For help figuring out the best use of time for your party, our knowledgeable and friendly Recreation Department is here for you. Whether you want to sign up for a professionally guided excursion or just want some help planning your own adventure, we invite you to call 209-379-2606 x3, email us or stop by the Recreation Desk so we can take care of you. Here are a few local ideas to get you started:
Carlon FallsOne of America's best swimming holes
This is a great hike along the South Fork of the Tuolumne River to a gorgeous 20-foot waterfall. It is about 1.5 miles each way and climbs 300 feet as you near the falls. Small sandy beaches, great for picnics, can be found along the way; the falls also make for an enjoyable picnic spot. Carlon was recently featured by Travel & Leisure as one of America’s best swimming holes.
At the front of the lodge turn right and drive six miles towards Hwy 120. Park on the left just before the second bridge. There is not a marked trailhead, but you will see a clear path over a log and a ‘no camping’ sign. The trail climbs along the left side of the river. For the Day Use areas near the road, park just after the bridge and you'll find picnic tables by the river.
Hetch Hetchy ValleyOne of Yosemite's hidden jewels
The Hetch Hetchy area is a lesser-traveled part of Yosemite that provides pleasant hiking, warm weather at low elevations, and some of the finest spring wildflowers in the Park. Most Yosemite visitors do not know Hetch Hetchy exists, which explains why it hosts less than 100 visitors a day. Please be aware that swimming and boating are not allowed in the reservoir.
This 5-mile round trip hike to Wapama Falls makes gradual climbs and descents along the reservoir as it winds its’ way to the waterfall. One mile from the start you’ll find the Lake Vernon trail junction; those seeking a strenuous climb can turn left here and ascend to the granite slabs above. For the less strenuous walk to Wapama Falls, continue straight, passing Tueeulala Falls where you may get your feet wet in the spring season.
Rainbow PoolsA local's favorite for generations
This day use site, originally a toll stop in the stagecoach days and later a resort, is now a popular swimming and picnic area, and a local's favorite. Rainbow Pools is a series of natural swimming holes along the South Fork of the Tuolumne River where you can dip your feet, take a plunge or just watch courageous kids jump from the rock lined ledges into the largest of the inviting pools.
To get there, take a right as you leave the Evergreen and drive 7 miles to Hwy 120. Take a right and drive 7 more miles to the big bridge just past signs for Cherry Lake Road. Slow down on the bridge and take an immediate left at the end of it to enter the parking area. There is a $10 per car day use fee gathered by the Stanislaus National Forest.
Merced GroveWalk among the oldest living trees on Earth
On your way to Yosemite Valley, Merced Grove is the most intimate grove of Giant Sequoias. The trailhead is located 4 miles into the Park after you enter the gate on Highway 120. The first half mile is flat, then a sign leads you to the left down a mile long, 400 foot descent into the grove where you will find 20 of the largest trees on earth.
This is an excellent destination for snowshoeing in the winter. If you don’t own a pair of snowshoes you can rent them from us for a small fee.