the campground, to help you navigate this diverse landscape. With these trails at your fingertips, you’ll never run out of ways to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Tahoe National Forest.

Outdoor recreation at Dark Day Campground.

Dark Day Campground is a true paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering various activities to suit all interests and abilities. There’s no shortage of adventure, from hiking and mountain biking on the developed trails to fishing, boating, and water sports on the stunning Bullards Bar Reservoir.

For those looking to explore the area on horseback, designated trails provide a unique and exhilarating way to experience the breathtaking natural beauty of Tahoe National Forest. Whether you’re an experienced rider or a first-timer, the thrill of galloping through this stunning landscape will surely leave you with memories that will last a lifetime.

Hiking and biking.

The developed hiking trails near Dark Day Campground, such as the Little Beaver Nature Trail and Oak Flat Loop Trail, offer diverse challenges for hiking and biking enthusiasts. Ranging from easy to rugged, these trails provide the perfect opportunity to explore the beauty of Tahoe National Forest while getting some exercise and fresh air.

To ensure that you’re well-prepared for your adventure, don’t forget to pick up a map from the North Yuba Ranger Station before setting off on your journey. With your trusty map, you’ll be ready to tackle the trails and experience the area’s natural wonders.

Horseback riding.

Horseback riding enthusiasts will be delighted to discover that designated trails are available for their enjoyment at Dark Day Campground. These trails provide an exciting opportunity to explore the picturesque landscapes of Tahoe National Forest while bonding with your trusty steed.

Always wear a helmet and adhere to all safety regulations to ensure a safe and enjoyable ride. For more information on horseback riding opportunities, consult the Tahoe National Forest website or inquire at the North Yuba Ranger Station.

Wildlife viewing.

The diverse and abundant wildlife at Dark Day Campground is another reason this location is a popular destination for nature lovers. From amphibians like the Western Toad, Sierran Tree Frog, Foothill Yellow-legged Frog, and California Red-legged Frog to mammals such as deer, bear, turkey, quail, gray squirrel, raccoon, bobcat, beaver, and gray fox, the area is teeming with life.

Birdwatchers will also be thrilled to spot bald eagles, ospreys, and mountain lions in their natural habitat. Northern California has plenty of birding hotspots for the uninitiated, but the area around Dark Day Campground is one of the best.

RV camping experience.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any RV camping sites at Dark Day Campground, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the opportunity to enjoy this stunning location. Several nearby campgrounds offer full hookup sites for those wanting to stay connected in the great outdoors.

The parking area near the campground is also suitable for RVs as it’s enormous. However, there aren’t any hookups. So you need to bring your portable generator and water.

It’s not an ideal place for camping in the RV, but it does the trick if you’re passing through the area.

Planning your trip.

Getting ready for your adventure at Dark Day Campground is an exciting process. Start by researching the campground and booking reservations through the Recreation Department website or by calling 1-877-444-6777.

Next, ensure you have the right gear packed, including appropriate clothing, camping equipment, and any other essentials you’ll need during your stay.

With your reservations made and gear packed, you’re all set to embark on a memorable trip filled with outdoor activities, breathtaking views, and unforgettable experiences at Dark Day Campground.

FAQs for Dark Day Campground.

Still, got questions? Don’t worry; here are some commonly asked questions about Dark Day Campground.

Is there a fee to camp at Dark Day Campground?

Yes, there are fees to camp at Dark Day Campground. The prices range from $24 to $72, depending on the season and how many sites you want. For example, if you wish to triple sites in the peak of the season between April and October, you’re looking at paying $72 per night.

Can you camp anywhere at Bullards Bar?

While camping is allowed at Schoolhouse Campground near Bullards Bar Reservoir, a permit is required, and they may only be reserved in advance. Campfires are permitted in certain areas if the drawdown is over 15 feet.

Is the Dark Day boat ramp open?

As of writing this in May 2023, the boat ramp is open. The water level is still extremely low; caution should be taken while boating. Check with the North Yuba Ranger Station before launching your boat for up-to-date information on water levels.

Can I fish at Dark Day Campground?

Yes, fishing is allowed in this area of Tahoe National Forest, though you will need a valid California Fishing License to do so. The campground is close to the Yuba River, which provides excellent fishing opportunities for anglers of all experience levels.

Are there any ATV trails in the area?

Yes, there are several ATV trails available in the Tahoe National Forest. These include Dark Day Trailhead, Middle Fork of Willow Creek Trailhead, and Hell Hole Trailhead. To access these trails, you must have a valid OHV sticker or pass from the State of California.

Head out to the campground!

Dark Day Campground offers an unparalleled camping experience in the heart of Tahoe National Forest. Its breathtaking location, diverse outdoor activities, and thoughtful amenities make it the perfect destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers. So pack your bags, gather your friends and family, and embark on a journey to discover this hidden gem in the great outdoors. Your unforgettable camping adventure awaits you at Dark Day Campground.


Matt Johnson

Senior Content Writer

Matt is an experienced camper and glamping enthusiast with a Master's degree in Wildlife Science from Texas A&M University. Authoring posts for GlamperGear, he shares his wealth of knowledge on picturesque campsites, luxurious accommodations, and the best gear for outdoor adventures. His passion for nature and knack for comfort in the wilderness make him an expert guide for your next camping endeavor.

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