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Turlock Lake State Recreation Area

Tuolomne Trail
0.5 mile or so round trip

Bordered on the north by the Tuolomne River and on the south by Turlock Lake, the State Recreation Area offers many opportunities for outdoor recreation: boating, fishing, swimming, waterskiing on the lake; plus walking, camping, and blackberry picking along the river.

By the time the Tuolomne flows from Yosemite National Park into Hetch-Hetchy Reservoir, then down the Sierra Nevada foothills into Don Pedro Reservoir, then finally to the San Joaquin Valley, it’s a tame river indeed. But this tributary of the San Joaquin River still has places that display the kind of native plant life that was once common along the banks of the great rivers of the valley.

One such place is the mile of state property along the Tuolomne, where a tangle of blackberries and wild grape grow at the river’s edge, accompanied by wildflowers and Woodwardia ferns.

It’s not a completely natural environment, however; along the river and nearby slough are miles of piles of dredger tailings, the byproduct of a half-century of gold extraction on the river by La Grange Dredging Company. The company dredged about eight miles of the Tuolomne and extracted several million dollars worth of gold before shutting down operations in 1952.

Trails have been cut (and made by use) to the river’s edge by blackberry fanciers, who enjoy picking the native fruit from July through October. The paths, which receive little or no maintenance and are overgrown, explore a woodsy environment around the campground, between the river and the lake. Not only are the paths poor, but access is difficult; there’s no day use area on the river side of the park. Best bet is to ask rangers if you can leave your car near the park entrance station and walk into the campground where the trail begins.

Directions to trailhead:
From Highway 99 in Modesto, drive east on Highway 132 (Yosemite Boulevard) some 21 miles to Camp Road. Turn right, cross the Tuolomne River on an old iron bridge, and fork left onto Lake Road, which soon leads to Turlock Lake State Recreation Area. The lake is on the south side of the road; the campground, Tuolomne

The hike:
You’ll pick up the unmarked trail at Campsite 6. The hiking is improvisational; wander at will as far as your energy and the condition of the trail allows. Eventually your passage will be halted by the blackberry thickets.

© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author.  To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at