I know, I know…what a tease. Why do a summer escape piece in the middle of winter? Well, what’s wrong with a little inspiration to get you psyched? Plus, if you are a planner like me, you can start recruiting your camping buddies ASAP.
Stumpy Meadows may be a silly sounding name, but don’t let that fool you; this camping ground in El Dorado National Forest is one of the best places I’ve found for an outdoor weekend adventure. First of all, the drive to Stumpy Meadows is gorgeous-roll down the windows and you’ll be reminded of what air should really smell like. Second, both of the times I’ve been there, it’s been completely easy to get a camping spot, and the camp hosts are super nice and very helpful.
Now for the really awesome stuff. The campground is right on Stumpy Meadows Lake, which is crystal clear and has private rock beaches all along its edge. Bring a towel, some choice of snacks and beverages, and enjoy the water’s edge in peace. As a side bonus, there are also bald eagles in the area-I was lucky enough to see one the last time I was there.
Last but not least, the jewel in this here camping crown: the little-known hike to the natural water slides, University Falls. Down the road from the campground, you’ll see a bunch of cars parked seemingly at random by a yellow gate. Keep going. After two miles of hiking on access roads you’ll see an old abandoned truck that had clearly rolled down the side of the mountain. You’re almost there-just one last rather steep hike down to the river. You’ll hear the rush of water first; then just around the bend, the falls spread out in front of you. Right next to them is what I like to call the bleachers: a huge flat boulder that’s perfect for sunning yourself while you watch everyone slide down the falls.
There are four waterfalls in total, each getting progressively larger. The fourth is off limits, though, it’s way too dangerous. (No really, we’re talking death here.) Luckily, it’s completely easy to avoid that fourth drop and stick to the top three. The water temperature will shock your system for sure, but wow, this is truly an awesome experience. The first fall is pretty small, so give that one a try. I promise you’ll want to keep going.