Easy Hiking Near Groveland, CA and Yosemite National Park

Over four million visitors visit Yosemite each year, mostly in the summer months, and the majority stay in the seven-square miles of the Yosemite Valley.  We would like to encourage you to visit Yosemite, hike its trails, and then explore some other nearby trails – without the crowds.

Stay at the Groveland Hotel, then venture out to these four spots where you’ll definitely have fewer visitors on the trails with you, than on those in the Valley.

Little Golden Forest Trail: Easy 2-mile loop. From Groveland Hotel go 8.1 miles east on Hwy 120 to the Stanislaus National Forest Groveland District Ranger Station turnoff on the right.  Park at the Ranger station and look for the trailhead sign.  The Little Golden Forest Trail is co-sponsored by Little Golden Children’s Books and the National Arbor Day Foundation and was built to restore an area along Hwy 120 destroyed in the 1987 Stanislaus Complex Fire.  These 150- acres have been planted, and the trail built, in part by children in the local area with funding coming from donations made by children to Little Golden Books.  Pay a visit to the Ranger Station before you leave and check out their resources.

Rainbow Pools: Not a hike, but a lovely place to play in the water.  At one time the Cliff House welcomed guests here until it burned in 1939.  13 miles east on Hwy 120 from the Groveland Hotel, just before the bridge over the South Fork of the Tuolumne River (if you reach the Cherry Lake turnoff to the left, you’ve gone too far) turn right into the parking area where you’ll find picnic benches and restrooms.  This area does get busy in the summer because who doesn’t enjoy a cool swim on a hot summer’s day?

Carlon Falls Trail:  From the Groveland Hotel head east on Hwy 120 for 23 miles and turn left on Evergreen Road, just a half-mile before the main entrance into Yosemite National Park.  Drive for 1 mile to the parking area on the right.  The easy 4-mile round trip trail follows the river upstream to the falls where you can have your picnic lunch and enjoy the view.  At the parking area, you can also cross the road and head down-stream to an old forest service office parking area, with picnic tables and sweet spot to wade in the cool water.  Be cautioned that there was quite a bit of storm damage this past winter and the trail currently has areas where you must go over, under or around downed trees.

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir:  Not to be missed is the part of Yosemite National Park known as the Hetch Hetchy Valley, which receives far less visitors than Yosemite Valley.  In a controversial move, the O’Shaughnessy Dam was built to supply San Francisco with its water supply.  Exactly an hour from the Groveland Hotel, take Hwy 120 to the Evergreen Road and follow it to the parking area at the dam.  Hike over the dam, through the tunnel, and along the edge of the reservoir where waterfalls will be cascading above you and Wapama Falls rage ahead of you.  Walk as far as you’d like on this easy hike.   To Wapama Falls and back is under 5.5 miles round trip.  Hetch Hetchy is open in the summer from 7:00am – 9:00pm daily and as part of the National Park, you do pay the entrance fee, which is also valid at the main gate into the Park.  

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