Welcome to the Stanislaus National Forest, where you can fish in over 800 miles of rivers and streams, stay in a campground, or hike into the backcountry seeking pristine solitude. You can swim near a sandy beach or wade into cold clear streams cooling your feet while lost in the beauty of nature, raft the exciting Tuolumne River, or canoe one of the many gorgeous lakes. You can ride a horse, a mountain bike or a snowmobile.
During the gold rush, the area that would become the Stanislaus National Forest was a busy place, occupied by miners and other immigrants, homesteaders and ranchers, dam builders and loggers. Several railroads were constructed to haul logs out of the woods. Evidence of these activities still exist.
During your visit to the National Forest you may encounter archeological and historic sites and artifacts. Like a jigsaw puzzle, each artifact and site, no matter how seemingly insignificant, helps tell the heritage story. Please help preserve these remnants of our past by not disturbing or harming them.
The Stanislaus National Forest (Forest) encompasses 898,099 acres on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada; California’s snow capped mountain range that flanks the Great Central Valley. Located between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, the Forest landscape is a continuum of natural and scenic beauty that defines the Sierra. Amid soaring crests, sparkling mountain lakes, towering forests, and canyons carved by cool rushing rivers, visitors discover connections with nature and the spirit of the Sierra Nevada. A mere two hour drive from the Great Central Valley and three hours from the San Francisco Bay Area, makes the Forest a very popular destination place.
The mountains were shaped by volcanic and glacial action, producing rugged and spectacular topography at high elevations. Each elevation, from 1,500 to over 11,000 feet above sea level, has its own unique vegetation, wildlife, and corresponding temperatures. While the lower elevations are hot and dry, the higher elevation’s lush meadows are cooled by melting snow. Here you will find Sierra mixed conifer, true fir, lodge pole pine and sub alpine vegetation. Bald eagle, peregrine falcon and wolverine have all been reported on the Forest.
The Forest has four Ranger Districts divided along three highway corridors: route 120 to the south (Groveland District), Route 108 along the middle fork of the Stanislaus River (Mi-Wok and Summit Ranger Districts), and Route 4 to the north (Calaveras Ranger District). Highway 4 is a designated Scenic Byway, Highways 108 and 120 have the potential to become designated. Each highway corridor represents a unique interpretive and education opportunity from giant sequoias to wild rivers.
The Forest is rich in the legacies of Native Americans, European settlers, mining and over 100 years of Forest Service administration. The Forest is the ancestral home to the Miwok who moved with the seasons and through the landscape of the Sierra for thousands of years. Even before the discovery of gold in the Sierra foothills, waves of newcomers came across the Sierra via Sonora Pass on the Summit Ranger District and Border Ruffian Pass on Calaveras Ranger District. The Gold Rush of 1848 further altered the landscape of the Sierra as water impoundments and ditches were constructed to supply water to the mining camps. It wasn’t long before mining gave way to the “green gold” of old growth timber harvesting. By the turn of the 20th century, railroads enabled wide-scale harvesting of trees in the region. Through time, activities such as logging, grazing, mining and recreation have become regulated by Forest administration. Today, the Forest is managed for multiple uses and currently recreation including camping, fishing, boating, OHV riding, hiking, etc. and water uses such as impoundments and hydroelectric projects serve as the dominate uses. Campground sites are available for 7,331 people at one time and each year 1,977,000 acre feet of water can be stored in reservoirs throughout the Forest.
A cherished and accessible overnight destination, the Forest offers a full range of year-round recreation opportunities. The network of trans-Sierra highways, forest roads and trails encourages discovery of nature and history, creating family traditions and lifetime memories. Opportunities abound for visitors to expand their understanding of the natural world and to strengthen their connection to the land, now and for the future.