Location: Pinecrest Lake and Catfish Lake in Pinecrest, CA off Highway 108 in Stanislaus National Forest.
Dates Hiked: June 25, 2011
Total Distance: Roundtrip was about 6 miles.
Conditions: Sunny, in the 70-80s.
Other Rules/Info: Dogs are not allowed in the day use area! But they are allowed on leash on the trail.
Trip Report: As the hot weather has been brutal in the California central valley the past week, I was hoping to escape by going on a hike in the mountains – to a lake so that Rosco could swim. Unfortunately the roads to many trailheads are still closed due to snow. I finally accepted the fact that I would need to go somewhere popular, and Pinecrest Lake (elevation 5600) was the choice. The trail around the lake is a 4 mile loop, and if you tack on the extra 1 mile hike up to Catfish Lake, you can get a good 6-mile day hike in.
So me, Rosco, and two friends arrived at Pinecrest Lake at about 11:30am and started heading east along the lake. The trail was crowded and passed by many lake-front-cabins. One was even pointed out as Royal Robbins’ cabin, a Modesto hometown hero who is known for his contribution to pioneering climbing in Yosemite as well as his travel clothing brand (on a side note, Shaun & I just checked out a wine bar in Modesto that Robbins’ son runs called Camp 4 Wine Cafe – loved it!).
Eventually you cross the bridge at the inlet, and things are a little less crowded from here on. We stopped and ate lunch at the crossroads for Catfish Lake trail, and then started our ascent – the one mile trail was nearly all uphill. Along the trail and upon reaching Catfish Lake, we saw only two other people. It was a shaded and shallow pool of water with dragonflies galore, and someone had built a huge teepee-like structure out of long sticks in the lake.
We headed back down and followed the remainder of the loop around the lake. This section was more rugged and rocky. Finally we reached the dam, crossed it, and then crossed a grated bridge over the waterfall of the dam. Rosco was pretty tired and a little scared of this part of the walk. Continuing through more rocky terrain (and ladies tanning), we reached the back end of the day use area and got in the car by about 4pm.