The Blue Lakes and Blues Lakes Recreational Camping Area off HWY 88 in Alpine County is a very popular destination for local and regional campers in the summer. In the Winter this area is only accessible by snowmobile or cross-country skiing. This set of PG&E managed lakes/reservoirs are part of the California water & power system but provide some of our favorite day trip recreation in the central Sierra and Lake Tahoe region.
A trip down Blue Lakes Hwy, located a few miles south of the Hwy 88 and Hwy 89 interchange headed toward Kirkwood, is a very scenic representation of the Central Sierra. Rugged, mountainous, and extraordinary the landscape transforms multiple times over a 12-mile paved stretch. From Lush High Alpine Meadows to Barron Volcanic / Glacial Scarred hillsides and back down into a wild granite lain Alpine forest teaming with wildlife.
The Hwy follows the West Fork of the Carson River up and over and around Markleville Peak and a range that connects to Carson Pass off Hwy 88. Dry Camping locations can be found along this route from start to finish with Hope Valley Campground being a popular spot for paid camping at the edge of the Hope Valley meadow. The feature destination for most on this route is Blue Lakes.
Blue Lakes is a beautiful set of lakes prime for camping and fishing in the High Sierra. Lower Blue Lake is seen immediately at the end of the road with Camping to the right and Day use area to the left and around the base of the dam. One glance on a sunny summer afternoon and you immediately know how it got its name. Upper Blue Lake is a couple miles to the North. The Larger of the two lakes but a little rugged in features as it is set on the side of the mountain with less tree cover.
The Lesser Explored Lakes in the area include a series of Day-Use Lakes tucked behind Lower Blue Lake; Twin Lake and Meadows Lake. These lakes are accessible by foot or by car. Most of the season a vehicle with clearance and good tires is recommended for the road. Twin Lake features a paved parking area with restrooms, several picnic tables with grills that can be used. The Lake is a great place to play on a beach, swim, take the dags and play in the water etc. Twin Lake is also a good fishing location seasonally, although no motors are allowed on the lake we believe.
Meadow Lake is another mile or so past Twin Lake, the road does travel down to a parking area about a half mile from the shore, but is occasionally shut down early int he season because of runoff control. Meadow Lake is a little more similar to many of the high Sierra Lakes which are surrounded by Granite and Rock. Unless the water level is down, very little shoreline doesn’t include rock. This lake area is teaming with wildlife. The Hike down and around the lake is perfect if you like to crawl over boulders and experience changing landscapes as you walk around to the Dam and to Snow Canyon.
Experienced Hikers can find mountain routes to 4th of July Lakes from both meadows Lake and Upper Blue Lake. Map Skills required. GRanite Lake is also a popular fishing destination and an easy hike from Upper Blue Lake area.
The other Lakes to visit while you are out Blue Lakes HWY are found just before you get to Blue Lakes at Tamarack Junction near where the PCT crosses the road. There is PCT parking area and an area to unload horses for your adventures into the region. Tamarack Lake is roughly 3/4 mile from the PCT staging area and is a great lake to hike around with vista views of Raymond Peak & Reynolds Peak of HWY 4.
After Tamarack Lake the road continues out towards Summit Lake and Sunset Lakes, this road is not always passable all the way to the lakes and is most recommended for high clearance 4×4 vehicles. These lakes are also a great day hike destination on the PCT.
All these lakes provide dry camping options with no facilities. Please Take out what you bring in!