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Stanislaus National Forest is a natural gem of northern California. It is located near Sonora and a bit over an hour away from Modesto. This 898,099-acre national forest gives you plenty of lush views of the Sierra Nevada mountains, granite formations, rivers, creeks, and crystal clear lakes. This area of California was incredibly busy during the gold rush since many workers flocked to the mountains in search of treasures.
Today, Stanislaus National Forest is the place to be if you want to spend a quiet time surrounded by pristine nature. Visitors come here to explore miles and miles of hiking trails, swim in the rivers, try rafting, and go snowmobiling in winter. Nature enthusiasts and campers could search for an RV in Tuolumne County and take a scenic drive through Stanislaus National Forest on their way to a campground.
Stanislaus National Forest was established in 1897, making it one of the oldest national forests in the United States. The landscape is dominated by old-growth, including white fir and Jeffrey pine. Hikers of all levels like this place because it allows them to enjoy breathtaking views of lakes, blooming wildflowers, and stunning geological formations. They are free to use hundreds of miles of trails, ranging from easy to challenging. Visitors camping at Stanislaus National Forest could choose a shorter hiking trail and admire the wilderness, or go all in and conquer one of the uphill paths that will give them a really good workout.
This national forest was named after Stanislaus River that flows through the area. There are numerous smaller rivers and creeks, as well as 78 lakes within the forest. These attract anglers and watersports enthusiasts all year round. For instance, the picturesque Mosquito Lakes are easily accessible and well-stocked with rainbow trout. The fishing season here starts in April and ends in October. If you are motorhome camping nearby and don’t mind walking a bit, consider fishing at the Beardsley Reservoir. This body of water is perfect for swimming and boating as well. Anglers might catch eastern brook trout and rainbow trout here.
Stanislaus National Forest has more than 20 campgrounds within its borders. The majority of them can accommodate long vehicles and RVs. Visitors traveling on Highway 108 could stay at the Fraser Flat Campground. It is open from April to late October, and the sites are first-come-first-served. It is located by the scenic Stanislaus River, making this campground popular among anglers and watersports enthusiasts. There are 38 sites at Fraser Flat Campground, and all of them have picnic tables and fire rings. Other features include vault toilets and piped water. The campground doesn’t have any hookups.
If you are driving through Stanislaus National Forest on Highway 4, Stanislaus River Campground could be one of your options. This rustic campground offers just the basic amenities like potable water and toilets. There are no hookups available here either. However, it is close to the Spicer Reservoir, which is a popular watersports location. The campground has 25 sites that may accommodate vehicles up to 35 feet in length. Reservations are not possible because the sites are first-come-first-served.
Nestled in the foothills of Sierra Nevada mountains, Sonora is a small community established during the gold rush. It is a frequent stop for Stanislaus National Forest campers, as well as the outdoorsy people traveling to Yosemite National Park. Visitors who want to learn more about Sonora’s history and its role in the gold rush could visit the Tuolumne County Museum. The museum is housed in a former jailhouse and has thousands of artifacts, documents, and photographs. The jailhouse was built in the 1800s, and after years of being neglected, it became a museum in 1960. Friendly tour guides provide even more information about the gold rush in this part of California, so make sure you ask for a tour.
Should you want to step back through time and experience the gold rush yourself, there is no better place for that than the Columbia State Historic Park. You could explore this living gold rush town with your family and feel like you have been transported straight to the 1850s. History buffs could pan for gold here, eat delicious food at the saloons, or simply tour the park, discovering fascinating things along the way.
Sonora’s charming downtown area has many restaurants and diners where visitors could grab a bite to eat during their visit. The majority of them serve local homecooked meals, but there are a couple of international restaurants as well. Those of you who are on your way to Stanislaus National Forest could get some last-minute supplies at one of the convenience stores downtown. If your RV rental needs more gas, there are several gas stations along Highway 108. Once your camping trip comes to an end, but you want to see more of California’s extraordinary nature, head south to Visalia. From there, campers could drive to Sequoia National Park, famous for giant sequoia trees.