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Pinecrest in the Sierra-Nevada
It's a Place to Play!
Fisherman, fisher-woman, boy scout, girl scout, water skier, snow skier, sight seer, sledder, swimmer, hiker, camper, tuber, birder, hammock layer, what's your fancy? You will discover something you find enjoyable when you visit Pinecrest, CA.
I have lived in Central California for 47 years and I will say, "Pinecrest is one of my favorite places to vacation in California".
Pinecrest is snuggled high up in the pine tree's. At 5,679 feet you'll see plenty of snow in the winter months and glorious sunshine in the summer time. Follow highway 108, just past Sonora by about 30 minutes. Depending on conditions, and your personal driving habits, it can take a few minutes longer or shorter. Obviously when it's snowing you may catch some traffic or end up behind the snowplow, but this is rare. You should expect to put on chains if you travel there in the winter months.
Summer Activities at Pinecrest
Pinecrest Lake is situated at the top of the mountain off of hwy 108. The road to the lake, Pinecrest Lake Road, loops past the south end of the lake. There are townhouses, motels and homes that you can rent from Pinecrest Lake Resort year round. The rates have been reasonable in the past, but I have noticed they are getting a bit pricey the last couple of years, but still worth it. If you're the outdoorsy kind of person you can pitch your tent in the camping area right there by the lake Spring, Summer, Fall and Wintertime.
The fishing is great in both the summer and the winter. There's a marina and they also have boat rentals. The marina and boat rentals are only available in the summer. In the summer the lake is stocked weekly with rainbow trout!
Beaches line the lake, on the south side, consisting of sand and dirt with picnic tables under the pine trees. Restrooms are available also. If you head out Lakeshore Avenue, on the west side, it turns into a dirt path and you can hike out to the dam. The north and east side is a rugged tree lined shore until you are about a quarter mile of the south side and houses begin to pop up.
Pinecrest Lake Resort Townhouse
Winter Activities at Pinecrest
Summertime isn't the only time you can fish on Pinecrest Lake, ice fishing in the winter months will produce a few on your line too. The lake isn't always full in the winter, but on the occasion that it is, the ice fishing is fun!
Sledding down the beach to the bottom of the lake (on years it's empty) is great fun. The area you can sled spans the entire beach area, some areas steeper than others. There is a minimum of obstacles since it is the beach area.
There are cabins that you can rent or motels and large townhouses that sleep 10-15 people (see photo). Bring a group of friends and split the cost of a townhouse and it can be very affordable. The managers office provides housekeeping AND they supply you with a bundle of wood each night. I have stayed:
- In the motel once. It was cozy, and it was convenient, I could watch my kids, through the front window, play outside in the snow while I stayed inside.
- In one of the cabins once. There was four of us and the cabin was huge. I felt almost lonely in there. It had a fireplace with wood supplied. It would have been better for a large group of people.
- In the loft twice. Yes, there is a loft they rent out (not sure if they still do). It's above the office. It sleeps two maybe three, it has one bedroom and a front room. It had a kitchenette but not fireplace that I recall. It was cozy and felt secure being right there above the office.
- In one of the various townhouses 23 times! My family rents one of the townhouses and we invite a bunch of close friends. It's a lot of fun. Plenty of bedrooms, three bedrooms on the 2nd floor that sleeps 4 people each, plus a loft (I know they sealed off some of the lofts a few years ago). Downstairs there's couches lining the walls, that make excellent beds, with a centrally located fireplace and a good size kitchen stocked with plates, silverware and cooking utensils. There's a small front porch and a larger back porch with a picnic table.
I would highly recommend the townhouses if you have a group going up there and one of the motels if it's just for one or two people.
Don't forget to stop by the Steam Donkey for some hot coco or dinner!
Pinecrest Lake, CA in the Winter
Bring Appropriate Clothing for the Season
How Far Away?
Pinecrest Lake Resort
Year round camping, swimming, fishing, sledding, boating
5 mins up the mountain
Bar, pool, hot tubs, restaurant
10 mins further on 120
Huge tubing hills, food, lodge
15 mins further on 120
30 mins down the mtn
Dodge Ridge Ski Area
Skiing, tubing, cross country
5 mins up the mountain
Dodge Ridge, Strawberry, Leland Meadow
Huge tubing hill, lodge w/fire, food, lodging
Bar, restaurant, hot tubs, pool tables, lodging, general store
Skiing, boarding, tubing, lodge, food, lessons, tubing
Have You Been to Strawberry?
Have you ever visited Pinecrest?
Strawberry & Leland Meadows
Strawberry is the next town you come to if you follow 108 past the Pinecrest turn. The entrance to town is a bridge over a river. On the left is the hotels, restaurant, bar and hot tubs. On the right is the general store and that's about it. If you blink you'll miss it!
Following hwy 108 further and you'll come upon Leland Meadows about 10 minutes down the road, if that. This is a huge tubing park with rope tows to take you back up to the top. The tubes are huge and the snow is well groomed with a friendly staff to serve you. The lodge is large with a nice size fireplace. You can purchase drinks and food in the lodge or just sit and watch the tubers slide down the hills.
Sonora is the last major city you pass through before climbing the mountain to Pinecrest.
You'll find a Walmart, Big 5 Sporting Goods and a Safeway at the East end of town, and a quaint downtown area in central Sonora.
It's a good place to stock up on snacks and groceries and top off the gas before finishing your journey to Pinecrest and beyond because the small towns between Sonora and Pinecrest will pack a punch to your wallet for items, especially gas!
Dodge Ridge Ski Area
Take the elevation of Pinecrest Lake, 5679 feet, and add another 921 feet to it, and you'll have the base elevation of Dodge Ridge Ski Area, 6,600 feet. Add to that another 2521 feet and you'll have the elevation at the summit, 8,200 feet!
Dodge Ridge is located off of 108 and Pinecrest Lake Road. You turn right on Dodge Ridge Road and follow it up the hill a few minutes. Parking is at the top and then, as it fills up, you park along the sides of the road.
Dodge Ridge offers lessons in skiing and snowboarding, lots of runs that are suitable for every skiing level and they now have a hill for tubing. The rope tow pulls you up to the lifts that take you to the more advanced hills, so make sure you have your gloves handy for the rope, it can burn your hand pretty fast.
There are two lodges one at the upper level and one at the lower. They both have refreshments, lunch menu and bathrooms. The seating is cafeteria style indoor and outdoors. There are lockers lining the walls outside that you can rent to stow your gear in for the day. They also have a live streaming web cam, so be aware, you may be on camera and don't know it! It's a live feed to the web controlled by users of the Internet.
You can rent everything from snowboards to skis and poles at their rental shop. My kids took lessons there a couple of years in a row and really enjoyed it. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable about kids and skiing safely.