The rugged beauty of Alpine and Mono Counties attracts not only visitors interested in tiny communities, ski resorts, hot springs, and granite peaks, but also those who want to disappear into the wilderness for a few days. Spread between Highway 50 and the Sonora Junction, this area south of Lake Tahoe will help you trade in the city for the great outdoors.
Carson Pass(Courtesy of Summit Post)
Challenging Hikes with Less Hikers
With the Eastern Sierra as its backdrop, both Alpine County and Mono County offer amazing hikes where you can actually get parking. The most popular are around the Carson Pass and Kirkwood area and include summiting Round Top or heading down to backpack around Fourth of July Lake. Other lesser known hikes include the 7.5 mile Bull Run Lake trail near Markleeville, Secret Lake near Sonora Pass, or even trekking around the ghost town of Bodie State Historic Park. You can even do some winter snowshoeing around Woodfords or Markleeville, but keep an eye on the weather since some of the smaller roads and passes close during heavy snow (we hope).
The Strawberry Lodge in Strawberry, CA. (Courtesy of 50 Cabins)
Blink and They're Gone: Tiny Towns
In this area you'll come across towns with populations between 50 and 500 such as Bridgeport, Woodfords and Strawberry. What a great excuse to stop and stretch your legs or snag a cute cabin for the night. Need fishing tackle or antiques? The Markleeville General Store looks like it's straight out of a western movie. The Strawberry Lodge has been around since 1858 and offers riverside rooms and Sorensen's Resort in Hope Valley has darling log cabins tucked into the aspen trees. Both the Topaz Lake Lodge in Nevada and the Walker River Lodge in Bridgeport are good places to stop before heading down to Yosemite or Mammoth Lakes.
Butterscotch Pies and Whiskey Ribs
There's no lack of food in these mountainous counties. Grab breakfast or a burger at the Hope Valley Café and Market. This little stop on Highway 88 is well known for their huge pies and oatmeal cookies. Soreson's Resort down the road serves up Beef Burgundy Stew in their cozy dining room and the Virginia Creek Settlement in Bridgeport has whiskey ribs with homemade spicy BBQ sauce. In Markleeville the Wolf Creek Restaurant and Cutthroat Saloon (look for the Harley motorcycles) has some great cocktails and wine with their live music and the Stonefly restaurant serves wood fired pizzas.
Buckeye Hot Springs(via panoramio.com)
Zip Lines, Alpine Runs and Hot Springs
The fun continues all year in Alpine County. Snow doesn't stop the ziplines from running at Zip Tahoe in Kirkwood and blankets the slopes of Bear Valley. Located off the serpentine Highway 4, Bear Valley's activities include alpine and cross country skiing, kayaking, fishing, golf, rock climbing and over 100 miles of mountain bike trails. The Eastern Sierra's hot springs get even more appealing after the snow falls. Markleeville's Grover Hot Springs has a basic hot spring and a cold dip pool, Buckeye Hot Springs near Twin Lakes and Bridgeport tumbles out of the mountains into a creek and the picturesque Travertine Hot Springs across Highway 395 is best experienced at dawn.