Just a few miles south of Lake Tahoe, Highway 88 is a two-lane, all-year highway that crosses the Sierra Nevada on a route used by the Washoe Indians for many centuries. Although the route is more popular than Ebbetts Pass, it receives fewer visitors than the area directly around Lake Tahoe. If you spend the night near the top of Carson Pass and the junction with Highway 89, Tahoe is within easy driving distance.
No matter whether you visit Tahoe or not, there are plenty of beautiful sights and things to do along Highway 88. Highway 89 connects this route with Highway 4, just a few miles to the south. You can easily combine this trip with last week's Highway 4 recommendations for a spectacular loop trip. In late October through early November the aspens put on a spectacular show of vivid yellows and oranges.
The Gold Rush town of Jackson is a great place to start your trip. Jackson has a well-preserved downtown with shops and great places to eat. Turn off the highway, find a place to park, and take a walk. The grounds of the Kennedy Mine are open on weekends for guided tours or to be explored on your own. Mined continuously from 1860 through 1942, it's a great place to learn about our state's mining history. For more information about the Jackson area, check the website of the city (www.ci.jackson.ca.us) or the Amador County Chamber of Commerce (www.amadorcountychamber.com).
For information about the entire route go to www.carsonpass.com.
Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park
Turn north from Highway 88 at Pine Grove and follow signs to the park. The central attraction is an outcropping of marbleized limestone with 1,185 mortar holes formed by centuries of acorn grinding. The adjacent museum has excellent exhibits about the various Native American cultures of the Sierra Nevada and there's a reconstructed village to explore. The museum is open Friday-Monday 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. You can find more information at the park's website www.parks.ca.gov or by calling (209) 296-7488.
Silver and Caples Lakes
Gem-like Silver and Caples Lakes are eye-catching highlights as you climb towards the summit of Carson Pass. Both are natural lakes that have been enlarged with dams. They offer lodging, camping, boat launch ramps, trout fishing, fishing boat and kayak rentals, and limited groceries.
For more information go to www.kitcarsonlodge.com or www.capleslakeresort.com. The 8-mile roundtrip hike from Caples Lake to Emigrant Lake is one of the best in the area. It does take some work, but it is easier than it sounds.
Woods Lake Campground, Trails
The campground adjacent to Woods Lake is one of the best along Highway 88. Woods Lake is a natural subalpine lake with trout fishing and a relatively easy 3-mile round trip hike to stunning Winnemucca Lake.
Note: If you leave from the campground, turn left at the first fork in the trail. If you plan to day hike this route instead of starting from your campsite, a parking area is located before you get to the campground. Follow the signs and turn left whenever you reach a junction. If you are interested in a more challenging hike, you can return to Woods Lake via Round Top Lake -- a 6 ½ mile round trip hike. You can also continue to Fourth of July Lake from Woods Lake -- an extension that will increase your hiking distance to nearly 13 miles. Day use is $5/car and camping is $20/night.
Located between Silver and Caples Lakes, this ski resort also offers year-round lodging and dining. During the summer a climbing wall, disc golf, and mountain bike rentals are available. The ski lifts provide access to the higher elevations for hikers and bikers.
Two miles before the Highway 89 junction a 12-mile road through beautiful Faith Valley to Blue Lakes turns southward. The final three miles is unpaved, but maintained for all vehicles. PG&E operates the lakes and campgrounds with campsites at $23/night.
Trout fishing from boats and the shore can be excellent and dirt roads lead to fishing and dispersed camping at many nearby lakes. If you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle and some experience driving in rough conditions, you can return from Upper Blue Lake to Highway 88 via spectacular Forestdale Road.
Adam Blauert is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys fishing, backpacking and exploring the western states. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.