Local ski and snowboard enthusiasts are very familiar with the trek up to Pinecrest Lake in the Stanislaus National Forest, as the road to the Sierra Nevada lake is the same to get to Dodge Ridge Ski Resort. In the summer months, however, vehicles making their way up the windy mountain road are loaded down with kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards rather than skis and snowboards.
The 300-acre lake, owned and operated by PG&E, sits at 5,600 feet, 30 miles east of Sonora on Highway 108. Pinecrest Lake is located in what was once a meadow surrounded by granite outcroppings and is now the last in a series of dams constructed on the South Fork of the Stanislaus River. Originally, Pinecrest Lake was called Strawberry Flat because of the wild strawberries that once grew there. In the 1960s the name was officially changed to Pinecrest.
The lake is now known for its amazing views and family-friendly activities. In fact, it is a generational tradition for many area families to spend a week or weekend by the shores of the lake, fishing, boating or just admiring the views.
Pinecrest is stocked with rainbow trout on a weekly basis, drawing in those who enjoy fishing. The Pinecrest Lake Marina offers a variety of rentals including paddle boats, kayaks, sailboats, motorboats and party boats. There is also a dock for those bringing their own boats. The Pinecrest Hub, located next to the general store, offers mountain bike rentals.
Another popular activity at Pinecrest is hiking the 6.8-mile lake loop trail. It is considered a moderately challenging route and takes an average of 3 hours to complete.
The Stanislaus National Forest Service offers educational activities throughout the summer months including campfire programs, tall tales and silly songs, Native American crafts and games, yoga, wildflower walks and others. For a schedule of forest service programs, visit: www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/stanislaus/
Pinecrest Lake Resort (pinecrestlakeresort.com) offers different lodging accommodations from motel rooms to cabins and townhouses. Camping near the lake is offered through Recreation.gov. The campground is within walking distance of the lake, an amphitheater, visitor center, swimming beach and hiking trails. Pets are welcome, but must be compliant with Tuolumne County leash laws.
There are plenty of picnic tables around the lake for those bringing their own food, however, the Steam Donkey Restaurant and Bar is located at Pinecrest Lake Resort for those looking for finer dining at the lake. The Pinecrest Lake Snack Bar is open daily during the summer months from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and offers nachos, soft pretzels, ice cream cones and sodas. Mobile food truck Outpost Deli is also available at Pinecrest offering breakfast burritos and croissants, along with burgers, tri-tip and chicken sandwiches.
Day use is 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
30 miles east of Sonora on State Highway 108
There is no fee for parking and visiting the day use area including for the use of a single picnic table and grill. Large-group picnic sites and camping is reserved through Recreation.gov.