August 31, 2019

The Ultimate Review of Pine Martin Campground in Bear Valley, California

The Ultimate Review of Pine Martin Campground in Bear Valley, California

Our family loves exploring the highway 4 corridor.  We spend a week up there every year.  With our basecamp in Arnold, we took a day trip over to Lake Alpine this year.   On the Northeast side of Lake Alpine, we found a great picknicking area.  The kiddos loved crawling over the granite rocks and they had plenty of space to run around.  After lunch, we enjoyed a short walk over a small pedestrian bridge toward Pine Martin Campground.  

In the middle of July, we were surprised to find snow piles on the shaded mountainside.  The kids loved hiking up the mounds of snow; sliding down in their shorts and trying to dig out enough chunks of snow to press together as snowballs.

As my daughter, Nyah, climbed to the top of one of these snow piles, she announced that she had to go poop.  Unfortunately, you can't tell a 4-year old to just pinch it off.  So we left the fun in search of a toilet.  It was a little walk up to the camp where I knew we could find some decent toilets.  

The small mounds of snow blockaded the main path, forcing us to walk through one of the campers' site.  Just as we paused to see if there was possibly another way to the facilities, we heard the campsite owners' friendly voice, "come on through you guys, don't worry, it's the only way up here."

My mom (who was with us) took Nyah to the bathroom while I stayed and talked to my new friend Amanda about her camping vacation at Lake Alpine this year.

As it turns out, Amanda was from Sacramento too!  She was super nice and patient as I asked her a ton of questions about her stay.  She reserved site #21 fairly late in the year and chose it only because it was the last site available.  Because she wasn't able to see the site (only because she didn't know about Campgrounds 360 yet) before she came, she stuffed her van full of every bit of camping gear she owned.  The pop-up shade tent, both of her two-person tents, the canoes, her hammock, the bikes - everything went in.  it turns out that this particular campsite fit every single bit of her gear well.

Her picnic table was hit with midday sunshine but the pop-up tent shaded it well.  The canoes could be moored down at the creekside, by the mouth of the lake, which was convenient for early morning paddling.  The site also had two trees up closer to the parking pad, perfect to hang her hammock from.

Amanda's only complaint about her site was that the main water pipe broke at the bottom of the lake this year which resulted in no water at the camp.  This meant the flush toilets were out of order (porta-potties were brought in) and you had to bring in all of your own water for drinking and daily use as well.  She was pleased that she had notice before she arrived though.

I'm certain that you don't care to know that my daughters' trip to the porta-potty was successful.  But I felt driven to complete the story for you.  We all enjoyed the rest of our day-trip to Lake Alpine and sincerely look forward to camping at Pine Martin in the future.

My Review:

Pine Martin Campground is located in the Stanislaus National Forest and just a short walking distance (about 1/4 mile) from Lake Alpine.  The camp is situated under a forest of Fir Trees, offering a mixture of shade and sun within each campsite.  Sierra granite rocks make their appearance throughout the campground and offer kids ideal rocks for scrambling over.

None of the campsites have a view of the lake, but those sites on the most western side of the camp are a two-minute walk to the lake.  Pine Marten has a paved road and dirt parking spurs.  Campsites are medium-sized, fitting one large 8-person tent or two smaller tents.  The camp is designed to offer a moderate level of privacy from the neighboring site.  When I spoke to Amanda at her site, I wasn't able to see any other tents at the adjacent sites.

If you need a shower, you can drive to Lake Alpine Lodge to shower in a dingy shower house.

What to Bring:

  • Fishing pole
  • Canoe/kayak/SUP
  • Hiking shoes
  • Mosquito repellant

Click here to view our to-scale campground site map and 360 photo tour.

In the Reviews:  

No personal reviews were available on-line but Amanda and her family would rate the campground a 4/5 only due to the water situation this year.


  • Hike up to Inspiration Point
  • Hike from Silver Valley Camp to Duck Lake or beyond into the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness.
  • Fishing for rainbow trout is good in May and early June.  
  • The lake itself is popular for kayaking although we did see some paddlers.  
  • There is a boat launch over by Lake Alpine Campground

Favorite Sites

  • 17, 19 (21 was nice but it was right next to the bathrooms)