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Pinecrest Lake

Map of Pinecrest

Pinecrest Lake is a popular summer destination spot inside the Stanislaus National Forest. In any given year Pinecrest is estimated to receive over 500,000 visits, accounting for over one fourth of the total visits to the Stanislaus National Forest.

Pinecrest Lake has a beautiful beach, a swimming area, amphitheater, hiking trails, a boat ramp, fishing pier and a marina.

The water in Pinecrest lake can vary in temperature from cool to extremely cold. In general, it's colder in the early summer and heats up around July or August. Usually in the summer the lake is a swimmable temperature, but it can be uncomfortable for some people.

Pinecrest Lake is across the street from the Pinecrest Campground. It's a short walk to the Pinecrest Resort Shopping Center

Pinecrest Lake is designed to accommodate:

  • Picnicking / Day trips
  • Swimming
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Hiking


The size of the lake varies by season, it's usually high in the early summer and can all but disappear in the winter.

Pinecrest Lake Parking

Free parking is available from 6 am to 10 pm. On summer weekends you should come before 9 am if you want to get a decent parking spot. On summer weekends lack of available parking spots can be an issue. You may have to circle around multiple times hoping snag a spot from someone leaving, or park far away on the side of the highway.

Things to Bring

  • Sunscreen (very important at this altitude, reapply after going in the water or after a few hours)
  • Lunch, snacks, drinks
  • Towels
  • Swimsuit
  • Sandals / Flip Flops for the beach
  • Comfortable shoes for hiking
  • Beach chairs

Pinecrest Lake

Restrictions

  • Picnicking only, no overnight camping
  • Dogs are not allowed in the main day use area from May 15th to September 15th
  • Dogs are required to be leashed everywhere
  • No personal watercraft like jet skis
  • 20 mph speed limit on the lake, 5 mph near the marina and swim area
  • Fishing is allowed, except in the swimming and marina area
  • Don't feed wildlife

Beach Area

Beach 1

Beach 1 is the beach area closest to the marina and snack bar. This beach area is also usually the most crowded and the beach area with the least amount of shade. Beach 1 also has a paved path that goes through the middle of it when the water level is high.

Beach 2

As you move away from beach 1 and the marina through the shaded path you'll come to beach 2. Beach 2 is below the pinecrest theater and bathrooms. This beach has a good mix of shade and sun.

Beach 3

Beach 3 is further down the path at the end of the swim area, next to the 'dog beach', the area where dogs are allowed to be.

Dog Beach

Once you're outside the buoyed area, dogs and boats are allowed. Right outside of the beach 3 buoyed area people with boats will use that area to come to shore. The beach is much rockier, but dogs are allowed.

Lake Artifacts

Pinecrest Amphitheater

The pinecrest amphitheater is located in the Pinecrest lake day use area above beach 2. The amphitheater plays host to many different events, including church services on Sundays and the Pinecrest Theater, where you can see your favorite movies under the stars.

Pinecrest Dam

Pinecrest Dam

The current Pinecrest dam was built in 1916, it replaced the Strawberry dam, which was built in 1856. The Pinecrest dam is now owned and operated by PG&E for power generation.

Under normal circumstances the public is permitted to walk across the dam on the path.

Fishing Pier

Fishing pier

Next to the dog area there's a fishing pier. I don't know why you have to build something just to fish, but it's there and people use it sometimes. It's a flat area complete with railing and benches.

Boat Ramp

In-between beach 1 and the marina is a paved road that goes into the lake. This is the boat ramp, people are free to back their legal watercraft into the water there.

Pinecrest Lake Trails

Pinecrest Lake Loop

Pinecrest Lake trail goes around the whole lake, eventually it'll bring you back to where you began. It's about 4 miles long. It possible to hike it quickly. But others will want to make a day of it. There are many nice spots to stop along the way and enjoy the sun and the water. It starts by the marina and goes over the dam. But you can hike it going the other direction.

Cleo's Bath trail

Cleo's Bath trail sign

There's an off-shoot of the lake trail which goes to Cleo's bath, a little swimming hole on the Stanislaus River, which feeds into pinecrest lake. Cleo's bath trail is much less trafficked and significantly longer at about 7 miles.

Swimming in Cleo's bath is not advisable for beginners, due to the cold temperature and the white water hazards. Even confident swimmers need to be aware of the environment.

The best time to swim in Cleo's bath is the late summer, after the snow melt has subsided.

Pinecrest Marina

Rental rates Per hour 2 hours 1/2 day
MOTORBOATS 2 hour minimum $50.00 $100.00
PADDLE BOATS $15.00 $20.00 $40.00
KAYAKS (single) $20.00 $25.00 $50.00
KAYAKS (double) $25.00 $30.00 $60.00
SAILBOATS 2 hour minimum $45.00 $90.00
JR. PARTY BOATS 2 hour minimum $110.00 $275.00
PARTY BOATS 2 hour minimum $125.00 $310.00

Pinecrest Marina Price Chart


1/2 day rates apply only from 6:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., or from 1:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

5 person maximum for motorboats 2 person maximum for sailboats 10 people max. on Junior Party Boats 15 people max. on Party Boats.

Advance reservations are accepted only for Party Boats and Junior Party Boats

Phone: (209) 965-3333

Pinecrest Snack Shack

Menu

Food $ Drinks $ Ice Cream $
Hot Dog 5.00 Coke 4.00 Flavors
Corn Dog 5.00 Diet Coke 4.00 Vanilla, Chocolate, Swirl
Wild West Burger 10.00 Root Beer 4.00 Size
Hamburger 8.00 Sprite 4.00 Small 4.00
Cheeseburger 8.50 Lemonade 4.00 Large 5.00
Veggieburger 9.50 Iced Tea 4.00
Chicken Sandwich 10.00
Mountain Burger 2 Patties 9.50 Bottled Water 4.00 Root Beer Float 6.50
Mountain Burger 2 Patties w/ Cheese 10.00
BLT 9.00
Chicken Strips w/ Fries 9.00
Chicken Strips 8.00
Nachos 6.00
Cheese Fries 8.50
Small Fries 3.00
Large Fries 6.00
Small Onion Rings 5.50
Large Onion Rings 6.50
Pretzel 4.00
Stuffed Pretzel 6.00

Fishing

Pinecrest lake is stocked weekly with rainbow trout. If you want to fish at Pinecrest lake you need a valid California state fishing license. You can purchase a license at Rich & Sal's Sport Shop. There's a fish cleaning station near the restrooms between Beach 1 and the boat ramp.

Issues

Summer weekends and holidays:

  • Crowded
  • People playing music on the beach
  • Lack of parking near the lake in the mid to late morning and afternoon

Demographics

Origin of visitors
California Bay Area 35%
California Central Valley 34%
California Southern 4%
California Northern 2%
California Central Foothills / Mountain Communities 22%
Unknown and out of state 2%