The Stanislaus National Forest is located in northeastern California, east of San Francisco, bordering on the western side of Yosemite National Park. It is comprised of 897,712 acres. There are 47 developed campgrounds of which 37 meet the selection criteria.
California has a lot of beautiful places to enjoy. State Parks, National Parks, and National Forests attract visitors to the State from far and near. It can be a challenge to narrow the choices down to a few. Whether planning a family camping vacation or seeking solitude, the Stanislaus National Forest has to be one of the few. With a variety of recreational opportunities and camping locations among towering mountains, deep and dark valleys, and expansive meadows, the first visit to the Stanislaus National Forest will be just the beginning of many return trips.
To the west of the Stanislaus is wine country, to the south is Yosemite National Park while to north and east, are the towering Sierra Nevada Mountains. These rugged mountains, with their granite faces carved by eons of wind, rain, ice, and snow, look down on deep, dark valleys and lush green meadows that were championed by John Muir and his followers a hundred years ago. We all owe a debt of thanks for their efforts to preserve this magnificently beautiful place that is seen and enjoyed today.
Three State routes (120, 108, and 4) provide access to the eastern reaches of the Stanislaus National Forest and its three designated wildernesses areas. The views of Mokelume, Carson-Iceberg, and Emigrant Wildernesses along these routes are awe- inspiring. While thousands of people enjoy the spectacular views found in Yosemite National Park, few take a side road and find the wonders of the Stanislaus Forest's quiet setting. But that's just fine. The road to Cherry Valley campground is one such illuminating side-trip. Eight-and-half miles north of SR 102, the landscape along the drive, ranges from an old burn area to a lush conifer forest, rugged towering peaks to mirror surfaced lakes, and white knuckled roadways clinging to a mountainside to wide dirt lanes through a tunnel of trees.
Route 120 winds through the Stanislaus National Forest to Yosemite National Park. Along the way are a series of rustic campgrounds offering campers a quiet, less crowded outdoor experience. Diamond 'O' campground, a short drive from Yosemite National Park's western entrance gate, has a long and interesting history that includes stories about the Mi-Wuk People, John Muir, Boy Scouts, and the California Peach Packers. This campground is also the most RV friendly Forest Service campground along SR120. Also accessed from SR 120 is whitewater rafting/kayaking on the class IV and V Tuolumne [Wild and Scenic] River. Outfitters are available (http://tinyurl.com/d539vez) to guide floating enthusiasts.
Route 108 winds its way from Sonora, California past the communities of Twain Hart and Long Barn to the tiny "town" of Dardanelle and the beautiful but challenging Sonora Pass. Along the way are a variety of campgrounds beckoning campers to stay awhile. Probably the most popular and well-known campgrounds along this route are Meadowview and Pinecrest.. The 300-acre lake and a dynamic summer resort feel make these two outstanding family oriented campgrounds great vacation spots (reservations are recommended).
Each campground along Route 108 has something special for campers. The views from Dardanelle are breathtaking. Clarks
Fork and Sandflat campgrounds, adjacent to the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, and the picturesque Highland Lake at Carson-Iceberg's northern edge, are excellent base camps for exploring the Wildernesses. Deadman and Baker campgrounds have a tranquil atmosphere making them ideal for just plain old relaxing. And having the old-fashion Kennedy Meadow Lodge, with its hot showers, trail rides and excellent kitchen, close-by is another plus.
Route 4 meanders through the northern section of the Stanislaus National Forest from Hathaway Pines to Ebbetts Pass, past the Big Trees State Park, several pleasant communities, and Lake Alpine, another outstanding family oriented camping area. Route 4 has the added feature of bisecting the Mokelume and Carson-Iceberg Wildernesses, providing travelers with many magnificent vistas of these wildernesses. Possibly the only thing better than the views found along Route 4 are the many delightful campgrounds.
A short drive from Route 4 east of Dorrington, is a most unusual campground named Wakaluu Hep Yo (Wild River). Designed with the idea of "communities" rather than individual campers isolated from one another, Wakaluu Hep Yo is the joint effort of the Forest Service and Mi Wok People. Native plants important to the Mi Wok People, have been reintroduced to the area.
Archeological rich areas have been protected from the interested but unskilled. And examples of the Mi Wok People's rich heritage have been placed around the campground. It is not unusual for visitors to camp next to a family who's ancestors camped in this very spot and harvested acorns and berries from the land. A special treat found at Wakaluu Hep Yo is a quick glimpse of the River Otter and the Ouzel, a bird that walks under water.
The Stanislaus National Forest boasts numerous lakes and eight hundred miles of rivers and streams for fishing, canoeing, and rafting. Campgrounds, such as Dardanelle, Fraser Flat, and
Stanislaus River, have healthy populations of Rainbow trout in the nearby streams.
An added feature of the Stanislaus National Forest is its active interpretive programs. Lots of self-guided trails provide insight to the Forest's history and ecology. It is not unusual to see a couple Forest Service persons riding one of the Forest's retired packhorses around one of the campgrounds in the Lake Alpine complex inviting campers to a program. Visitors, stopping at the Mi-Wuk Ranger Station, find a wide variety of material about the Forest, including an excellent wildflower map exclusive to the area. Along with Forest Service-led programs, movies are an added feature of the interpretive programs at the Pinecrest- Dodge Ridge area. In other words, there's a lot to do in the Stanislaus National Forest - spectacular scenery, little and grand adventures, and memories for a lifetime. It is one of those places visitors return year after year and still come back for more. Come and see. The Stanislaus National Forest awaits.
NOTE: An important note about State Routes 120, 108 and 4 - their most eastern reaches are NOT Recreation Vehicle (RV) friendly. This is because of steep grades (up to 27 degrees) and narrow switchbacks. Check out the areas carefully.
19777 Greenley Rd.
Sonora, California 95370
RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES
5519 Hwy. 4
Hathaway Pines, California 95233
24545 Hwy. 120
Groveland, California 95321
24695 Hwy 108
Mi-Wok, California 95346
#1 Pinecrest Lake Rd.
Pinecrest, California 95364