Blue Lake to Red Lake 4×4 Road – Forestdale Road, The Pacific Crest Trail, and the Forestdale Divide
Blue Lakes to Red Lake is an amazing 4×4 trail with stunning views of the Tahoe’s National Forest. Known more commonly as Forestdale Road, the Blue Lakes to Red Lakes 4×4 trail follows a parallel path next to the well-known Pacific Crest Trail. On this trail, you have patches of everything to make for a very cool drive.
You will run into thick patches of trees, steep inclines, rocky areas with steep drops, washed out ruts, river crossings, snow-covered sections along with flat gravel sections.
There was still snow on the ground in mid-August. If you are heading up to this trail during fall, winter or early spring, expect to hit multiple sections of snow.
You can approach this trail from Red Lake off Highway 88 or from the Upper Blue Lake Dam Campground area. We started from the Upper Blue Lake Dam Campground area and proceeded up the hill towards the Forestdale Divide.
Forestdale Divide – Forestdale Rd, Markleeville, CA 96120
Shots below by Jeffrey Bowdoin
Through the first sections of the trail, you climb straight up through thick forest, switchbacks and extremely rocky terrain. Once you make it through the forest and come out through the treeline, you will see amazing views of Tahoe’s National Forest. Heading up a bit further, you will see wide-open space of the Forestdale Divide.
Stunning Views Around the Forestdale Divide
The Forestdale Divide is beautiful. Much of the Divide is made up of black rock, lush green vegetation, and mountain peaks all around. From the top of the Forestdale Divide, you can see parts of Deadwood Peak, Milissa Coray Peak, Elephants Back, Round Top Peak, and “The Nipple”.
Once you start to climb down the Forestdale Divide towards Red Lake, you are greeted with images that look like something from another county. The landscape is just amazing up there.
Forestdale Divide 4×4 Trail & Road
Shot below by Jeffrey Bowdoin
For the actual trail itself heading down, things do get a bit tricky. There are multiple sections of large boulders and jagged rocks buried in the ground that force you to take your time. There are also large sections where the middle of the road has been washed out.
Our 4Runner’s wheelbase was just perfect to straddle the washed out section of the road. But, again this took a spotter and was moving very slowly. If you do head out the Forestdale Divide, just be sure to bring a passenger or head out with a crew. Once you make it through the rough sections of the trail, you will come out to a couple massive humps
Heading Down the Hill Towards Red Lake
Once you make it through the rough sections of the trail, you will come out to a couple massive humps on the road with some creek crossing (small in August). After that, the trail heads back down to Red Lake and pops you out on Highway 88 right at Hope Valley, which we visited last year. Hope Valley is home to one of the most iconic Cabins in California and in Fall, you can find hundreds of photographers out there getting a glimpse of the stunning fall color.
Hope Valley is home to one of the most iconic Cabins in California and in Fall, you can find hundreds of photographers out there getting a glimpse of the stunning fall color.
Our plan was to camp at upper blue lakes but it started raining and hailing on us pretty hard. I would love to come back up here again and see all of the lakes around this area. There are a ton of lakes all scattered around this area. It would be really cool to check out all the lakes on another trip.
Puddle Smashing Through Forestdale Road
Not the brightest idea in the world but it sure is fun. Just be prepared to clean your 4Runner engine once you get back to civilization. We did have a blast mashing through these puddles. When you are off-road with your buddies, you really can be a kid again. So much fun.
Get out there and enjoy it!
Shots below by Jeffrey Bowdoin