Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
265.00 ft (80.77 m)
Trail type
4.30 mi (6.92 km)
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Pinecrest Lake National Recreation Trail is an adventurous loop path just over 4 miles in length circling Pinecrest Lake in the Stanislaus National Forest.

Hikers typically begin at the day use area on the lake's western edge, where parking lots, restrooms, food and lodging options are available. Both the trail and the day use area can get very crowded during the summer, but as hikers get further from the busy day use beaches, the trail fades from well-traveled flat asphalt to a dirt single track path that hugs the landscape and lakeside boulders as it stretches to the wild-feeling eastern edge. 

Designated as easy to moderate in difficulty, the path is mostly flat, particularly along the southeastern section. Sticking to mostly dirt, there are sections of makeshift concrete over rocky buttes and beneath a line of vacation cabins that stand in the trees - some of them even have the large boulders and trees built into their architecture. 

At the far end, hikers will encounter Sunrise Point, a docking point with tables, a seasonal outhouse bathroom, and the trailfork to the popular Cleo's Bath area. Here the vacation homes fade, and the trail feels truly wild. A wooden bridge crosses the South Fork of the Stanislaus River, at which point the lakeshore becomes mostly slabs of granite. While following the direction of the lake will eventually lead back to the clear path, trail markers in the rock also keep hikers going in the right direction.

The north side of the lake feels much sunnier, and shaded groves are replaced by manzanita. On the northern side, there is a bit of elevation gain and drop, as the elevation undulates along the cliffs above the lake. Hikers will soon cross the top of the Strawberry Dam, an active hydro electric power generating dam. Beyond here, the trail begins to wind its way back toward the crowds and amenities of the day use area and Pinecrest's western shore.

There are no fees to park or hike. Dogs are permitted but must be leashed. Parking, restrooms and potable water are located near the trail head and day use area.

In all the hike is about 4.3 miles. Getting an early start will help avoid some of the crowds, particularly on summer weekends, and will reduce the sun exposure along the northern shore of the lake.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Beautiful hike. Spurs to other areas of interest.


Can get very crowded.

Trailhead Elevation

5,630.00 ft (1,716.02 m)

Highest point

5,720.00 ft (1,743.46 m)


Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Potable water

Typically multi-day


Permit required




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