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  • Recreation

    At a Glance

    Hiking and Backpacking:

    Hike many trails and see spectacular vistas, unique geological formations, wildflowers, sparkling lakes, and countless miles of streams and rivers. Some of the nation’s most spectacular sights await you in the backcountry. 


    The rivers, creeks, and lakes in the Stanislaus National Forest abound with rainbow, brown, and brook trout, offering fishing enthusiasts a first-rate rod-and-reel experience, with an extraordinarily spectacular alpine setting as an additional lure. The trout fishing season begins in late April and runs through mid-November; a license is required. Several lakes in the region are open to fishing year-round. 

    Horse Riding and Camping:

    See the Sierra the way the settlers saw it, by horseback. Enjoy the quiet and solitude for a half-hour or a week-long packing trip. Lower elevation riding and camping is available on the Mi-Wok and Groveland Ranger Districts. Higher elevation riding and camping is available on the Summit and Calaveras Ranger Districts. 


    There are excellent mountain biking opportunities on trails and roads within the Forest that will lead you on an adventure. Beginners can ride on scenic paved or gravel roads with flat to moderately steep terrain, while intermediate to advanced riders can enjoy more challenging steeper grades. Riders are welcome on most National Forest roads as well as trails outside of the Tuolumne Wild & Scenic River corridor and designated wilderness areas. 

    Flat Water Kayaking, Canoeing, and Sailing:

    Alpine lakes fed by melting winter snows are paradise for water sports enthusiasts. Grabbing whatever paddle rocks your boat, you will find plenty of pristine, high mountain lakes for your enjoyment. 

    Off-Highway Vehicles:

    Many excellent off-road opportunities exist on National Forest lands for the OHV enthusiast. Trails for motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles are available, as well as hundreds of miles of unpaved roads suitable for street-legal 4WD vehicles. Motor vehicles are allowed only on designated routes and cross-country travel is prohibited. Some routes are open year-round while other routes are open April 15 to Dec. 15. Free user guidelines and route maps are available at all Ranger Stations as well as online: www.fs.usda.gov/stanislaus

    White Water Boating:

    White water enthusiasts might consider a trip on the North Fork of the Stanislaus River or a journey down the Tuolumne Wild & Scenic River. Both of these rivers offer an exciting adventure through enchanting forests, rich in Native American and Gold Rush history along with abundant wildlife. 


    Forty-nine campgrounds provide 1,514 campsites for visitors. The number of people allowed in a single campsite is six. All campgrounds offer vault or flush toilets, tables, and grills or a fire ring. Most offer potable water, but check your destination to be sure. Most campgrounds are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

    Reservable Campgrounds: Calaveras District: Spicer Group, Big Meadow Group, Lodgepole Group, Lake Alpine, Silver Tip, Silver Valley, Pine Marten. Summit District: Pinecrest, Pioneer Trail Group. Groveland District: Dimond O, Lost Claim, Cherry Valley, Pines Group. Visit www.recreation.gov to reserve your spot. Check the highway corridor pages for information on who to call for reservations. 

    Dispersed Camping:

    (No Facilities) To “get away from it all” try car camping in an area with no facilities and no fees. The advantages to this type of camping include solitude, quiet, and adventure. You will need to bring your own water or treat water you collect. Camp at least 100 feet from water sources. With no toilet facilities, bury human waste in a six-inch hole well away from trails, water, and other campers. Pack out used toilet paper with your garbage. If you have a campfire or use a camp stove, you’ll need a free campfire permit available at any Ranger Station. Do not burn plastics or metal. Please leave the area in as good (or better) condition than you found it. Often, locations destroyed by thoughtless campers must be closed to restore the area’s natural health. Help ensure your favorite area remains open.


    Available free of charge in forested areas below 9,000 feet, only dead wood lying on the ground may be collected or cut for campfire wood. You can use a chainsaw if the saw has a spark arrestor with screen openings of .23 inches or less. You will need a permit to take firewood home. This program allows you to collect a maximum of 10 cords annually from April 1 until Nov. 30. Obtain a permit or information at one of the Ranger Stations. Help stop the spread of invasive pests. Leave firewood at home - do not transport it to campgrounds or parks.  


    Your pets are welcome to accompany you during your visit. However, they MUST be leashed in Tuolumne County. In Calaveras and Alpine counties, pets must be under immediate control or on a leash. These regulations protect the health and safety of visitors and wildlife. Pick up after your pets, especially around high use areas. NO dogs are allowed in Pinecrest day use area May 15 - Sept. 15.