Highland Lakes Campground: A Gateway to Alpine Serenity

Discover the untamed beauty of Highland Lakes Campground, a serene oasis nestled in the heart of the Stanislaus National Forest. Situated near the summit of Ebbetts Pass and flanked by the majestic Highland Lakes, this hidden gem offers a prime spot for camping enthusiasts seeking an alpine adventure like no other.

At 8,600 feet above sea level, Highland Lakes Campground boasts 35 campsites catering to both tent and small RV campers. But this haven isn’t just about pitching tents; it’s about immersing yourself in nature’s embrace and embracing the rugged tranquility of the wilderness.

Map & Reservations

Here, outdoor enthusiasts can cast their lines into the crystalline waters, hike along scenic trails, or embark on thrilling off-road excursions. With its unique location straddling the Mokelumne and Stanislaus River watersheds, Highland Lakes Campground promises an unparalleled experience for those craving outdoor thrills.

But before you embark on your camping odyssey, it’s essential to equip yourself with the right knowledge and gear. From acclimating to the high altitude to securing a prime campsite spot, our top tips ensure a seamless camping experience amidst the splendor of Highland Lakes.

So, pack your bags, don your hiking boots, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey into the heart of nature. Whether you’re a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or a novice camper, Highland Lakes Campground beckons, promising an adventure of a lifetime. Join us as we delve into the wilderness and uncover the secrets of this alpine paradise.

Top Tips for Campers at Highland Lakes Campground

  • Altitude Awareness: Due to the high elevation, reaching 8,600 feet, be mindful of potential altitude-related challenges. Acclimatize yourself gradually and stay hydrated to fully enjoy your alpine camping experience.
  • Weather-Ready Gear: Pack clothing for varying temperatures, as the weather can be unpredictable. Bring layers, including a waterproof jacket, to stay comfortable in the cool mountain air and be prepared for sudden weather changes.
  • Early Arrival Advantage: Given the first-come, first-served nature of the campsites, plan to arrive early, especially during the peak season. This ensures a better selection of campsites and a smoother check-in process.
  • Water Confirmation: Confirm water availability ahead of your trip by checking with the campground authorities. While the tap water is usually accessible, conditions may vary, and it’s wise to be prepared.
  • Compact Camping Vehicles: The campground limits vehicle length to 16 feet, emphasizing the need for smaller camping vehicles. Opt for compact setups to ensure ease of access and a more enjoyable camping experience.

Top Strategies and Tactics for Maximum Camping Enjoyment

  • Ideal Camping Season: Plan your visit between late May and October for the optimal camping experience. Late spring through early fall provides the best weather conditions, allowing you to explore the outdoors comfortably.
  • Fishing Excursions: Highland Lakes are renowned for fishing. Take advantage of the serene lakeside setting and bring your fishing gear to enjoy a peaceful day by the water. Explore nearby Kinney Lakes for an extended fishing adventure.
  • Hiking Adventures: Embark on nearby hiking trails, including a section of the famous Pacific Crest Trail. Immerse yourself in the breathtaking scenery and explore the beauty of the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness for an enriching outdoor experience.
  • OHV Exploration: Adventure seekers can explore the nearby OHV routes at Rattlesnake Creek and Black Springs. Bring your off-highway vehicle for a thrilling off-road experience in the scenic surroundings.
  • Kayaking and Biking: Head to Bear Valley Adventure Company for kayak and bike rentals. Explore the lakes by kayak or enjoy biking along the network of logging roads, adding an extra layer of fun to your camping adventure.

Recommendations on Camping Gear for an Optimal Experience

  • Bear-Resistant Cooler: As a precaution in bear country, invest in a bear-resistant cooler to securely store food and prevent wildlife encounters. This ensures camper safety and contributes to the preservation of the natural habitat.
  • High-Quality Sleeping Gear: Enhance your camping comfort with a high-quality sleeping bag and camping mattress. The alpine nights can get chilly, so ensure you have the appropriate gear to stay warm and cozy.
  • Portable Cooking Gear: Opt for portable cooking gear to simplify campsite meal preparation. Compact stoves and versatile cookware are essential for convenient cooking at your campsite.
  • Lightweight Backpack: If you plan to explore the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness or hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, equip yourself with a lightweight backpack. Pack essentials like water, snacks, and a first aid kit for a seamless day of exploration.
  • Explore Our Gearlist: For detailed gear recommendations on camp cooking equipment, sleeping systems, overlanding setups, backpacks, and clothing, explore our gearlist account. Tailor your gear choices to match the unique features of Highland Lakes Campground for an optimized camping experience.

Check out our Gearlist for the gear we use for trips like this

Our Gearlist account lists all of the gear we use. Discover our top picks, where to snag them, and stay informed with our regular updates.


In summary, Highland Lakes Campground stands as a beacon for camping enthusiasts, offering an unparalleled experience amidst the rugged beauty of the Stanislaus National Forest. From the tranquil shores of the Highland Lakes to the thrilling hiking trails of the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, this hidden gem beckons adventurers to immerse themselves in the wonders of nature.

By heeding our top tips for campers, including altitude awareness and early arrival advantages, you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable camping experience at Highland Lakes. Equipped with weather-ready gear and compact camping vehicles, you’ll be ready to embrace the challenges and rewards of alpine camping.

For maximum enjoyment, take advantage of the myriad activities available, from fishing excursions to off-road adventures. And don’t forget to pack the essential camping gear recommended to enhance your comfort and safety amidst the wilderness.

So, whether you’re a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or a newcomer to camping, Highland Lakes Campground welcomes you to embark on an unforgettable journey. Explore the outdoors, revel in the tranquility, and create lasting memories amidst the breathtaking beauty of Ebbetts Pass. Join us as we celebrate the spirit of adventure and camaraderie that camping at Highland Lakes inspires. Book your campsite, pack your gear, and prepare for an experience like no other in the heart of nature’s playground.