Explore the most popular river trails near Groveland with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

My 14 year old and 11 year old got there before anyone else. A good hour went before we saw anyone. Then an organized troup of kids walked by on the trail. An 8 year old girl slipped off the trail and over the fifteen foot cliff. I was shocked when I reached her and she was dusting herself off. Awesome place, but be careful with the children.

hiking
1 day ago

Great hike, very shady which helped on a hot day. The incline and rocks were not too bad. One thing I found different was the beach sand the whole way up to the waterfalls. We had a lot on rolling ankles in our group so be careful The water at the end was PERFECT.

This was an awesome hike and the views are indescribable. I had not been backpacking in a few years and most of my trips have been in the Smoky Mountains so I was not completely prepared for this grueling hike in the dry heat. We stopped at Laurel Lake and decided to make this our home as I was too exhausted to go further but it was the perfect site. We stayed on the Southside and had the camp completely to ourselves. We didn’t see any bears but heard about a camper at Vernon Lake who had his backpack raided that previous night. We did have a big buck walk right into our camp only about 15 feet away like he owned the place. I definitely recommend this trip but maybe in a cooler part on the year. We were there the last few days of June.

Great section of the park that I've never had a chance to explore before. We just went to Laurel Lake and back since it was so flipping hot. Never hiking in 95+ degree weather again :)

Beautiful shady hike on a hot day. Some rocky steeper spots but overall an easy hike. The cold swimming water at the end felt great on my hot feet!

Nice trail, nice swimming holes and beautiful water falls but please please be very careful if you climb to the top of the falls they are very slippery and you can easily slide down into the fall! Please use caution we had a accident that could have ended in tragedy. Thank you to a very kind and brave stranger who risked his life for my wife! Again!!! Please be safe!

hiking
27 days ago

Great hike! Great views! Great swimming area!

Great area to get away from the crowds. Plenty of areas along the trail to dip in the water. Water is very cold but refreshing after the hike in.

on Carlon Falls Trail

hiking
1 month ago

The trail runs along the river for a good portion of the route, which provides for nice scenery in contrast to the absolute devastation from former burns if you look in the other direction. Ease of navigation leaves something to be desired - there are countless offshoots and no blazes to reaffirm whether you are on the actual trail. The falls at the end of the hike are a worthwhile finale.

backpacking
1 month ago

I did this trail clockwise with a friend over 4 nights, 3 days plus we added our first night at Laurel Lake. Being pretty fit ourselves, we found this to be a challenging trip and very sunny/warm. Sometimes water stops are not frequent so be sure to carry plenty of water! Several boggy spots where you will get quite muddy/dirty: headed into Laurel area, headed up after Vernon Lake, Tiltill area. Heading into Laurel area you will also have to cross a river to about the knees. Bear tracks and sightings, be very careful and aware of your surroundings at all times! Many downed trees and overgrown paths so be sure to have GPS or maps to avoid getting lost. Overall very beautiful and a wide array of scenery as you hike along.

hiking
1 month ago

Great out and back trail. It was pretty warm when my husband and I did this and we definitely should have taken more water. After the first couple miles there’s not much shade! We took a couple dips in the water to cool down and it was amazing. Make sure you have a hat and bring enough water! :)

If I could give zero stars for this hike I would. First of all there is no parking for the trailhead, just about two spots in what looks like a short turnaround across from the trailhead. This is definitely a strenuous and difficult hike which is not rewarded by any beautiful scenery. The trail exposed to sun, it’s hot, dry and extremely dusty with poison oak along trail. Trail is primarily through the burned forest from the Rim fire. When the trail descends into the valley floor the trail becomes lost and there are no trail markers in sign. You’d have to make your own trail to get to the river. Be warned, the way up is rough. Don’t do this hike without tons of water. Wouldn’t recommend this hike unless you hate yourself and want to punish yourself.

hiking
1 month ago

Nice little day hike. Mostly shaded. Nice little falls/cascades at end. When water volume over falls is lower, many swimming opportunities would be available.

We did this trip over Memorial Day weekend so we saw a good deal of people. Overall, this was a nice 2 night, 3 day backpacking trip. You get to see quite a few different landscapes and get a pretty good workout overall. Day 1 and 2 is about 10 miles with day 3 around 6.5. There's some good climbs but overall, not to bad. Be prepared for some bugs in TilTill and possibly flooding in the valley. Be on the look out for bears too in the Beehive area. Both locations have sites with fire rings. I'd recommend this for anyone looking for a fun, moderate 3 day backpacking trip. Remember Leave No Trace!

on Preston Falls Trail

hiking
1 month ago

This is one other amazing trail to hike. You hike along the bank of the vibrant river and its very refreshing.I had been on a mid spring sunny day when the weather was around 70F. I had started to hike by 1030 hrs and found it highly draining and had got dehydrated by the time i got back, may be I am used to hiking a lot during fall and winter and had still not acclimatized to the spring weather. My suggestion is to hike during dusk or dawn so that you will to get enjoy the hike thoroughly. It took 0430 hrs for me to hike this 8.9 mile hike.
Note on the travel direction: after you cross the vehicle bridge in the cherry lake road while driving from Highway 120, please turn to the right towards the cottages. There is no sign board directing to the trail head and mostly you will tend to get lost. from there it is just a 3/4 mile to the trail head and it is called as Stanislaus National Forest Trail Head.

clockwise May 19 2018, 3 days 2 nights. Camped at Vernon lake and Rancheria (considered Tiltill but limited sites and unlimited mosquitoes).

In the early season, this is as good as any Yosemite backcountry hike (lakes, waterfalls, views, variety of ecosystems and vegetation)
+ and
no crowding (walked up for permit, saw fewer than 10 people when away from lower trail along the reservoir).

In later season I can imagine the dust and heat and aridity might change the balance and drop a star.

It may distract from your enjoyment if you think about the history of Hetch Hetchy reservoir. Consider the info from online and national park service as well as from San Francisco department of water that is on the placards.

Prep suggestions:
* we liked clockwise, not only to get elevation out of the way early, but facing into nice view coming back down to Hetch Hetchy :
* be ready for wearying uphill and downhill out of and then back in to Hetch Hetchy Valley
* check if you will need to wade thru Tiltill Valley (water above boot line and no way around, for approx 20 yards each side of the valley). Soft soil and grass meant barefoot was fine for most of our group.
* fair amount of bogs and rock hopping and downed trees changed our time calculus.

Highlights:
* great campsites + no fire restriction
* water at Wapama falls is enough to get wet walking across the bridge but not enough to close the trail
* wildflowers!! (So so many and so many species, especially at lower elevations)
* Tiltill Valley = spectacular in a peaceful way, well worth seeing (think baby Yosemite or tiny pre flood Hetch Hetchy)
* Vernon lake, especially from the ridge above the lake (toward Tiltill/Rancheria)

Note on mileage: Trails illustrated is 25, not counting unavoidable .5 each way from parking to the dam and variable to get from junction to actual camping at Vernon (.3 each way, but could be more). My gps said 27.5. I would use 25+ for planning assumption, not the 23 from AllTrails (sorry guys!)
Final note that the backcountry office says 28 miles, but I believe that is the trails illustrated 25 plus 3 miles optional extra around laurel lake.

nature trips
1 month ago

I would rate this more as a nature hike. The trail is fairly easy until the last 1/4 mile. From there it becomes steep and rocky until you reach the falls. We did it with a 4 year old in tow.
The trail is within the burn area of the 2013 Rim Fire, it provided a great learning opportunity for our 12 year old to see the devastation and regrowth as part of our nature's cycle.
The falls are amazing with pools to dip in if you dare (that water is icy! brrrr!!).

Great place to visit

hiking
2 months ago

There are several short hikes here and you can easily jump from one to the other. The parking area was not clean and maintained. Pretty sad all the garbage was over flowing. The trail is not really special and yes was burned several years ago.
The falls are worth the hike. Great swimming holes and cold water!

Good early season trip. It was clear the trail crew hadn’t made their rounds...many down trees and overgrown sections.

Did the loop counterclockwise staying at Vernon night one. Very pretty lake with better campsites in the eastern side.

Lingering snow near Mt Gibson. Tiltill Valley is beautiful but bogged out requiring forging the meadow through calf deep water which was much funnier in the car ride home than it was while we were doing it.

The trail from Tiltil Valley to Rancheria Falls is pretty exposed and overgrown. All the sites at Rancheria we’re either taken or to too close for comfort so we ended up heading for the car.

The bridges at Wapama Falls were fun to cross and a nice mid-day soaking.

backpacking
3 months ago

The Dece Scouts headed to Preston Falls for an early season backpacking trip. The weather was supposed to be horrible. We started the hike in the rain, walking along the very high and flowing river. The rain died down after an hour or so, and by the evening it was clear skies. Lots of trees down on the trail, and parts were flooded, but all in all, a great hike.

Easy hike, plenty of space to park, restrooms, beautiful view!!!

hiking
5 months ago

I found this to be a wonderful winter trek. Following the river up to the falls, clear water, cataplier, mushrooms, birds, and snow. I look forward to visiting again in the summer. Easy hike with some moderate (steep) hiking up to the falls.

hiking
5 months ago

Can't wait to go back in the summer, but this was a beautiful winter hike. Just a few slick spots and snow, but we'll worth the effort. Gorgeous waterfall and Crystal clear water on this quiet easy stroll.

hiking
5 months ago

A fantastic day hike on a very mild Jan 2. Beautiful river with pools and rapids. We were the only two people on the trail. We didn’t start until noon so only got to large pool and falls about 3.5 miles in and came out to finish by dark. Will definitely come again to have more time.

Easy to navigate, beautiful forest and nearby river. Plenty of parking with restrooms.

backpacking
6 months ago

Backpacked out to the falls with the dog weekend of 12/16 -12/17: his first backpacking overnight and this was a nice introduction on a pretty gentle trail. Trail was mostly clear, but especially in the last mile the path was covered in downed trees, branches and debris from a previous fire. Pup is about 20 pounds so I had to carry him for a lot of this final stretch as it was such a mess.

It was very quiet-- one other truck when I arrived but otherwise not a single person on the trail the whole 24 hours. Beautiful hike, and the waterfall at the end makes for a beautiful rest at the end. No snow or ice yet, just some frost in the shadowed areas of the canyon.

I put the coordinates from alltrails in Google Maps and it took me most of the way there: it ended on the switchback road down to the canyon. At the bottom of the switchbacks, turn right and drive past the dam and water plant all the way to the end (it looks like it might lead to a back lot for the plant at one point) and you'll get to the large trailhead parking lot.

backpacking
7 months ago

We had a great time backpacking here the weekend of December 2nd 2017. This time of year it is hard to find a sutible place to go backpacking with my wife and 6 year old son. I was drawn to this place for it's low elevation, paved road access and close proximity to my home in the bay area. We were rewarded with a beautiful hike. We found a really nice camp spot about halfway. I really wanted to push on to the falls but my son was getting tired and the sun was soon to set. The natural beauty was abundant. This is a hidden gem that has been cast in the shadow of and often overlooked by Yosemite's grandeur.

Easy hike/walk along the stream with a small cascading waterfall at the end. Pretty fun way to pass some time, but I wouldn't seek this one out with so many other great trails around.

hiking
8 months ago

We could not make it all the way. We saw cattle that blocked our way and we could not go through them. There were no people around.

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