Mount Reba to Lake Alpine on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 14 December 2010


Mount Reba to Lake Alpine

This page is the questions and comments page for the Mount Reba to Lake Alpine trail guide page. I invite you to post questions or comments about this section of trail here, or post up your own page about your experiences North of Lake Alpine in this, the Carson Pass to Lake Alpine Forum.

You will have to register to post pages in the Trails Forums. Anyone can post comments.

For trails tracking South of Lake Alpine, check out the Lake Alpine to Saint Marys Pass Forum...which I have not  yet created as of May 2011. The next  trail guide section I construct heading South will likely depict the PCT from Ebbetts to Yosemite. I feel pressed to finish at least one route from Tahoe to Yosemite before the Summer of 2011 backpacking season begins...

Other than that, this page reflects some of the basic facts about the Tahoe to Yosemite Route between Mount Reba and Lake Alpine, and invites your questions and comments.

There is much more on the Mount Reba to Lake Alpine trail guide page


 North and South

Next Page South on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail: A NEW FORUM SECTION, Lake Alpine to Saint Marys Pass.

Next Page North on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail: Camp Irene up the North side of Mount Reba: The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail


 South off of Mount Reba

At the top of Mount Reba our Southbound course along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail brings us out of the  Mokelumne Wilderness. We just entered the Stanislaus National Forest at the base of Mount Reba when we exited the El Dorado National Forest by crossing the North Mokelumne River at Camp Irene. We will remain in the Stanislaus NF on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail until we enter Yosemite. Just South of Lake Alpine we will enter the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness.

From the top of Mount Reba we have a short (2.78 mile) downhill run to the Bee Gulch trailhead which sits across Highway 4 from the Eastern edge of Lake Alpine.

I have a nice old free campsite near the Bee Gulch trail head where I always make camp.

Days off, Rest and Resupply at the Lake Alpine Lodge

I'm going to take some days off at Lake Alpine. I'm going to do laundry, take a shower, resupply, and feed up a bit, all at the Lake Alpine Lodge.

I could also obtain these services at Bear Valley, three miles West of the Lake Alpine Lodge on Highway 4. I prefer to camp by Lake Alpine, though I've hitched down to check out Bear Valley.

I take the rest of the day I hike into Lake Alpine off, and then the next full day. I leave the following morning fully refreshed. I figure I deserve a day and a half off for every 5 to 7 days of hiking.

The Hiking Plan, So Far

  I cover the distance from Meeks Bay to Lake Alpine on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, around 62.73 miles, ranging from between 5 and 7 days, depending on my hiking plans. I also have a thing about bringing an extra day's food for each section of trail between resupply points.

This extra day of food gives me the flexibility to take a day off, explore side trips, take incredible amounts of time stalking insects or animals, talking to people, or whatever. I always have plans. The extra food generally allows me to explore a new hike or side trip along each section of trail each time I go through.

This is a lot of work. I figure that I deserve at least a Union-scale two days off a week. Each time I run the Tahoe to Whitney I regret not taking more days off when it's over. Days off at both the most beautiful places along the trail, as well as at the resupply points.

 Resupply Plans

Though Lake Alpine is the second possible resupply point on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, it is the first that I utilize. I eat at Echo Chalet, but I do not resupply there.

As I don't (but I should) resupply at Echo Chalet, I have just spent between 5 and 7 days on the trail between Meeks Bay and Lake Alpine, and I am ready for a full day off. The first half day off is just icing on the cake.

Hiking into Lake Alpine

My goal for the hiking day: I want to make camp and secure my gear at my fine little campsite hidden off the East side of Lake Alpine as early as possible. I generally camped at the campsite on the North side of the river at Camp Irene, so the 8.02 mile hike bringing me to Lake Alpine can be finished by lunchtime.

After securing camp at Lake Alpine I will wash up, fill up my camp water jug, drink some fresh water, all from from the nearby clean tasting fresh water faucets. Silver Creek may or may not be running, depending on the time of year. Lake Alpine's camping facilities are equipped with a good water service during the Summer.

Our secret campsite is near the bathroom equipped with toilet paper, a bear proof dumpster, and clean water faucets. After setting up camp, washing up, and maybe  a bit of a rest, I'll take a leisurely walk West along beautiful Lake Alpine to the Lodge,

 It's a 3/4 of a mile walk West to the Lake Alpine Lodge along a paved trail nestled between the shore of the lake and the narrow twisting seasonal road that makes up Highway 4.  I will either have dinner at the bar or the in dining room, depending on the depth of my funding during that particular trip.

Pam, the manager of The Lodge, is also holding my FREE resupply bucket I sent up to the Lake Alpine Lodge via UPS, which I will pick up before I continue South. But the first things I'm thinking about upon arrival at Lake Alpine are getting my camp set-up and secured, then about about dinner at the Lake Alpine Lodge. So I'm making pretty good time down the mountain from the top of Mount Reba.

The next day I will pick up my resupply bucket, and will spend the day setting up my food, using the laundry and shower facilities at the Lake Alpine Lodge, and eating.

The route down

My immediate goal from the top of Mount Reba is to follow, then cut off of the jeep trail, at the trail's double junction above the Eastern Flank of Mount Reba.. This is where the jeep trail makes a deep turn Right to the South while the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route continues Southeast down the wild flower filled Bee Gulch, to the Bee Gulch trail head on the Eastern Shore of Lake Alpine.

This junction is very well marked. Check out the trail guide.


Bee Gulch is aptly named, as the bees are ubiquitious among the dense wildflowers that fill Bee Gulch above its entry into forest.
Bee Gulch is aptly named, as the bees are ubiquitous among the dense wildflowers that fill Bee Gulch above its entry into forest.

On your way Southeast down the mountain, you will be able to see the massive volcanic formation of The Dardanelles in the distant Southeast beyond Lake Alpine, maybe 12 or 13 miles away. Off to your Left, interesting views of dark and foreboding  volcanic sculptures slashed into esoteric and bizarre shapes by both their birth and subsequent erosion are vividly contrasted by the bright colors of the flowers that keep Bee Gulch full of Bees deep into Summer.

Volcanic formations along our way South down Bee Gulch towards the trail head on the East side of Lake Alpine

As we head lower through Bee Gulch, we enter deepening forest and encounter the indications of heavy use that comes with proximity to Lake Alpine. We continue dropping down the trail to Lake Alpine, and come upon the sign pictured below. This sign is contradictory, being both a promise and a lie, both a moral booster as well as something to scoff at.

Al gets angry at a sign
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail sign North of Lake Alpine.
Tahoe to Yosemite "Trail" Sign, one of two along the whole length of the route. At least they  are the only ones I can think of at 3:31am.

Northbound Backpackers to Carson Pass BEWARE!

This sign makes serious promises that it does not fulfill.

Through its bold yellow-painted claim that there is a "Tahoe Yosemite Trail," I must strongly object to the word "trail." This section of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail deteriorates into little more than a Route North of this point.

The word "Trail," combined with an equally livid yellow arrow, indicates that this sign makes a promise that is broken on and by the terrain terrain to the North. This sign promises a trail heading North and South of it's position, which is only half-true.

The truth is that there is an excellent trail heading South. It is a fine trail, for the most part, all the very long ways down to the end of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail in Tuolumne Meadows. That's the good news.

Things go rapidly downhill from here. The lie is that there is no Tahoe to Yosemite "Trail" just a very short ways North of this sign. The Southbound Backpacker who has just hiked this section of the Tahoe to Yosemite "Trail" route knows through experience that this sign is deceptive. 

The lie this sign shouts out, through its searing yellow arrow pointing North, is that there is a "trail" to the North. But if the truth be known, and if you have hiked with me South from Meeks Bay to this point, you know this truth, that there is no "trail" for the 9.52 miles spanning from the North Fork of the Mokelumne River at Camp Irene to the junction with the trail that climbs up to Fourth of July Lake out of the upper reaches of Summit City Creek.

This section of the route between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite cannot be called a trail, by any means. I just thought you should know...I skoff at this sign every time I see it.

What is it?

Thus the bright Northern pointing yellow arrow that this trail sign sports, when compared with definition of  the word "trail," resounds to make this sign a proven liar both literally and figuratively, in both mundane and spiritual terms. 

If this type of abuse of words continues unabated selling asperation as fact yet more and more hikers who are not ready to self-navigate will get lost out there, which happens on a fairly regular basis.

Misuse of words on this scale can put the whole credibility and accuracy of the English Language itself at risk! The survival of Western Civilization itself may well hang in the balance.

This will go down in history along with my other favorite lies, such as "I am not a crook," and "Change you can Believe in." If you bought any of that crap, I have a trail I want to sell

It's hard on the feet

The dire consequences of this screaming yellow lie have also been painted onto the bruises and blisters of my poorly deceived feet.

They are the ones who have really been lied to. Each of my toes is a physical victim of  the dangers of inaccurate use of words. They are the ones who have suffered at the lie this sign perpetuates.

So don't blame me for these harsh words I write: I am merely the mouthpiece that my feet are kind enough to carry around, for just such emergencies. My feet cannot take all of this abuse alone.  When my feet get tired, I have been known to carry them in my mouth for extended periods of time.

I am a kind and fair soul, so turnabout can only be fair play. My feet have carried me quite some long distance, so they deserve a break every now and then, as they rest in my mouth.

But I digress. To get back to the point of this screed, I must insist that this sign is a dreadful liar in the Northern direction! The "trail" this sign brags of begins to deteriorate into little more than a "route" North of your ford at the North fork of the Mokelumne River, falling quickly into complete chaos in the the depths of that fine little section of deep forest North of Camp Irene!

Enjoy it while it lasted...

Trail? What "trail?" That's what you are going to say to yourself when you get a bit North of Camp Irene.

The "trail" itself gets lost, and disappears completely in the little forest South of the Lower Ford! I was walking with it, and when I was distracted for just a second, the trail had disappeared into the forest, and it took my wallet with it! I hunted everywhere for it, and it was not there.

Angry at the temerity of the trail, I want to bring this damn lying Tahoe to Yosemite Trail sign to this trackless location, and say, "where's the frk'n trail now-where's your f'n trail with my wallet?"

 I think I should transplant the sign out there, to the middle of the trackless-and trailess-little forest where it will suffer from its own foolishness, and look stupid pointing up and down a trackless waste. Maybe this sign can even offer some small help where it is really needed, by getting a good chuckle out of backpackers who stumble upon it..

No, this Tahoe to Yosemite "Trail" sign does not tell us about any of this; the truth is a stranger to this particular trail sign. It's arrow confidently assures us of an infinity of well trod trails, like those around Lake Alpine, where this confident sign sits.

This trail sign has an easy job. When it's not lying to Northbound Long Distance backpackers, it's telling fat day hikers what they want to hear, that they are hiking romantic High Sierra trails. 

A good neighbor

The older sign that hangs with the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail sign, shown in the picture below, displays the wisdom of age.

Nothing fancy. No glaring yellow paint. No fancy promises that are likely to be broken for at least a few hundred years: I am confident that the Mokelumne River is not going anywhere for a very very long time. I have equal confidence that  Highway 4 will be recognizable as a route for 40 or 50 years after we lose the capability to maintain it as a paved road. Now that's one wise and prudent trail sign.

This old sign will be long-gone before the features it points to have even lost their baby teeth.

The best that can honestly be said about the younger sign's brash claim, that there is a Tahoe to Yosemite "Trail," is that it would have been quite a bit more honest and accurate if it described the Tahoe to Yosemite as a "Route," rather than as the Tahoe to Yosemite "Trail." It is a route even when the trail disappears.

My feet would have found that compromise quite a bit less tiring, thereby saving my mouth this long exercise of carrying them along.



Elevation: Mount Reba, 8729 feet.

Elevation:  Lake Alpine, 7320 feet.

Elevation Change:  1409 feet, all down mountain from the top of Mount Reba to the Bee Gulch trail head.


  Mileage: 2.78 miles from the top of Mount Reba to the Bee Gulch Trail head on Highway 4. All down.

Mileage: .75 miles from the East Side of Lake Alpine to the Lake Alpine Lodge on the West Side of Lake Alpine on a paved path alongside both  Highway 4 and the Lake. Flat.  

Mileage and Elevations


Exposed Southeast facing terrain through beautifully flowered Bee Gulch. As you descend down the mountain towards Lake Alpine, a nice forest cover begins, and continue to shade your way down to the lake, and your campsite.

On your way Southeast down the mountain, you will be able to see the massive volcanic formation of The Dardanelles in the distance further to the Southeast beyond Lake Alpine. Off to your Left, your view of esoteric and bizarre volcanic sculptures is vividly contrasted by the bright colors of the flowers that fill Bee Gulch deep into Summer.


Detail: Lower ford of Summit City Creek over Mount Reba to Bee Gulch

Detail: Lake Alpine

Overview: Carson Gap to Lake Alpine

Backpacking Resupply

Lake Alpine Lodge

The Lake Alpine Lodge is 3/4 of a mile West of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail on Highway 4.

The Pacific Crest Trail crosses Highway 4 at Ebbetts Pass, which is 21 twisted miles East of the Lake Alpine Lodge on Highway 4.

PCT hikers can easily catch a ride to Lake Alpine to pick up their free resupply package, if they are using Lake Alpine as a resupply point. 

Short Backpacking trips Northbound into the Stanislaus National Forest

Many excellent short and medium distance Northbound hikes can started from Bee Gulch, Lake Alpine, or Mount Reba. These trailheads are all located along or near Highway 4. These trailheads are all located in the Calavaras Ranger District of the Stanisalus National Forest.

The page below will give you an idea about the expanse of the Stanislaus National Forest and contact information for the Ranger Districts that manage the various Wilderness within this National Forest.

Ranger Districts will give you current status reports on their District, and issue backpacking permits for the part of the NF they manage.

Stanislaus National Forest, trail guide.

Calaveras Ranger District, NF website.

You can navigate North and South to the rest of the comments-facts pages for this trail section through the links below.

Next Page South on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail: A NEW FORUM SECTION, Lake Alpine to Saint Marys Pass.

Next Page North on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail: Camp Irene up the North side of Mount Reba: The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail


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