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Alpine County’s northern region is a land of contrasts, from the alpine peaks of the Sierra crest to the sage covered ranges of the Great Basin. Linked by historic Highway 88, the route of explorers, emigrants and goldseekers, Kirkwood and Hope Valley offer Alpine County visitors an wide selection of recreation, scenic beauty and historical points of interest.
The modern day resort community of Kirkwood came into being with the land claim in 1855 of one John Kirkwood in a serene alpine valley near the summit of the range. One of the few settlers in this untamed land, Kirkwood grazed sheep and cattle in the nearby meadows, and with the opening of the new Amador-Carson Valley Road in 1862, operated a waystation at the present day Kirkwood Inn.
In the late 1960’s planning began in the valley on the newest ski resort in California, Kirkwood, which opened to the public in 1972. Along with an extensive lift and trail system, numerous custom homes and hotel and condominium units were constructed. Today, Kirkwood is home to a vibrant destination ski and summer resort, with a variety of amenities and services.
Hope Valley was probably first seen by John Fremont and Kit Carson in their mid winter trip across the Sierra in 1844, but it was members of the Mormon Battalion, returning from the Mexican War of ’46-’47 who named the lovely valley in 1848.
During the massive emigration to California which began with the 1849 Gold Rush, the valley’s tall grass was important, offering plentiful forage for cattle and horses for emigrants using the Carson River Route of the Emigrant Trail. From the late 19th century through the 1970’s, Hope Valley continued to be used by Carson Valley ranchers for their summer pasturage.
Threatened with development in the 1980’s, a coalition of Alpine County citizens and visitors successfully lobbied the State of California to purchase much of the undeveloped land in Hope Valley, forever protecting one of the largest alpine meadows in the Sierra Nevada for future public use.
During the winter months, Hope Valley is a popular cross country ski and snowmobile area, while fishing, hiking, camping and cycling are popular activities through the rest of the year. The valley is also well known for its Fall colors, with large groves of Quaking Aspen trees.