Riverside Camping

"Camping: where you spend a small fortune to live like a homeless person", or when the river is next to camp, and you get to float on an oversized pineapple. Both definitions were true for us, and though camping may not be everyone's "cup of tea", it's definitely our kind of cup.

Nowadays, camping options are designed to fit the various desires people seek, from the glamorous glamping to the primitive camping. We wanted something in between, and we wanted water! Riverside camping it was! We had done riverside camping in Big Sur earlier in the year, and it was not only convenient to be "riverside and chill" but it was also Big Sur beautiful. Only this time we wanted to keep our camping closer to the Sacramento region, in order to reduce our "small fortune" expenses. 

There are two places I knew about, that provide riverside camping near  the Sacramento region. Both of which we had never been to. One is Camp Lotus in Lotus California, https://www.camplotus.com/camping/#/tent-camping/, and the other is Mineral Bar Campground which is located in Colfax California. We were going with a couple of mom friends, and their kids so Mineral Bar Campground was the best  bet as far as price, $28 per night, versus $12 per night per person at Camp Lotus. Camp Lotus requires a call for reservations, and Mineral Bar Campground is a first-come- first-serve basis. I had already called (1-800-444-7275) earlier this year to get tips on landing a campsite at Mineral Bar Campground. They told me that if I got there earlier afternoon on a Friday, I would most likely land a campsite. So keeping this in mind I intended to be there Friday morning, to make sure we got a spot. 

Well....we tried! By the time we were ready with everything packed into the car, and with about an hour drive, we got there Friday afternoon at about one o'clock. Checkout time is twelve in the afternoon, so I figured we might still be lucky.  After driving down the somewhat steep and narrow Iowa Hill Road, we ended up at the campsground and were greeted by park rangers. The ranger I dealt with was helpful in letting me know which sites were still available and where to park. There were four campsites available, so I went on to assess all four. I ended up choosing site seven because I thought it had enough space for my two other friends and their kids, and it seemed to be the most level for our tents. We had the pathway down to the river on the left side of our site, and the bathrooms to our right, which both seemed to be convenient.
Phoenix helping with our "small fortune" set up during the hot scorching heat.

  Enjoying our river views, including the Iowa Hill Bridge, at sundown.

"Reason for death, poop" is what one of my friends, who was only getting there the next day, texted me when I told her that I couldn't sleep due to the poop smell, the hard floor, and shuffling noises outside. Yes, the campsite had a long, spacious, level area for tents, but we kept smelling the breeze coming from the vaulted restrooms.  There were two upsides to this, my nose was clogged the following night, so I couldn't smell a darn thing, and secondly we were down at the river most of the second day, so we didn't have to deal with the smell. I can't speak for Phoenix, of course, but he seemed to sleep well through both nights.

The second day of our camping trip was the best because we got to enjoy morning river views, and I felt like we finally got to relax besides the water and in the water, without having to worry about unloading, unpacking, or setting up. Though I do enjoy every part of camping, it was nice to get to this part of our trip. This Northern part of the American River didn't really have much of a beach area. It was rocky, but there were flat areas in the rocks where you could put your towels and sit or even lay. I feel like the rocky nature of this area of the river made it all the more beautiful. The water was  clear enough to see all the beautiful rocks glistening through, and it was shallow enough where people could put their chairs in the water, with some deeper swimming holes. Some people were brilliant enough to provide themselves with shade by putting their gazebo in the water. Other people basked in the sun with their floaties, while Phoenix and I had our pineapple swimmies and our giant pineapple.
Morning stroll

People with their chairs in the river water. 

In our matching pineapple swimmies, enjoying a snack by the river. 
My friend saving our pineapple.

The giant pineapple. Don't mind his face. He is a happy child.

We spent our entire afternoon having fun under the sun, but the sun was going down, and it was time to get ready for fun night camping activities. But first, I wanted to take one last dip. I convinced Phoenix to get in too, and then one of my friends and her two kids joined in as well. The water was just as refreshing as it had been all afternoon. Not too cold, but just perfect.

Phoenix and I got out of the water, and I decided to read some stories to him before going up to camp and changing. As I read to him on the river bank, he fell asleep to the serenity of our beautiful surroundings. I ended up carrying him up to camp, changing him in the tent, and he kept sleeping. He missed out on the fun night camping activities that night, but I felt assured that he had enjoyed his day to the fullest.  

The next day Phoenix woke up before six in the morning! We took one last morning stroll. Then we packed up camp before the sun would start hitting hard. Then finally, after packing and loading we went down to the river bank and enjoyed one last time of river fun before heading back home. 

He decided to go across the river on the last day.

Helpful Tips:

How to get to Mineral Bar Campground from Sacramento:
  • Take I-80 East towards Reno
  • Take exit 133 for Canyon Way towards Placer Hills Rd.
  • Turn left onto Canyon Way
  • Turn left onto Iowa Hill Rd.
  • Turn right to stay on Iowa Hill Rd.
  • Turn left to stay on Iowa Hill Rd. (Its downhill curvy)
  • Then you will end up at Mineral Bar Campground, Colfax, Ca 95713


  1. This was the best camping trip ever!! I love how you put this together great pics...This campground was beautiful and the water was perfect! XOXO

    1. Thank you so much Debbie! I'm so glad you loved it!!! :) And the river definitely made this campsite beautiful. Your comments are always appreciated! :)

  2. Wow-great description of your trip-I felt like I was right there enjoying the river (and yuck smelling the poop!) Hope it was not so bad the second nite! Looks like you all made fun memories!! ~ Grandma R

    1. Thank you so much! That is my intent. And yes, the poop smell wasn't fun, but the night fire helped supersede the smell. And then my nose was clogged the second night, so that helped too, haha. Definitely great memories of this camping trip. Thank you once again for reading, and I will continue to post weekly, so watch for upcoming posts. ☺💜

  3. This place sounds amazing! What fantastic memories, except the �� poop smell.

    1. Haha....Yes, the poop smell wasn't fun! In the future we'd just pick a different site. But the beauty of the river and the fun and enjoyment we had superseded the smell! Thank you for commenting! And keep watching for posts!


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