Best Hikes in Stanislaus National Forest (CA)


Named for the Stanislaus River in 1897, Stanislaus National Forest is one of the oldest national forests in the country. It is sandwiched between Eldorado National Forest and Yosemite National Park and offers some good backcountry outdoor recreational options. 

The Forest has four Ranger Districts divided along three highway corridors: route 120 to the south (Groveland District), Route 108 along the middle fork of the Stanislaus River (Mi-Wok and Summit Ranger Districts), and Route 4 to the north (Calaveras Ranger District). Highway 4 is a designated Scenic Byway, Highways 108 and 120 have the potential to become designated. Each highway corridor represents a unique interpretive and education opportunity from giant sequoias to wild rivers. Official Website.

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Nearest Metro AreaSonora, CA
Area Size898,099 acres
EstablishedFebruary 22, 1897
Hiking Trails1,100 miles

Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Hikes in Stanislaus National Forest

  • Arnold Rim Trail*** – 12.5 miles out and back
    • Great trail that offers breathtaking vistas with panoramic views stretching from Mt. Diablo in the East Bay Area to snowy Mt. Lyell on the high eastern slopes of the Sierras near Yosemite. The main stem of the trail is 35 miles long in full. I would suggest at least checking out San Antonio Falls and Cougar Rock before turning around and going back to the trailhead near the Sierra Nevada Logging Museum
  • Calaveras South Grove Trail – 4.9 mile loop
    • Easy hike through a grove of giant, ancient sequoias in Calaveras Big Trees State Park on the western side of the forest. There is a shorter 1.5 mile loop in the North Grove as well. 
  • Carlon Falls Trail – 2.8 miles out and back
    • This is an easy trail that ventures along the South Fork of the Tuolumne River into the Yosemite Wilderness Area to Carlon Falls.
  • Crabtree Trail to Bear Lake – 8.5 miles out and back
    • Crabtree Trail is a nice casual long-distance trail that ventures over a ridge to several different lakes in the area. All of the lakes are good options for swimming or fishing. This hike to Bear Lake is a nice middle-distance option. 
  • Pinecrest Lake Loop + Cleo’s Bath – 6.7 mile loop
    • The 4 mile loop around Pinecrest Lake is relatively flat and a great family hike. There are beautiful views of the lake. On the far side of the lake, the trail branches off on its way up to Cleo’s Bath – a fun swimming hole hikers can jump in.

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