Discovering the Adventure
Alpine County Attractions

Alpine County: More to Offer Than You Know

Most people - if they've even heard of it - would say that Alpine County attractions revolve around its ski resorts and its proximity to Lake Tahoe. Which is partly true.

But I've heard it said that Alpine has such a small population there are two people for every square mile of the county. And that the tourists often outnumber the residents! Which is probably also close to the truth and an important attraction to some.

Well, that leaves a whole bunch of open spaces, and the tourists can't only be coming for the skiing! Let's find out what other Alpine County attractions there are to discover. I think you're in for some Alpine County  surprises!

Alpine County Attractions:
Scenic Drives

Although there are many scenic routes in Alpine County for a Sunday drive, there are three official Caltrans designated scenic highways, one of which is also on the list of National scenic byways.

Route 88 - known as the Carson Pass Highway - passes through both Amador and Alpine Counties.

It's steep and mountainous, as it winds through the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, finally crossing over at Carson Pass, after which it finishes on the eastern side of the mountains.

Along the way you're treated to panoramas of volcanic peaks, cool meadows, mountain lakes, timbered slopes, and rocky valleys, not to mention scores of opportunities along the way to enjoy the outdoors.

Route 89 - oddly enough, its only name is Route 89 Scenic Highway - crosses parts of El Dorado, Alpine, and Mono Counties. It's filled with switchbacks and bordered by rocky hillsides and granite walls, mountain vistas, snowy peaks, streams and lakes, alpine forests and meadows, and sweeping views of mountain ranges. It ends with a gorgeous overlook of Lake Tahoe!

Route 4 - But for truly breathtaking beauty, you should try Route 4 - otherwise know as the Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway. It has a venerable history as it was important in getting prospectors and settlers into California from all over the world. The byway passes through alpine meadows and pine forests, national forests and glacially-carved valleys, hot springs and mineral pools, ancient volcanic peaks, basalt columns, and groves of Giant Sequoia.

Along its route you can visit Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Bear Valley Village, Alpine and Mosquito Lakes, the remnants of Silver Mountain City, the historic town of Markleeville, and even take a dip in the hot mineral pools at Grover Hot Springs State Park.

Alpine County Attractions: Camping

Alpine County campground stream; Photo courtesy of Contact: info@steephill.tvAlpine County campground stream; Photo courtesy of Contact:

Alpine County has three dozen campgrounds plus thousands of acres of national forest camping outside of developed campgrounds.

This opportunity for a truly wilderness camping experience makes Alpine County a favorite among campers-in-the-know.

While the developed campgrounds tend to be clustered around Lake Alpine, Caples Lake, Hope Valley and Markleeville, dispersed camping sites can, of course, be found just about anywhere.

Developed campgrounds include: Grover Hot Springs State Park, Crystal Springs, Kit Carson, Sierra Pines RV Park, Snowshoe Springs, Carson River Resort, Indian Creek, Markleeville Creek, Silver Creek, and Turtle Rock Park in the Markleeville area.

Then there's Hope Valley Resort, Lower Blue Lakes, Upper Blue Lake, Hope Valley, and Middle Creek in the Kirkwood area.

And, finally, Chickaree, Lake Alpine, Pine Marten, Silvertip, Highland Lakes, Mosquito Lakes, and Silver Valley in the Highway 4 area.

The nationally protected areas where you might camp in Alpine County are parts of Eldorado National Forest, Stanislaus National Forest, and Toiyabe National Forest.

But no matter what area you decide on, you're sure to find extraordinarily beautiful scenery and stunning views, plus hikes for all abilities, fish-able streams and lakes, hunting during the appropriate seasons, rafting, canoeing and kayaking, backpacking - and that doesn't even include the winter sports!

Alpine County Attractions: Hunting and Fishing

On the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, stream fishing along either the East Fork or the West Fork of the Carson River is popular, along with the many creeks and streams in between where you'll find trophy-sized rainbow, brook and brown trouts.

On the western slope, stream fishing centers around the Mokelumne River, again with myriad streams and creeks from which to choose as well.

Lake fishing at Indian Creek Reservoir and Caples Lake can produce large mackinaw and rainbows. But there's also Lake Alpine, Union and Utica Reservoirs, and many small alpine lakes that offer golden, brookies and rainbows.

As for hunting, you can go after deer, bear, rabbit, tree squirrel; upland birds like quail, grouse, and dove; and migratory waterfowl.

Hope Valley Wildlife Area, Red Lake Wildlife Area, and Heenan Lake Wildlife Area are popular Alpine County attractions with hunters.

Alpine County Attractions:
Hot Springs and Ski Resorts

But Alpine County is probably most well-known for its hot springs and ski resorts.

Grover Hot Spring State Park is on the east side of the Sierras. In addition to its wilderness areas of open pine forest, sagebrush, and meadows; campground, picnic area, and hiking trails; people come for the pool complex which boasts a hot pool and a swimming pool hot springs. It's a place where people can be snow monkeys!

Speaking of snow, many people come to Alpine County for the winter sports. You'll find terrain parks, snowboarding, back country terrain, cross-country skiing, and most of the other usual Winter activities at Kirkwood off the Carson Pass Highway (Hwy 88), while Bear Valley Mountain offers similar activities off the Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway (Hwy 4).

We'll have more to share with you about Alpine County attractions in the  weeks to come - things like:

  • Alpine County Beaches
    Remember all those lakes, streams, and rivers I mentioned!
  • Alpine County Communities
    Small but historic and interesting!
  • Alpine County Parks and Preserves
    State Parks, Nature Preserves, Marshes and Bogs!

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