Photo of Kinney Lakes,  Alpine County, CA

Fishing Lower Kinney Lake

Alpine County

Photo of Upper Kinney Lake

Upper Kinney Lake

Lower Kinney Lake is a wonderful fishing destination hidden away back in the woods about a mile from Highway 4, which crosses Ebbetts Pass in Alpine County, California. Most fishermen like the convenience of Kinney Reservoir, which is adjacent to Highway 4; but by walking a mile along a dirt road you can reach the much-less-often-visited Lower Kinney Lake and spend a day working its shores. Nearby Upper Kinney Lake is only a half mile farther along the road. (All three lakes are actually reservoirs, serving as water supply.)

Lower Kinney Lake and Upper Kinney Lake have both brook and Lahontan cutthroat. Fly fishing and spin casting alike produce good results, especially at the sheltered upper ends of the lakes. At Lower Kinney Lake I did my best fishing in the southeastern cove. At the upper lake I saw fishermen doing well working from the rocks along the base of the cliff on the southern side of the lake. All the lakes can be fished from float tubes; except be wary of strong afternoon winds.

Lower Kinney Lake (the largest of the three lakes, 495 acre feet) is situated at an elevation of 8,500 feet while Upper Kinney Lake (320 acre feet) is about 200 feet higher. The Pacific Crest Trail skirts the western edge of the upper lake, making it a popular camping location for backpackers. However, few of them ever venture down to Lower Kinney Lake.

In My Creel

  • #16 Adams
  • #14 Royal Coachman
  • #14 Gray Hackle
  • Panther Martin
  • 3/8 oz. Kastmaster
  • 1/3 oz. Daredevle Skeeter

For fishing in Lower Kinney Lake I was concerned about how the wind would affect my fly casting, so I carried spin casting outfit along with my fly rod. At the sheltered western ends of the lakes fly casting was not a problem. The Panther Martin proved as reliable as always, especially late in the day.

Making Your Way to Kinney Lakes

To reach Lower Kinney Lake from either side of the side of the Sierra Nevada, drive up Highway 4. It's about 40 miles from Minden, Nevada, or 60 miles from Angels Camp, California. Highway 4 over Ebbetts Pass is a steep, windy road, especially on the eastern side. Park near the Kinney Reservoir Dam.

Photo of Kinney Lake dam

Hike across the dam (shown left) and follow the dirt road for about 1 mile until you reach a Y. The right-hand road leads to Lower Kinney Lake while the left turn would take you another half mile uphill to Upper Kinney Lake. Staying to the right, you will shortly see the waters of Lower Kinney Lake.

An alternate approach would be to park at the Pacific Crest Trail parking lot near the summit of Ebbetts Pass and hike from there. The 2-mile trail would bring you to the western shore of Upper Kinney Lake. Another mile of hiking would carry you to the lower lake. You could make a loop by hiking out to Kinney Reservoir and follow a dirt road that parallels the highway up to the parking lot (about 4 miles total).

Accommodations and Supplies

To find lodging you would want to head back to Markleeville on the east side. Or you might go as far as Minden or Topaz Lake in Nevada. On the west side of the pass the first lodging is at Lake Alpine. You'll find more of a selection farther down the road in Bear Valley, Tamarack, and Arnold.

Photo of Lower Kinney Lake

Lower Kinney Lake

For camping, many people simply set up their own camp (known as "dispersed camping" by the Forest Service). Popular places are found all along Silver Creek on the eastern side of the pass. There you will also find Silver Creek Campground. Heading down the west side of the pass you find Bloomfield Campground on the Highland Lakes Road and Grouse Flat and Hermit Valley a little farther down Highway 4.

Excellent backpacking campsites at Lower Kinney Lake are located along the southeastern side of the lake and on the western side. At the upper lake the best campsites are on the western shore, but they are often crowded. Try the southeastern corner for a nice site.

California's Best Camping logo

To find the very best campgrounds in the area and all across California, visit California's Best Camping.

For more information about camping, fishing and recreation in the Ebbetts Pass area, see Ebbetts Pass Adventures.

logo saying Ebbetts Pass Adventures

Good places to stop for fishing tackle along the way to Kinney Lakes:

Recommended Lures, Books and Maps for Fishing Kinney Lakes

Photo of Upper Kinney Lake

Upper Kinney Lake


If you enjoy hiking, head south on the Pacific Crest Trail and try your luck fishing for brook trout at Noble Lake. It's a 3-mile hike from the PCT parking lot on Ebbetts Pass with only a few hundred feet changes in elevation.

Another good destination is west on Highway 4 in Hermit Valley. The Mokelumne River meanders through the meadow there, offering some nice fishing spots along its bank. The fence is intended to keep stock inside, not to keep anglers out. There are several primitive camping areas along the river. Adventurous fishermen might decide to follow the river on downstream from Hermit Valley.

Photo of Lower Kinney Lake

Other Nearby Featured Trips in Alpine County: