NorCal Roadtrips

An Explorer's Guide to Northern California

Highway 4- Things to Do

View from Inspiration Point

View from Inspiration Point- Lake Alpine


There are a reasonable number of campgrounds in this area, but none are huge and its a popular place. So some planning is in order if you have a day job and camp primarily on weekends and during summer vacations. Campgrounds that take reservations are the obvious choice if you can plan ahead. If you're more the spur-of-the-moment kind of person you'll want to focus on campgrounds that do not take reservations, and then figure out how to get there (or have a retired friend get there) by Thursday afternoon during the "season." There are two ways to locate a campsite. Option 1 is to click the link to a lake or park noted in the itinerary. Option 2 is to click on the campground link. So, if you want to camp at a lake or park noted in the itinerary, click on the highlighted link. If you wish to camp elsewhere, click on the campground link.

Lake Alpine Camp

Silver Tip Campground- Lake Alpine

Fishing & Boating

This area is all about lakes. River fishing is limited. Once you pass New Melones Reservoir and begin the ascent you start thinking small boats and fishing for trout. If that's okay with you life will be good, at least until you toss in a line or start the troll. In recent years locals and regulars at many of these lakes have bemoaned what they see as sporadic and smaller-than-usual stocks but fish are to be had. Click on a highlighted lake link to get the lowdown on the lake of your choice.


We consider Sierra North  to be the definitive backpacking guide to this area and heartily recommend its purchase for a detailed guide to this area. Listed below are some brief overviews of some of their recommended hikes.

Lake Alpine- Silver Valley Trailhead

Tahoe-Yosemite Trail to Clark Fork- 19.8 mile shuttle rated moderate with recommended duration of 3 days.

Mosquito Lakes Trailhead

Stanislaus Meadow Trailhead- 8 mile shuttle rated leisurely with recommended duration of 3 days.

High Trail Trailhead

Soda Springs- 20.5 mile semi-loop rated moderate with a recommended duration of 3 days

Wolf Creek Meadows- 24 mile shuttle rated strenuous with a recommended duration of 2 days.

Sonora Pass- 30 mile shuttle rated strenuous with a recommended duration of 3 days.

Poison Lake- 36.5 mile semi-loop rated moderate with a recommended duration of 4 days.

Day Hikes

We recommend the trail guide Best Short Hikes in California's North Sierra as the definitive guide to this area. Listed below is a sample of their recommended hikes. We highly recommend the Inspiration Point hike.

Osborne Hill. 2 miles round trip rated easy with a 315 foot elevation climb. Trailhead 2.5 miles east of Bear Valley on Hwy. 4. Camp. Inspiration Point. 2.2 miles rated moderate with a 610 foot elevation gain. Depart from Pine Martin Campground. Views of several lakes in the area. Woodchuck Basin Trail. 3.8 miles rated moderate with a 1,050 foot elevation climb. Views of Wheeler Lake. Trailhead 1.3 miles past Lake Alpine's East Shore Road on Hwy. 4, then .3 miles on a rough unpaved access road. No facilities. Elephant Rock Lake. 5.8 mile loop rated easy. Trailhead- drive east 1.7 miles past Big Meadow Campground on Hwy 4. Turn onto Spicer Reservoir Road. Drive 8.1 miles on paved road before turning off on unpaved Road 7N01, signed for Elephant Rock lake. Continue on 7NO1 for 4 miles to trailhead. Bull Run Lake. 7.4 miles rated moderate with a 1,280 foot elevation climb. Trailhead- drive east 3.9 miles beyond Lake Alpine East Shore Road on Hwy. 4; turn at sign for the Stanislaus Meadow Trailhead. Relatively new trailhead just off highway. Free camping at trailhead; no facilities. Heiser Lake. 4.4 miles rated moderate with a 1,160 foot elevation climb. Trailhead- across road from Mosquito Lakes Campground, just off Hwy. 4. Drive 5.8 miles east of Lake Alpine’s East Shore Road on Hwy. 4, turn south at sign for Mosquito lake Trailhead. Noble Lake. 8.6 miles round trip with a 1,160 foot elevation climb. Trailhead- take Hwy 4 to Ebbetts pass, 14.1 miles east of lake Alpine’s East Shore Road. Park at trailhead .4 miles east of summit. Marked by sign reading Pacific Crest Trail. Upper Kinney Lake. 3.8 miles round trip rated easy with a 590 foot elevation gain. Trailhead- Hwy 4 to Ebbetts Pass, 14.1 miles east of Lake Alpine’s East Shore Road. Park at Pacific Crest Trail lot. Asa Lake. 4.4 miles round trip rated easy with a 360 foot elevation gain. Trailhead- drive 12.7 miles east of East Shore Road or 1.4 miles west of Ebbetts Pass on Hwy. 4, turn south for Highland lakes. Drive 5 miles on unpaved road to reach signed Gardner Meadow trailhead. Highland Lakes campground is .8 mi. farther along.

Off- Road

There are 2 good off-road guides that we recommend. Backcountry Adventures: Northern California by Massey & Wilson  and Guide to Northern California Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails by Charles A. Wells. The former is more comprehensive with lots of history but each has trails that the other does not.

Deer Valley- 6.6 mile trip rated difficult. Start at Hermit Valley Campground on Hwy. 4 north of Lake Alpine.

Corral Hollow- 13.9 mile trip rated moderate. Drive east on Hwy. 4 and turn north just after sign for Alpine County line about .6 miles before Bear Valley. Trail marked 7A, partially obscured.

Slickrock Trail- 5.2 mile trip rated difficult. Take Hwy. 4 to Lake Alpine north of Bear Valley. Turn right at west end of lake following signs to Lake Alpine C.G. Head south and stay to right when roads branch left. When bike trail goes right, go left. Bear right at blue cabin then right again at private drive. Follow narrow road to well-marked trailhead .7 miles from Hwy. 4.

Crandall Peak Trail (Northern Sierra #5)- 28.8 mile trip rated moderate. Can be started at Parrots Ferry Road (CR E18) 1 mile southeast of Hwy. 4. Access to Stanislaus River at two points. Forest Service campground beside river. Provides backcountry access to Sand Bar Flat Campground, Fraser Flat  Campground and Beardsley Lake.

Black Springs Route (Northern Sierra #8)- 18.4 miles rated moderate (four) providing access to Calaveras Dome Trail, Mattley Ridge Trail and Corral Hollow OHV Route..Starts on Hwy. 4 3.5 miles north of Dorrington.

Calaveras Dome Trail (Northern Sierra #9)- 42 mile plus spurs rated easy-moderate (two) starting at Hwy. 4 6.7 miles southwest of Bear Valley. Provides fishing access, camping and swimming on North Fork of Mokelumne River. Rock climbing at Calaveras Dome. Eastern trailhead off Hwy. 4 close to Bog Meadow Campground. Provides access to Corral Hollow OHV Trail, Mattley Ridge Trail, Calaveras Dome, Moore Creek Campground, Mokelumne River Campground, White Azalea campground, Salt Springs Reservoir and other unnamed campgrounds.

Corral Hollow OHV Route (Northern Sierra #10)- 12.5 miles rated high moderate (five). Starts at Hwy. 4 .6 miles southwest of Bear valley. Provides access to historic Bear Trap Cabin.

Mattley Ridge Trail (Northern Sierra #11)- 5 mile trip rated moderate (four).

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