Area Hikes

Endless opportunities abound in the Stanislaus National Forest surrounding Camp Chinquapin for miles of hiking. Time frames can range from less-than-an-hour to all-day. We will pick a hike that will best suit your group’s abilities and time frame.

We would love to partner with you in figuring out the best place for you to go in the Stanislaus National Forest. Our staff has explored much of the surrounding area, but is always finding places they have never been, as well.

Whether we take you to a beautiful mountain lake, provide you with gear, make you a nutritious lunch or snack, or just give you a place to check in, we are here to help.

Area Hikes around Camp Chinquapin

Easy to Moderately Easy Hikes

Column of the Giants

Distance: .4 miles one way (.75 miles round trip)

Time: 1 hour or less

Driving Directions: 24 miles east of Pinecrest on right side of Hwy 108 next to Pigeon Flat Campground.

Highlights: Features unusual basalt column geologic formations along fully accessible trails with interpretive signs along the way. Nice picnic spots in the area.

Donnell Reservoir Interpretive Trail

Distance: .5 mile round trip loop.

Time: 1 hour or less

Driving Directions: 18 miles east of Pinecrest on left side of Hwy 108, past Eagle Meadow. 

Highlights: Great views of the Dardanelles, Donnell Reservoir and the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River canyon. Paved trail with interpretive signs along the way. Nice picnic spots in the area.

Eagle Meadow Loop

Distance: 2.3 mile loop

Time: 1-2 hours

Driving Directions: Drive 14 miles on Hwy 108 to Eagle Meadow Road (5N01.). Turn right. Following 5N01 for 7.2 miles, park near Eagle Meadow Horse camp.

Highlights: An easy family-friendly hike around the perimeter of Eagle Meadow, with lovely views of Eagle Peak, sightings of cattle that may be grazing in the area, wildflowers in the spring and Aspens in the fall.

Beardsley Dam

Distance: 2.8 – 3.6 miles (5.6 – 7.2 miles round trip)

Time: 2-4 hours

Driving Directions: Drive 3.1 miles on Hwy 108 and turn left onto Beardsley Road (5N02.). Take the paved road all the way down to the dam – veer left at the junction with the day use area at 7.7 miles. Park off road just before the dam.

Highlights: Partially on packed gravel/dirt forest service road and an old railroad grade, this hike overlooks the river canyon and has views of the dam and power station, along with some artifacts from the past.

Herring Creek Trail

Distance: 1 – 3.5 miles (2 – 7 miles round trip.)

Time: 1-3 hours

Driving Directions: 3.5 miles East of Pinecrest, turn right onto Herring Creek Road (4N12) – drive 6.8 miles until you reach a “T” where you will turn right. When you hit the “Y” in the road, take the left branch for .1 miles (5N50Y), then turn left and cross the creek into Herring Reservoir Campground. Go to the end of the road where you can park by the gate.

Highlights: This hike offers lovely views of meadows and forests meandering along Herring Creek, and opens up to small Herring Creek Reservoir, and further on glimpses of mountain peaks.

Sardine Falls

Distance: 1.25 miles (2.5 miles round trip)

Time: 1-2 hours

Driving Directions: Drive approximately 42 miles east on Hwy 108, over the Sonora Pass, and dirve another 2.5 miles descending from the top, just past the 9000 ft. elevation sign to the pull off on the right.

Highlights: Overlooking the lovely Sardine Meadow, cross Sardine Creek and head up the trail, meandering through meadows and seeing several waterfalls before Sardine Falls. A fun and lovely hike for the family.

Trail of the Gargoyles

Distance: North Rim – .75 miles round trip; South Rim – 1 mile round trip.

Time: 1-1.5 hours, with exploration time.

Driving Directions: 3.5 miles East of Pinecrest, turn right onto Herring Creek Road (4N12) – drive 6.7 miles. Turn left onto 4N12F where there are signs for the Trail, go past for parking area.  

Highlights: There are 2 rim trails overlooking a deep valley highlighting volcanic geologic formations. Pick up an interpretive guide at the Summit Forest Ranger station for more information.

Bell Meadow

Distance: .25 – .5 miles

Time: 1 hour

Driving Directions: Leaving from Chinquapin, head up Dodge Ridge Rd. and turn right onto Crabtree Road (4N26) and travel to Aspen Meadows pack station. Turn right onto 4N25 and continue .4 miles before turning left onto 4N02Y. A few bumpy sections and you’ll reach the parking area 1.8 miles down the road.

Highlights: Explore a beautiful meadow, often filled with wild flowers and in the fall, grazing cattle. Discover a quiet creek, scramble up some rocks, listen to the quaking Aspens. A great picnic spot!

Douglas Flat Trail

Distance: 1.8 miles (3.6 miles round trip)

Time: 1 -2 hours

Driving Directions: Drive 25 miles east on Hwy 108, 3.5 miles past the Dardanelles Resort and just before the Douglas Flat Picnic area. Turn right into the parking area where a concrete bridge is visible

Highlights: A rambling trail passing the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River and going through a forested area on a decomposing granite path. A nice walk to do some exploring with the family.

Sugar Pine Railroad Interpretive Trail

Distance: 3 miles (6 miles round trip)

Time: 2-4 hours

Driving Directions: Drive west on Hwy 108 to Old Strawberry Road. Turn right and travel 1.8 miles looking for a brown USFS plastic trail marker on the west side of the road. There are signs for private property at the parking area. Be sure to follow the trail signs. From this trailhead, you will be following the interpretive guide backwards.

Highlights: This gentle hike parallels the South Fork of the Stanislaus River and overlays the historic Sugar Pine Railway. Interpretive guides are available at the Summit Ranger Station.

Double Dome Rock

Distance: .6 miles (1.2 miles round trip)

Time: Less than 1 hour

Driving Directions: Drive 14 miles on Hwy 108 to Eagle Meadow Road (5N01.). Turn right. Following 5N01 for .9 miles (veer right at .3 miles.). After crossing a cattle guard, turn left on 5N04 and follow for 3.3 miles. Park at junction of 5N04 and 19EV97. 

Highlights: A short but steep climb, some off trail, leads to the top of the western dome with awesome views of the Wilderness areas. A fun place to explore.


Moderate Hikes

Camp Lake/Bear Lake

Distance: 2.5 miles to Camp Lake (5 miles round trip) and 3.8 miles to Bear Lake (7.6 miles)

Time: Half day

Driving Directions: Leaving from Chinquapin, head up Dodge Ridge Rd. and turn right onto Crabtree Road (4N26) and travel to Aspen Meadows pack station. Continue past the pack station about 3 miles to a junction. Turn right at the Crabtree trailhead sign and travel 1 mile to parking.

Highlights: A very popular hike for a reason – these beautiful lakes are set in granite basins and surrounded by majestic pines. The meadows you will pass are full of wildflowers.

Pinecrest Lake Loop

Distance: 4.1 miles around the lake

Time: 2-4 hours

Driving Directions: From the Pinecrest exit off Hwy 108, drive straight through past the General Store and Post Office to several parking areas.

Highlights: Scenic views of beautiful Pinecrest Lake, the amazing granite of the South Fork of the Stanislaus River Canyon, and various types of trail hiking.

Powell Lake

Distance: 4 miles round trip

Time: 3-4 hours

Driving Directions: Leaving from Chinquapin, head up Dodge Ridge Rd. and turn right onto Crabtree Road (4N26) and travel to Aspen Meadows pack station. Continue past the pack station about 6 miles, past Crabtree Trailhead junction to Gianelli trailhead. 

Highlights: Follow the Burst Rock trail through pine forests and lots of switchbacks. Once at Burst Rock area, hike another mile to this spectacular alpine lake – hidden from view from the main trail.

Clark Fork River Trail

Distance: 2.6 miles (5.2 miles round trip)

Time: 3-4 hours

Driving Directions: 21 miles east of Pinecrest on Hwy 108, turn right onto Clarks Fork Road. Go over 2 bridges, veering right to stay on Clarks Fork Road. Continue to the end of the road, about 9 miles. 

Highlights: Shady, forested trail that follows the Clark Fork River with plenty of spots to stop and enjoy the water, with moderate elevation gains.

Frankensteins – Pinecrest Lake overlook

Distance: 1 mile (2 miles roundtrip)

Time: 2 hours

Driving Directions: : 3.5 miles East of Pinecrest, turn right onto Herring Creek Road (4N12.). Continue for 2.8 miles, then turn right onto 4N27 where there is a “message board” sign. Drive 1.3 miles to the parking area by the bridge.

Highlights: Following the route to Pinecrest Peak, this is a scenic area with views of Dodge Ridge ski area, Cleo’s Bath, and Pinecrest Lake overlook. The hike is a level, then a gradual uphill, using switchbacks, but the last push to the top is steep with only a faint trail. Be careful at the top of these huge granite slabs and enjoy the views.


Moderately Difficult Hikes

Catfish Lake

Distance: 2.4 miles to lake, 4.8 miles out and back, or 3.9 miles loop option.

Time: 2-4 hours

Driving Directions: 1.3 miles east of Pinecrest, turn right at the Strawberry store, just past the bridge. Drive past the store on the right, on Herring Creek Lane, parking area is .3 miles further.

Highlights: This hike includes a stream crossing, a scenic river, views of Pinecrest Lake, trail climbs, and quiet pine forests, ending at Catfish lake.

Grouse Lake

Distance: 4.9 miles (9.8 miles round trip)

Time: 4-6 hours

Driving Directions: Leaving from Chinquapin, head up Dodge Ridge Rd., turn right onto Crabtree Road (4N26) and travel to Aspen Meadows pack station. Turn right onto 4N25 and continue .4 miles before turning left onto 4N02Y. A few bumpy sections and you’ll reach the parking area 1.8 miles down the road.

Highlights: Hike along the edge of Bell Meadow, crossing Bell Creek, forests, climbing up a section of volcanic rock, dropping back down into Pine Valley and ending up at lovely Grouse Lake. A little bit of everything! 

Waterhouse Lake/Adele Lake

Distance: 3.2 – 4 miles round trip

Time: 3-4 hours

Driving Directions: 3.5 miles East of Pinecrest, turn right onto Herring Creek Road (4N12) – drive 6.8 miles until you reach a “T” where you will turn right. When you hit the “Y” in the road, take the right branch to stay on 4N12. Continue another 2.2 miles and turn right onto 5N31, then turn left on 5N67 .6 miles further. Trailhead is off to the right.

Highlights: This hike offers a little bit of everything! A meandering path through meadows and forests, seasonal creek crossings, a river canyon and spectacular granite.  You’ll be scrambling down (and back up!) enormous slabs of rock before reaching pristine Waterhouse Lake, and then carrying on a bit further to Adele lake.

Sword Lake/ Lost Lake

Distance: 2.7 – 3 miles (5.4-6 miles round trip)

Time: 2-4 hours

Driving Directions: Drive 21 miles east of Pinecrest on Hwy 108, turn right onto Clarks Fork Road. After crossing the second bridge at about .8 miles, turn left onto Forest Service Road 6N06. Drive 6.3 miles to the end of the road (past Wheats Meadow Trailhead.)

Highlights: This hike on a well maintained trail offers scenic views of the Dardanelles, Spicer Meadow Reservoir, meadows and forests and 2 lovely lakes – Sword Lake first, then a bit further, Lost Lake.

Cleo’s Bath

Distance: 4 – 5 miles round trip

Time: Half Day

Driving Directions: From the Pinecrest exit off Hwy 108, drive straight through past the General Store and Post Office to several parking areas.

Highlights: Scenic views of beautiful Pinecrest Lake, the amazing granite of the South Fork of the Stanislaus River Canyon, rock scrambling, and numerous water sightings, ending at a series of pools in a spectacular setting.


Difficult Hikes

Eagle Peak Trail

Distance: 2.9 miles to summit (5.8 miles round trip)

Time: 3-4 hours

Driving Directions: 3.5 miles East of Pinecrest, turn right onto Herring Creek Road (4N12). Continue on 4N12 for a total of 10.9 miles (at 6.7 miles, be sure to veer left where the road splits.). Park at the Eagle Peak 4X4 trail area.

Highlights: The road to the trailhead and parts of the trail are quite rocky. Views of Eagle Meadow and Hamill Canyon are part of the hike, with astounding panoramic views when you reach the summit! Be cautious with the sheer drops. The area is full of volcanic rock.

Mud Lake

Distance: 3.4 miles (6.8 miles round trip)

Time: 4-6 hours

Driving Directions: Leaving from Chinquapin, head up Dodge Ridge Rd., turn right onto Crabtree Road (4N26) and travel to Aspen Meadows pack station. Turn right onto 4N25 and continue .4 miles before turning left onto 4N02Y. A few bumpy sections and you’ll reach the parking area 1.8 miles down the road.

Highlights: The hike gives the opportunity to enjoy Bell Meadow, Bell Creek, climbing through forests and then coming to marshy, succeeding Mud Lake.

Seven Pines Trail

Distance: 6 miles (12 miles round trip)

Time: Full Day

Driving Directions:

Highlights: This strenuous hike has a 4000’ elevation gain – but will bring amazing views all the way, following Douglas Creek, encountering creeks, meadows and forests all the way up to the summit. The trail is challenging to follow and has numerous unmarked and rocky sections.

Blue Canyon

Distance: 2 miles (4 miles round trip)

Time: 3-4 hours

Driving Directions: Drive about 36 miles east on Hwy 108, past Chipmunk Flat area to a small pull off on the right side just before the 9000 ft. elevation sign, and before the Sonora Pass . 

Highlights: Although the “trail” is often only lightly marked and quite precarious with scree fields, the beauty in the high alpine area is spectacular! Later summer is perfect with abundant wildflowers, roaring rivers, and the peaceful hidden gem of this alpine lake.

Chewing Gum Lake

Distance: 4.5 miles (9 miles round trip)

Time: Full Day

Driving Directions: : Leaving from Chinquapin, head up Dodge Ridge Rd. and turn right onto Crabtree Road (4N26) and travel to Aspen Meadows pack station. Continue past the pack station about 6 miles, past Crabtree Trailhead junction to Gianelli trailhead. 

Highlights: Follow the Burst Rock trail through pine forests and lots of switchbacks. Once at Burst Rock area, hike past Powell Lake, then descend into the valley of Chewing Gum Lake. Spectacular high altitude scenery and quiet.

Relief Reservoir

Distance: 3.5 miles (7 miles round trip)

Time: Full Day

Driving Directions: Drive about 28 miles on Hwy 108 to Kennedy Meadows Road. Turn right and drive .6 miles and turn left into the trailhead parking area. 

Highlights: A very popular hike of great beauty and variety. Some steep climbs, numerous water crossings, cascading rivers and towering mountain peaks. A great spot for a swim!

Kennedy Lake

Distance: 8.2 miles (16.4 miles roundtrip)

Time: All day

Driving Directions: Drive about 28 miles on Hwy 108 to Kennedy Meadows Road. Turn right and drive .6 miles and turn left into the trailhead parking area. 

Highlights: A challenging hike with a decent amount of climbing, but the views are worth it – including cascading rivers, gorgeous meadows, granite cliffs and numerous bridge crossings.

Pinecrest Peak

Distance: 3 miles to the top, 6 miles round trip

Time: 3-4 hours

Driving Directions: 3.5 miles East of Pinecrest, turn right onto Herring Creek Road (4N12.). Continue for 2.8 miles, then turn right onto 4N27 where there is a “message board” sign. Drive 1.3 miles to the parking area by the bridge.

Highlights: This hike involves a lot of climbing – but the views of Pinecrest Lake, Dodge Ridge, Herring Dome and the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River Canyon make it special!