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Highland Lakes

Lake, River, or Waterfall
Hiram Peak is a frequent destination for hikers at the Highland Lakes. – Jerry Snyder

Highland Lakes, located in picturesque Alpine County, are set in a spectacular high alpine valley, close to the top of the Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway (Hwy 4) at an elevation of 8,600 feet. These two lakes are unique in that they are headwaters for two different watersheds. The eastern lake flows into the Mokelumne River drainage, while the western lake flows into the Stanislaus River drainage. Maximum boat speed on both lakes is 5 mph, and gas powered motors are discouraged.

Highland Lakes are unique both in their physical beauty and geography. The Highland Lakes are headwaters for two different watersheds. The eastern lake flows into the Mokelumne River, while the western lake flows into the Stanislaus River. The two lakes are at an elevation of 8,600 feet, and trails from around Highland Lakes lead into the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness and connect with the Clark Fork of the Stanislaus River.


Highland Lakes are on the western side of Ebbetts Pass (Highway 4), less than a mile from the summit. From the western side, follow Highway 4 from Angels Camp through Arnold and beyond Lake Alpine and the Pacific Grade Summit. Watch for the turnoff as you near the top of the pass. From the east side go south through Markleeville and pick up Highway 4 at the Monitor Pass turn.

The first mile of the Highland Lakes Road is paved. Then it becomes a sometimes bumpy dirt road. Although you may want a high-clearance vehicle, 4-wheel drive is not required. A single stream crossing early in the summer may cause problems, however.

  • Maximum boat speed on both lakes is 5 mph, and gas powered motors are discouraged. Open late June to October.
  • Camping, hiking and horseback riding are also available to visitors of Highland Lakes:

Highland Lakes Campground is situated right beside the lakes, making a convenient place to set up your tent or park your RV. Four miles back on the road is Bloomfield Campground. Many people opt for "dispersed camping" along the road. You can find more campsites farther down Highway 4 on either side of the pass.

Pet Friendly Notes

Dogs on leashes are welcome.

Recreational Opportunities

Highland Lakes visitors enjoy camping, hiking and horseback riding. The Pacific Crest Trail is easily accessed near Highland Lakes and there are several lesser known trails that lead explorers to several meadows and peaks. Hiram Peak that towers above the lakes is a frequent destination for hikers and backcountry skiers during the winter.

Hints and Tips for Fishing this Area

-Open shorelines offer good fly fishing and spin casting. Float tubes work well on the lakes except when the wind comes up.

-Highland Lakes are probably best fished late in the summer when mosquitoes have abated.

Recommended Books for Fishing the Eastern Sierra:

  • Fly Fishing Eastern Sierra Streams, Where to Go, What to Use, and How to Get There, Mike Brown. Great book detailing the best streams in the Eastern Sierra. Color Photographs.
  • California's Best Fly Fishing: Premier Streams and Rivers from Northern California to the Eastern Sierra, Chip O'Brien. An up-to-date guidebook, complete with maps, detailed descriptions of fishing locations, analysis of the seasonal differences which affect fishing, and fly patterns.
  • Fly Fishing Mammoth: A Fly Fisher's Guide to the Mammoth Lakes Area, Mark J. Heskett. Information about fishing the Mammoth Lakes area of the Eastern Sierra.
  • The Definitive Guide to Fishing Central California , Chris Shaffer. The book details more than 380 lakes, rivers and streams around Central California. The full color guide has more than 500 color photos.

Fishing supplies can be purchased locally at the following places:

  • Ebbetts Pass Sporting Goods, Arnold, CA
  • Lake Alpine Resort
  • Bear Valley store
  • Woodfords Station, Hwy 88
  • Markleeville General Store


Seasons Accessible

Open late June to October


Free Day Use. $8 for Camping as of July 2013.

Nearby Places