Located between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park, and east of Stockton via CA-4, Alpine County is California’s least populous county with just over 1,000 people spread across its 740 square miles. But this spectacular county ridden with lakes, meadows and mountains may very well boast California’s largest heart.

Whether you’re an angler or cyclist, there is no shortage of outdoor activities to keep you occupied during a summer visit. Accommodations are plentiful, too – if you are willing to go camping. We stayed in the Silver Creek Campground within the Toiyabe National Forest, four miles east of Ebbets Pass and a 12 mile drive west of Markleeville. If you crave being surrounded by mountains and trees and strive to be out of cell phone range, the county’s numerous campsites will surely take care of you. Hiking offers numerous options – Grover Hot Springs State Park is one lush option, even if the famous therapeutic pool happens to be full.

Once teaming with silver mining operations, many people left Alpine County over the decades as that once-booming then fledgling industry eventually petered out. During the 1960s, tourism received a bounce with the opening of resorts such as Kirkwood and Bear Valley. My family shared a condo in Bear Valley during the 1970s, and my memories were of a place hopping with excitement, similar to an experience one would have summering back east in the Poconos or the Catskills. If you take CA-4 east of Stockton, Bear Valley is a great place to stop, stretch your legs, and grab a coffee. Then be prepared – the drive further east along CA-4 is spectacular and well-maintained, but much of it is a single-lane road.

Consider Markleeville to be your focal point for loading up on caffeine and supplies. The town of about 200 people has that blink-and-you-will-miss-it friendly charm. The general store has been around for decades – consider the red-and-white clapboard shop your local Walmart. Alps Haus has a lovely staff and serves some seriously energizing espresso-based brews along with hearty breakfast and lunch options.

You can consider Alpine County your rugged base to explore Lake Tahoe and Nevada gems such as Genoa and Carson City. We drove around Lake Tahoe and regretted it – beautiful as it is, the place was a zoo on a Friday. We were relieved to get back to Markleeville after a stressful day driving. Relief, actually, is the operative word if you travel to Alpine County – its breathtaking scenery will calm your nerves and your lungs will certainly appreciate the air.

Image credits: Leon Kaye

Alpine County, California, travel, Bear Valley, coffee, Alps Haus, Markleeville, hiking, Leon Kaye

Grover Hot Springs State Park

Alpine County, California, travel, Bear Valley, coffee, Alps Haus, Markleeville, hiking, Leon Kaye

Along Highway 4 in the Toiyabe National Forest

Alpine County, California, travel, Bear Valley, coffee, Alps Haus, Markleeville, hiking, Leon Kaye

This county is named Alpine for a reason

Alpine County, California, travel, Bear Valley, coffee, Alps Haus, Markleeville, hiking, Leon Kaye

The topography changes quickly as you arrive closer to Markleeville

Alpine County, California, travel, Bear Valley, coffee, Alps Haus, Markleeville, hiking, Leon Kaye

As much as 96 percent of Alpine County is owned by the federal government

Alpine County, California, travel, Bear Valley, coffee, Alps Haus, Markleeville, hiking, Leon Kaye

The Carson River

Alpine County, California, travel, Bear Valley, coffee, Alps Haus, Markleeville, hiking, Leon Kaye

A great place to camp for the weekend

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in California, he specializes in social media consulting and strategic communications. A journalist and writer since 2009, his work has appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Areas of interest include the <a Middle East, sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (Leon Kaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). Since 2013, he has spent much of his time in Abu Dhabi, UAE, working with Masdar, the emirate's renewable energy company. He lives in Fresno, California.