Destination: Convict Lake
Most people don’t have a lot of time to go to far and obscure destinations during their Airstream road trip. But I would be remiss not to write about this beautiful lake destination located on the other side of the Sierra Nevadas on the east side of California. As much as I like Lake Tahoe, Silver Lake and Lake Nacimiento, I think Convict Lake is by far the most gorgeous California lake I’ve ever laid eyes upon. You can see the bottom of the lake since the waters are so clear and when the sun shines, the water reflects like blue crystals. Also that mountain backdrop is just breathtaking. Don’t let the name fool you, there is nothing austere, bleak or prison-like about this place. In fact it’s more like a little piece of the Swiss Alps on the west coast.
Convict Lake is quite far from our San Jose Airstream garage and thus we advise making a stop if you are planning to explore the beautiful and rugged east side of California. The quickest route there, which is about a 6 hour drive, is through Yosemite National Park. Getting to Yosemite is about a 4 hour drive and you can read all about our experiences with the glamping at Yosemite here and here. Since the mountain roads through the national park is quite narrow and windy, we recommend this route only for those taking a 23′ Airstream or smaller and only during the summer months when the pass is open. When we took this road trip to Convcit Lake we went down to Death Valley National Park first and then came up the I-395 to Convict Lake.
Glamping at Convict Lake
Convict Lake Campground, which is within walking distance to the lake, has 37 standard non-electric back-up sites for RVs of various lengths. The spots can be a tad narrow so we recommend driving carefully around the campground and always having a spotter when backing up. Since there are no water or electric hook-ups at the campsite you might want to rent one of our generators to comfortable dry-camp. Since sites are limited we highly recommend making reservations here before your trip. There is a dump station and water filling station that is easily accessible right outside the campground if you need to empty or refill tanks. The campground itself is nicely arranged with some trees giving you privacy between sites.
What To Do There
Within walking distance to the campground is the Convict Lake Resort, which conveniently provides boat, kayak, and paddleboard rentals for a day out on the lake. There are also a couple beautiful hikes around the lake for those who prefer to stay on land. But Convict Lake is probably best known as a fishing destination for the avid fisherman. Also for those who feel like eating something fancy for a change, the Convict Lake Resort has two fine dining restaurants: Restaurant at Convict Lake and Morrison’s Restaurant (name after the mountain peak surrounding the lake).
Where To Go Next
If you’re on a time constraint, the fastest way back to San Jose would be to go through Yosemite National Park again. Or if you came up through Death Valley, going through Yosemite would be a nice roundtrip. If you came up through Yosemite and want to go down to Death Valley I would advise caution for the inexperienced trailer driver because there’s a stretch of narrow mountain roads that can be quite nerve-racking (going up is no walk in the park either but it’s not nearly as scary as going down). Lake Tahoe is about a three hour drive away if you want to continue the California mountain lake tour.