Lake Alpine is a popular recreation area along Highway 4 in the Stanislaus National Forest. With 180 surface acres of glistening mountain water, Lake Alpine attracts anglers and boaters, campers and hikers, swimmers and sight seers. At an elevation of 7,350 feet, summer temperatures are mild.
Campgrounds on both sides of the lake have room for plenty of tents and RVs. The Lake Alpine Resort offers accommodations, a store, a restaurant, and boat rentals. With none of the crowds found at more well-known lakes, Alpine is a place where visitors can relax and enjoy the mountain serenity.
During the winter the gate on Highway 4 a mile west of the lake is closed for the season. Access to the lake is limited to conveyances such as snowmobiles, cross country skis, or snowshoes. Water released from the dam after the ice forms on the lake makes it extremely dangerous to venture onto the ice.
Generally Lake Alpine is open for boating from around Memorial Day to mid-October. A free launch ramp and dock are located right off the highway by the resort. There is an adjacent parking area for trailers. Restrooms are close by. The nearest fuel is found 3 miles west at Bear Valley.
The speed limit on the lake is 10 MPH, so most of crafts launched are fishing boats. Shifting and unsteady winds make it a challenging place for sailing, but experienced sailors are often seen tacking across the lake on small sailboats and Hobie Cats. Kayaking and canoeing are also great ways to explore the lake and its islands. No motorized boats are allowed on the lake at night.
During the summer the Lake Alpine Resort rents small boats from a dock near the launch ramp. All rentals are for a minimum of 2 hours.
Fishing is good at Lake Alpine both from the shore and from boats. Regular plants of rainbow trout make Alpine a great place to fish.
Fishing is not allowed in Silver Creek upstream from the lake from April until the end of August in order to protect the spawning areas.
On your way up to the lake a stop at Ebbetts Pass Sporting Goods in Arnold is a good way to get the latest information on fishing conditions at Lake Alpine. While you're there you can pick up all the best lures and baits you will need to land that lunker trout.
Several good Day Hikes originate at Lake Alpine.
1. Hike Around the Lake: The 4-mile hike around the lake is a great tour of the area. Traveling in a clockwise direction makes for slightly easier trail finding. The trail begins from the road's end near Pine Marten Campground. Follow it down the southeast shore and then across the creek below the dam. From there you pick up dirt roads back to the Lake Alpine Campground.
2. Inspiration Point: This one and a third mile climb carries you to the summit of Inspiration Point overlooking the lake. Begin at the road's end at Pine Marten Campground and start along the lakeside trail, but turn left on the trail to the summit. The climb is about 600 feet.
3. Emigrant Trail: A good way to experience the emigrant trail is to have someone drop you off at the marked western end of the trail about 2 miles west of Lake Alpine along Highway 4. Watch for the sign. Then hike up the 2-mile trail to the dirt roads at the lower end of the lake and follow them up to the campground.
4. Osborne Hill: From Silvertip Campground it is less than half a mile to the top of Osborne Hill. From Lake Alpine Campground, head downstream on the dirt roads and connect with the emigrant trail. After less than half a mile on the trail turn right up Osborne Hill. Complete a loop by continuing on across, down to Silvertip and then downhill to the lake. The loop is 3 miles.
For more good day hikes in the area, see Ebbetts Pass Hiking.
There are two picnic areas at Lake Alpine, one near the Lake Alpine Campground and the other at the eastern end of the lake. Both picnic areas are free.
The Lake Alpine Picnic Area has picnic tables and BBQ stands. It also is close to the amphitheater. Views of the lake through the trees make it a pleasant place to spend the day.
Chickaree Day Use Area (shown right) is adjacent to Highway 4 at the eastern end of the lake. Restrooms are next to the parking lot. Picnic tables are scattered along the lake's shore. Potable water is available there. It's a good place for families to enjoy a picnic lunch while watching their children fish along the shore.
Lake Alpine's water is quite cold through the first part of the summer. Caution should always be taken when venturing into mountain waters. Children should wear life jackets and need constant adult supervision. Swimming out to nearby islands can be tempting, but icy water can quickly sap the energy from even strong swimmers. Use caution and good judgment.
The most popular place for wading and swimming is the inlet on the northeast side of the lake. The gradual slope of the lake bottom there makes it a good place to frolic in the water close to shore. Inlets at the eastern end of the lake attract more experienced swimmers.
Lake Alpine has a number of campgrounds:
For complete information about camping at Lake Alpine, see
Lake Alpine Campgrounds.