I think Ponderosa Thousand Trails is one of the most scenic campgrounds we’ve been in on our 2014 adventure. The campground is right on the American River and “Old Scary” rapids is right in front of our camper. It’s been fun watching rafters and kayakers navigate this (fairly easy) rapid. We’re also about a mile downriver from Sutter’s Mill – the place where the initial gold find took place, sparking the historic California gold rush.
As it is with most campgrounds it’s location-location-location. We were happy to find a vacant spot right on the river. These prime spots fill early so no one should come to Ponderosa expecting to have one of them. If you get one, though, you’ll have a great view. There are other nice campsites – some with limited views of the river, many just a short walk from it. Be aware, this is a crowded campground. The sites are generally small and without grass. Some have nice shade but those along the river don’t and can be hot in the afternoon summer sun. Many of the favored spots have seasonal residents who may or may not even be there. The full hookup area isn’t on the river and the RVs are really packed in with hardly room to put an awning out. They are, though, close to the small pool and the activity center.
The route into the campground might challenge some. No one recommends arriving via highway 49 from the north. A few hardy souls might be okay driving in on 49 from the south, but it has many twists and turns and fairly steep grades. The best route in is via the highway 50, Shingle Springs, Green Valley Rd., Lotus Rd. route. Even that approach includes a bit over a mile of 10% grade. Then, once you arrive at the park there are some tight turns on narrow roads on steep hills. If you manage to snag a river-front site, though, in my opinion it’s worth it.
In addition to watching the rafters we’ve been entertained by paragliders who launched from the mountain just across the river from us and glided on the air currents for nearly an hour and also by hardy fellow campers panning for gold in the cold water. One fellow showed me a small vial with several flecks of gold he had found that day. Others fished for trout and reported some limited success on that front.
Satellite TV was reasonably easy to get and my Verizon 4G has a decent 3 bars of signal strength. We’ve really enjoyed our relaxing spot on the river and hope to return someday.