Sonora Area Rivers and Lakes

Sonora Area Rivers and Lakes Text size Print This Page

If your looking for a good spot to go fishing, boating, hiking, swimming, or rock hunting there are lots of lakes and river access spots close to Sonora.  Choose wisely and according to your individual or family’s adventure level as some locations are easily accessed while others may be more apt for the avid outdoors person.


New Melones Lake has two recreation areas and is located 8 miles south of Angels Camp along Highway 49.  Glory Hole and TuttleTown Recreation Areas are located at New Melones Lake on the Stanislaus River. The 12,500 surface-acre lake is the fifth largest lake in California and is situated along the edge of the Mother Lode, the rich gold vein that prompted the California Gold Rush of 1849. (Day use and camping fees may apply)

Don Pedro Lake has numerous recreation and camping areas and is located south west of Sonora on Bonds Flat Road, La Grange, CA 95329 This large lake offers a number of camping and recreation areas along with a visitor center, picnic area and swimming area. Popular for boating camping and water recreation lake Don Pedro can get hot mid-summer so come prepared.

Lake Tulloch Located in both Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties. lake Tulloch is great for boating, swimming and fishing, water-skiing, and kayaking. There is not as much shoreline access as other lakes without a boat.  From the campground shoreline access is available. There is also a marina, general store, and restaurant. The lake is surrounded by private residential communities and if you can rent or stay in one of these locations, this may be the best way to experience Lake Tulloch.

Lyons Reservoir Located above Twain Harte off Hwy 108, Lyons reservoir offers fishing, hiking and picnic areas, a smaller shady lake with fewer visitors is surrounded by the Stanislaus National Forest. Since Lyons is a municipal water supply there is no swimming or boating allowed on the lake. Visitors may walk to the dam and see the down from both above and below.  Parking access is closed in the winter months, however you may still hike in from Twain Harte weather permitting, this is a flat long hike about 5.5 miles or 11 miles round trip.

Cherry Lake If your in the Arnold or Murphy’s area this is a good little lake to check out.

Pinecrest Lake a popular destination east of Sonora off hwy 108. Pinecrest is one of the most popular lakes in the area and is perhaps the best choice for families with children. Pinecrest is surrounded by the Stanislaus national forest and offers camping, cabin rental, swimming, fishing, boating, hiking, kayaking, picnic areas, along with a outdoor theater, restaurant, marina, store and beach side snack shack.  Summer days can be packed and parking can be a challenge but even when crowded this lake does a fairly good job of handling it’s popularity.

White Pines Lake a smaller lake destination off Hwy 4  just one mile outside of Arnold. The White Pines lake is a local favorite in the northern motherlode region. White Pines lake offers fishing,  kayaking, picnic areas along with  swimming and  sand beaches, picnic tables, a children’s playground and disc golf course. If your in the Arnold or Murphy’s area this is a good little lake to check out.

Beardsly Lake The reservoir is located downstream from Donnell Reservoir.  7 miles from Highway 108 on Beardsley Road.  this lake is a bit remote and shoreline access is limited without a boat. Popular for camping, day use, and fishing, the reservoir is open all year but road access is subject to winter closures.

River Access

Natural Bridges Park Hike down and enjoy an open ended limestone cavern carved out by the Coyote River. Located approximately 7 miles north of Sonora on Parrotts Ferry road. Parking can get busy on weekends and there is  two-mile round trip steep hike down to the cavern. The cavern itself is fairly small and spots for sitting or picnics are very limited it is best to enjoy this when there are fewer people early in the morning when possible. Please help pack out your garbage as dumping and disposal of garbage have become a problem.  ( No Dogs Allowed)

South Fork Stanislaus River at Strawberry  Head up Hwy 108 to Strawberry and park at the bridge. River access is available to walk on both sides. Water can be fast and cold and the shoreline consist of large boulders.

Sand Bar Flat Located at the northeast end of Sand Bar Flat Campground day use river access is available. picnic tables, BBQ grills, drinking water, restrooms and
garbage service

Clarks Fork Located about 50 miles from Sonora on Highway 108 Clark’s Fork on the Stanislaus River is a high elevation river spot famous for fishing, beautifully scenic falls, pools, and fast rapids. Hike along the river or find a spot to rest and enjoy the beauty of nature in this part of the Sierra, you wont be disappointed. Not far from the Dardanelle resort that recently burned down (August 2018) and about 20 minutes west of Kennedy Meadows.

Tuolumne River Middle Fork Located off Highway 120 go east 25 miles to Evergreen Road,  go nine miles to the Middle Fork Campground

Fraser Flat Located off  Highway 108 outside of Long Barn look for the signs to Fraser flat campground.  River access on the Stanislaus River is located at the bridge where you can hike along the river for a couple miles or from the road leading to and at the campground.  In the summer this is a  slower moving portion of the Stanislaus River more suited for relaxing and there are occasional pools to get wet in.

Riverside Tuolumne Day Use Area Located on the North Fork of the Tuolumne River, take Buchanan Mine Road from Tuolumne Rd and Proceed 2.5 miles look for the Riverside Day Use Area sign. There are BBQ grills, picnic tables, garbage service and restrooms. Swimming area open during summer months.

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