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Stanislaus National Forest

The tall trees in the Stanislaus National Forest

After three restful days at Angels Camp, our adventure continued into the Stanislaus National Forest. We had driven through the eastern portion of the national forest on the Sunday prior on our drive from Bridgeport to Sonora, passing through the Summit and MiWok Ranger districts along the highway 108 corridor. The beautiful vistas- from the Sonora Pass to the Dardanelles- were amazing. But this was just a portion of what the 898000-acre Stanislaus National Forest has to offer. We had so much more to look forward to on the third leg of our nine-day adventure.

Tuolumne Middle Fork

According to the U.S. Forest Service, Stanislaus National Forest has over 800 miles of waterways, 78 sparkling lakes, and 1000 miles of hiking trails. There are practically endless recreational opportunities in the national forest which spans across the counties of Alpine, Calaveras, Mariposa, and Tuolumne. In addition to the hiking, fishing, and water sports that can be enjoyed, there are 62 developed campgrounds within the national forest. And it was in one of these campgrounds where we would stay for the last three days of our trip.

The road from Calaveras County to Dimond O campground would take us through more lovely scenes, from the rural CA-49 to the viewpoints along California 120, including Rim of the World. After checking out of the Wyndham, Sami and I stopped at the local Starbucks in preparation for the drive. The hour-and-a-half drive was winding from the time we hit CA-49, but it was manageable with the caffeine and concentration. We crossed over into Tuolumne County, and eventually entered Groveland. The campground, located along the middle fork of the Wild and Scenic Tuolumne River, is located just outside the Big Oak Entrance of Yosemite National Park, as well as the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, and is close to the Carlon Day Use Area on Evergreen Road. That said, Dimond O is a gem in its own right. The over 30 campsites feature a bear locker for food, campfire ring, and picnic tables. There is potable water, and the vault toilets are the cleanest that I have ever used. There are cute trails that lead to the bubbling river, and the area is incredibly scenic.

For us, it was the perfect home base for days spent at Yosemite National Park. It was about a 45-minute drive from the campground to Yosemite Valley, and only about 10 minutes from Hetch Hetchy. Sami and I set up camp, and it was a nice spot to hang out when we weren’t at the national park. There was no cell service in most parts of the campground, so our time there was spent hiking and playing endless rounds of Uno and Výbušná koťátka, the Czech version of the game Exploding Kittens. This time was idyllic. It was fun cooking in the outdoors, journaling, coloring, and not worrying about cell phones and streams of email.

The scenery in and around the campground was beautiful. The tall pines framed the picture perfectly, especially at sunset, and we were literally right along the river. Hanging out by the water was wonderfully relaxing. We watched the tiny fish in the river, and listened to the sounds of the quiet stream. We were also fortunate that the mosquitoes were not bad during our visit. It was a perfect spot for our Yosemite adventure.

There are many places in the Stanislaus National Forest that we’ve not yet explored. I suspect that this will be a place that we will return to again. With so much around to see in the area, with its close proximity to Yosemite, our all-time favorite spot, I am sure that we will return. I am very thankful to our scoutmaster for reserving us such a perfect spot for this camping adventure.

Some things to consider:
Camping is, as always, not without inherent risks. In addition to being gold country, the Sierras are also bear country. As the signs throughout Yosemite National Park warn, bears are attracted to the smell of delicious human food. It is important for the safety of both bears and humans for us to store our food and scented items properly- in the bear lockers or in a bear canister.

With California’s ongoing drought, fire restrictions are in effect at time of writing. Be sure to check what the current restrictions are prior to starting a fire, and be sure to put any fire completely out.

The roads around this particular campground are paved, and are easy to drive. Be sure to observe posted speed limit signs.

Cell service is spotty to nonexistent in different parts of the national forest. This is great for focusing on relaxation without the trappings of constant email and texts. However, it does make contacting someone in an emergency more difficult. I typically let someone, like my mom, know where I am and when I’m expected to be home. There are small towns along CA-120, and the Big Oak Entrance is only a few minutes away if services are needed.

Our camp setup

There are campsites that can be reserved ahead of time, as well as walkups. Check out recreation.gov for more details.

Stanislaus National Forest is a pretty place to recreate, regardless of whether Yosemite National Park is in your itinerary. It is a destination in its own right. I loved our time spent up there, in such a pretty place. It was especially good for us to shut off our phones for parts of the day and enjoy being disconnected for a time before going back to school and work. I 100 percent recommend a trip out to the Stanislaus National Forest; there are many happy trails to see. Cheers!

The Wild and Scenic Tuolumne River

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