A Quiet Week at New Melones Lake

April 30 – May 5
Just like last summer, we’ve decided the best travel plans are those that we make up as we go along. So far our only commitment for the near future is the Northwest String Summit in mid-July. That leaves us a LOT of freedom to roam around as we please. Our loosey-goosey travel plan involves picking a general route, marking camping options on our shared Google map, and making the final decision at the last minute. So far it’s working out just fine and I actually find it much less stressful than planning months ahead and committing to reservations. Of course, we’re still in that sweet spot before hoards of vacationing families take over all the campgrounds, so time will tell how this approach fares through the busy season.

New Melones Lake
A peaceful spot to call home

One of the potential spots marked on our map was the Glory Hole Recreation Area on New Melones Lake. (I’ll let you make your own jokes about the name.) Located in the foothills of the Sierras not far north of Yosemite, it was reported to have good cell service, a variety of hiking trails, scenic campsites, and a giant lake for boating.

New Melones Lake
This site had a great view of the houseboat marina
New Melones Lake
New Melones Lake
So I guess houseboats are basically just RVs that float?

What it didn’t have was any available potable water. A fact that we only realized upon arrival with an empty water tank. Whoops. According to the ranger, there is currently something wrong with the water system, and while some of the spigots may have water, it is not potable, and therefore not going into our tank. We made it work by using our portable water jugs to retrieve water from the nearby fairgrounds campground and the Tuttltown Campground. Tuttletown is part of the same recreation area even though it requires a 20-minute drive to the other side of the lake to get there. One afternoon we drove over to hike some of the many trails, fill our water jugs, and use the coin-operated showers.

New Melones Lake
Face Tree

For most of the week, the campground was nearly empty, and our only company was the group of wild turkeys that strutted through our site a few times a day. There were 3 or 4 lady turkeys and one male who liked to puff out his feathers in an effort to impress. Tim started calling him Mr. Thanksgiving because with his tail feathers on display he looked just like the typical Thanksgiving turkey image you see printed on napkins and advertisements.

New Melones Lake
My best attempt at getting a photo of Mr. Thanksgiving

We took our bikes out on the trail system around the lake one afternoon. I was on high alert because the camp host warned us that 11 rattlesnakes had been spotted around the campground in the past week! Thankfully, we had no rattlesnake sightings – either on the trail or around our campsite.

New Melones Lake
Trail with a view

Our site had a giant backyard overlooking the lake. For the first time in over a year(!) we set up the hammock for a little afternoon relaxation.

New Melones Lake
Hammock time

On our last day in the area, we planned to drive up to Calaveras Big Trees State Park. With two sequoia groves and lots of hiking trails, it sounded like a great place to spend a lovely Saturday. Except it was a 45-minute drive to the north grove and another 30-40 minutes to the south grove.  Ultimately we decided to skip it in favor of a more leisurely day that involved less time in the truck. Sometimes less adventure is exactly what we need. Instead, we headed over to the nearby town of Murphys for some lunch. This former gold mining town tuned wine lovers paradise is all the rage for city dwellers looking for an authentic “country” experience. The tiny, one main street town boasts over two dozen wineries along with countless boutiques and restaurants. It was charming if a bit too touristy. We enjoyed lunch, homemade ice cream, and a walk around town.

Murphys, Califronia
Murphys Hotel in Murphys, CA
Murphys, California
As usual, the flowers stole the show

Six-Gallon Portable Water Jug

An essential part of boondocking gear. These rugged six-gallon, BPA free, water jugs are the perfect method for storing and fetching water while camping in the boonies. Comes with a handy three-piece spout system for easy pouring into your tank.


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4 Responses to “A Quiet Week at New Melones Lake”


  1. Jeff Pierce

    Find any frogs in Calaveras to race? You have found a beautiful spot by the lake, a perfect place for a quiet week. Any plans for Yosemite, this trip?

    • Amanda

      The only frogs we saw were on the many signs advertising the race. Looks like we were a few weeks too early to attend the fair this year. We had to skip over Yosemite this time around because of work stuff. Hopefully, we can make it happen this fall as we head south.

  2. David B.

    Did you check out the gold nugget on display at Iron Stone Winery in Murphys? I have a buddy who thinks during the winter months fishing all night in an open aluminum boat shivering through freezing temps on New Melones is a worthwhile pastime.. Despite many invitations, I have not yet been tempted to join the fun. I love camping in the comfort of my airstream…..Dave

    • Amanda

      We missed that nugget! The tasting rooms were all super crowded with bikers and bridesmaids so we stayed away :) I am with you on the ice fishing thing. Spending time on the water is a strictly warm weather activity in my opinion.


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