Gateway to high country adventures


Utica Reservoir | Sandi Pearce
Kayaks on the reservoir | Sandi Pearce

Hop in the car for a high country day.  As you head up Hwy. 4 stop at the Stanislaus National Forest Ranger Station in Hathaway Pines for trail information and maps.

For a quick breakfast option, grab a breakfast burrito from Bistro Espresso in Arnold. They offer one of the few wifi spots “up the hill,” so this is the place to go if you have to check in before you check out for the rest of your visit.

Head across the street to Sierra Nevada Adventure Company (SNAC) to gear up. Rent a kayak or paddleboard from them, strap it on your car and take off toward Ebbetts Pass for a day of mountain fun.

Hit the trails at Lake Alpine. Try hiking up to Mt. Reba via the Bee Gulch trailhead ¾ mile past the Lake Alpine Lodge on the left side of Hwy. 4. This can also be a fun single track mountain bike ride or challenging trail run. Length varies depending on whether you make it a loop or out-and-back.

After getting your sweat on, grab lunch on the patio at Lake Alpine Resort which offers a stunning view of Inspiration Point (also a great hike) on the other side of the lake.

Spend the afternoon paddling away. Backtrack a few miles down Hwy. 4 and look for Spicer Reservoir Road on your left. By the afternoon, winds will be tough at Spicer, so paddle at Utica Reservoir instead. This smaller, more serene reservoir doesn’t allow motorboats and offers a spectacular amount of rock islands to explore along the way.

Have a beer, you earned it. Stop by Snowshoe Brewing for a pint of their Snowshoe Thompson Pale Ale. While you’re at it, order up their beer battered fries and the Monte Wolfe Burger with crispy bacon, BBQ sauce and cheddar cheese.

On the weekends, end your day with an outdoor concert at the Cedar Center in Arnold or a local band at Tommy’s Backyard in Camp Connell.

Area Lodging: Sleep under the stars and camp at Lake Alpine, get off-season rates at Bear Valley Lodge, or be centrally located along the Hwy. 4 corridor at Meadowmont Lodge.

Have more time in the area? Here are a few other suggestions…

Paddle the Mokelumne. For a class II whitewater experience, hop in your kayak and run the 5.5 stretch of the Mokelumne River known as the Electra run.

Get Twisted. Take a ride through the world famous Rubber Chicken National Forest as you make your way up to Twisted Oak Winery. They like to make good wine and have a good time too. And who can resist buying a wine called “Potty-Mouth Red?