Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway
The Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway extends more than 60 miles from Arnold up through miles of forests and past beautiful alpine lakes, across 8730-foot Ebbetts Pass, and down to follow the East Carson River to Markleeville. Most of the route is along Highway 4, while the last few miles of pavement become Highway 89. So as not to pass up many wonderful attractions, we include the section of highway from Muphys up to Arnold.
Along the way, the Ebbetts Pass Highway passes through charming, historic communities such as the vibrant Gold Rush town of Murphys and popular vacation towns, including Arnold, Dorrington, and Bear Valley. Every stop offers something different - windows into the region's history, delicious eateries, unique shops, and an eclectic gathering of lodgings.
Most of the forest land along the highway is managed by the Stanislaus National Forest, which does an admirable job of protecting this natural resource while opening it for public enjoyment. Campgrounds abound along the highway and its spurs from Dorrington to Markleeville. Among the most popular campgrounds are those clustered around Lake Alpine (shown above). Campers at the lake enjoy fishing, boating, swimming, and hiking. Summer campfire programs are a popular addition.
Only a short distance east of Arnold is Calaveras Big Trees State Park with its magnificent groves of Giant Sequoias, great camping, delightful hiking trails, and an array of programs from speakers to winter frolics.
Ebbetts Pass Camping
Campgrounds are available all along the Ebbetts Pass scenic highway, from Calaveras Big Trees State Park, up through Lake Alpine and Ebbetts Pass, and on across the pass to the east in Markleeville.
Some of the campgrounds accept reservations, while others are first-come, first served. The more popular sites such as Lake Alpine tend to fill up on summer weekends, but once you know about alternative campgrounds, you can usually find a nice place to pitch your tent.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park draws a lot of campers, but just a short distance up the highway and down a side road to the Stanislaus River is Wakaluu Hep Yoo Campground with spacious sites, plenty of shade, and the rush of a wild river at your doorstep.
Lake Alpine is another popular summer destination. Reservations are now accepted for Lake Alpine Campground and all the others clustered around the lake. If the lake sites are full, try places like Big Meadow or Pacific Valley.
Many areas of the Stanislaus National Forest are open to Dispersed Camping. Simply select a spot in the forest, away from developed camping areas like Lake Alpine, and park your RV or set up your tent. Likely you'll need to bring your own water. Fire permits are required for campfires. But everything is free.
Ebbetts Pass Recreation
Skiing, Snowboarding, and Playing in the Snow
Bear Valley Mountain Ski Area near Bear Valley is a great ski resort for both beginners and experts. Unlike the Tahoe resorts, Bear Valley Mountain rarely has huge crowds. Multiple lifts offer a wide variety of runs.
For those who prefer cross-country skiing, the Bear Valley Cross Country ski area is located directly across the highway from the entrance to Bear Valley. Or set out on your own along any of the hundreds of logging roads that extend away from Highway 4. Snowmobilers like to head out to the Sno-Parks and then explore the miles of groomed roads and open country. For playing in the snow you find turnouts along Highway 4 where little hills make perfect winter playgrounds. A vacation rental cabin makes a great base for families or groups who want to spend time at Bear Valley Mountain or just hang around the cabin.
There are no waterskiing and wakeboarding lakes around Ebbetts Pass and Highway 4. Those looking for the best recreation lakes for boating and water sports should visit our sister website California's Greatest Lakes. There you'll find information about New Melones Lake and a host of other nearby lakes.
Anglers take to the Ebbetts Pass region to fish waters often neglected by other fishermen. The rivers and creeks offer countless opportunities for fishing. Those who prefer the lakes find a host of great lakes with good fishing from shore or a boat. Among the most popular are Spicer, Union and Utica Reservoirs, Lake Alpine, Mosquito Lakes, Highland Lakes, and Kinney Lakes.
Backpacking, Day Hikes, Bicycling, and Mountain Biking
Ebbetts Pass draws visitors interested in a variety of pursuits. Backpackers set off into the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness while day hikers find a multitude of rewarding trails from simple strolls in Calaveras Big Trees State Park to round-the-lake hikes at Lake Alpine. While Ebbetts Pass is known for its part in cycling's challenging Death Ride, many other places along the highway offer much gentler routes. Mountain Bikers find thrills everywhere, along logging roads and single tracks.
Horseback Riding and Everything Else
Horseback riding is popular all around Ebbetts Pass. Equestrian trailheads between Arnold and the summit of the pass draw riders from around the area. Bird watchers have sited hundreds of species of birds along the trails all up and down the pass. Cavers enjoy the cool depths of Mercer Caverns, California Caverns, and Moaning Cavern. Kayakers and rafters tackle the challenging waters of the North Fork of the Stanislaus. Flat-water kayakers love the serenity of Union and Spicer reservoirs and Lake Alpine.
Other Sierra Passes - Other Adventures
At the south end of Lake Tahoe, Echo Summit (Highway 50) is the gateway to the Desolation Wilderness.
Up and down the pass are opportunities for hiking, fishing, and boating. The exciting Crystal Basin is filled
with lakes, campgrounds, and trails.
Read all about Echo Summit on Discover Echo Summit.
Just a short jaunt to the south Carson Pass (Highway 88) has many opportunities for adventure. Silver Lake and Caples Lake draw fishermen and hikers every summer. Beautiful Hope Valley is popular with snowmobilers and cross country skiers in the winter, while in the summer it is a favorite destination for fly fishermen, photographers, painters, and bird watchers. Learn all about Carson Pass on Up and Over Carson Pass.
A little farther to the south is beautiful Sonora Pass (Highway 108) with Dodge Ridge Ski Resort, Pinecrest Lake, Kennedy Meadows, and dozens of other great destinations and recreation opportunities. Take a look at another of our sister websites, Sonora Pass Vacations.