Hope Valley – Highway 88


What? : Hope Valley is a mountain valley in Alpine County, California, located on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada east of Carson Pass. This is one of California favorite and most beautiful fall color destination, at that time, when all the aspen trees that grow in the valley change their color from green to bright yellow and red.


Where? :  Highway 88 pass through the valley from west to east and you can drive north to lake Tahoe using highway 89.

Google Map Link


Link to related Blogs:
Fall Colors in California - Trip to Eastern Sierra
Susie Lake Hike – Lake Tahoe
Eagle Lake Hike – Lake Tahoe
Emerald Bay State Park – Lake Tahoe
Bear at South Lake Tahoe

When? : Highway 88 road is open year round including winter. The valley is always nice but the best time to visit here is during the few weeks at fall when the many aspen trees that grow in the valley change their color from green to bright yellow and red.

Usually, the best timing for fall color is around mid-October.

Note: Pictures in this blog where taken during my many visits in this place.


Due note 1: Check online and in social media groups the color conditions to time to peek colors.


Due note 2: there is no service in the valley, you can dine and sleep in Wylder Hotel Hope Valley at the east. You can find more places to eat at Alpine Village or at South Lake Tahoe.


Due note 3: Drive slow and enjoy the view, because its popularity during fall colors many people drive slowly and stop on the roadside for taking pictures.


Due note 4: There are many places you can park/stop off highway 88. Whenever stopping make sure your car is off the road and you are safe to walk.


Due note 5: In winter its Snowpark attract cross country skiers, snowshoers, and many snowmobilers (organized from nearby South Lake Tahoe).


Due note 6: Where to eat: Wylder Hope Valley is a unique resort located in the east side exit of the valley. The resort features the only nearby restaurant, when we visit here at fall time it was too long line for us to get dining table, so we kept driving east to Markleeville (highway 89) and eat good lunch at Cutthroat Brewing Company.


Due note 7: There are many available Campground in Hope Valley and the surrounding lakes.


My thoughts: I try to visit here when I can at fall time, at that time you can see here one of the most rewording fall color demonstrations.

The visit:

Sitting at an elevation of just above 7,000 feet and framed by peaks reaching over 10,000 feet high, Hope Valley is known for its wide vistas, fly fishing, fall colors, and winter activities.

Hope Valley is probably one of the best fall color road trip destinations in California, but you can visit here any time of the year (including winter when all is covered with snow) and you can find many different outdoor activities things to do here.


You will probably come to this valley from the west on highway 88 or from South Lake Tahoe (Highway 89).


Driving from the west on highway 88:

Highway 88 winds its way from Jackson west into the Sierra Nevada. As you drive up the mountains you will pass Kirkwood Mountain Ski Resort on your right and soon after you will reach to Caples Lake, from here you will be able to see late fall the aspen trees yellow color. On the far side of the lake you can see the high Melissa Coray Peak.

Just past Caples Lake, you will arrive to Carson Pass at 8,652 feet.

Here you have a car parking for day hiking to the nearby lakes and a wilderness backpacking entry point.

Immediately after the pas there are 2 gravel off-road parking with the first view of Hope Valley. From here you can enjoy the vast view across the valley and see Red Lake just below you.

Keep driving and the road gently wind into the valley below.


“Famous” wooden cabin:

Exactly 3.5 miles from Carson Pass Information Station parking you will reach to the most recognize photo location from the valley, old wooden cabin nested between colorful trees.

You have safe parking spots on both sides of the highway, drive here slowly and park safely.

This is a private property so respect it and do not enter, you can see the cabin from the road, but you need to find the right place to get good picture.

If you are coming from the east and driving west this location is exactly 5.3 miles from Picketts Junction (highway 88 and 89).

For google map location of this cabine follow this link: location


Driving to the valley from Lake Tahoe:

If you are coming from South Lake Tahoe, you will pass Grass Lake meadows and after Luther Pass you will gradually start to descend into Hope Valley.

In this drive section you can have a lot of colorful yellow aspen trees on both sides of the road. soon the road will start to level, and you will reach the valley floor and you will head to Picketts Junction.

From here I recommend turning right and explore the valley or you can drive left to nearby Wylder Hotel Hope Valley.


Road Trip Options:

Hope Valley can be reach as a day drive from the bay area (~4 hours’ drive) or by a short drive from South Lake Tahoe.

You can combine your visit here with a drive to the small Markleeville town. This is a small place with coffee shop, pub, and restaurants, excellent lunch & rest stop location. From here you can drive over the high Monitor Pass south to east Sierra and highway 395 or cross over the Sierra to the west on the narrow highway 4.

If you are doing this loop (bay area à highway 88 and Hope Valley à Markleeville à Highway 4 back home) This is a long day drive but the landscape and the views along the drive worth it.


Most of the people that visit here stay on the main highway and enjoy the view, but you can have many outdoor activities here and in the nearby mountains.


The West Carson River gently crosses the valley grassy plains and is a good destination for fly-fishing.


Crater Lake:

Find the trailhead 2.2 miles east of Red Lake exit or if you are coming from the east this is 1.9 miles west of the Blue Lakes Road turnoff.

The trail is actually a 4x4 road that leads up to the slopes of Stevens Peak. The 2.5-mile challenging drive/hike climbs from 7,400 feet to 8,650 feet as it winds back and forth up the mountain side.

Crater Lake is nestled in a pocket part way up the slope between Red Lake Peak and Stevens Peak.

It was a fun drive and the view of the small lake, and the valley below is rewording.

Do not tempt driving here with AWD car, you need a “real” 4x4 to drive over the few rocky steep sections.


Scotts Lake:

I did not visit this location, but it looks like a fun place to drive to.


Driving the Blue Lake Road:

The drive starts where the Hope Valley Sno-Park is located.

A good road will lead you into the mountains following the West Fork Carson River. After 11.5 miles of fun driving, you will reach Lower Blue Lake dam.

You can enjoy Lower and Upper Blue Lakes and also visit the side unpaved road (no need for 4x4 when it is dry conditions) that lead to the not so far Tamarack Lake. After this lake You can keep driving to the direction of Wet Meadows Reservoir Trailhead and explore this vast outdoor national forest and wilderness area.

During my visit I did not have the time to explore all off-road driving options in this area, but it looks like that from Lower Blue Lake you can pass Twin Lake and drive all the way to Meadow Lake, Markleeville.


Additional Pictures: