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Getting to Pinecrest Lake

Pinecrest is located in the mountains near Yosemite and above the Gold Country region of Northern California, in Tuolumne County. The town is just above the foothills of the Sierra-Nevada mountains, about 150 miles east of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Directions from the San Francisco Bay Area

Get on Hwy 580 heading east, which runs from the East Bay in Oakland to the Central Valley. From San Francisco, take Hwy 80 over the Bay Bridge and get on 580. From the East Bay you may want to take 880 to get to 580. From San Jose, take 680 north to 580.

Head east on 580, and when you get over the Altamont Pass (you\'ll see the windmills), stay in one of the three left lanes. (DO NOT follow 580 when it turns south.) The highway will turn into Highway 205 going east. which will turn onto Hwy 5 going north briefly. Look for an exit labeled "Exit 120 Manteca Sonora". (Exit 461) Follow this east, and continue when it turns north and merges very briefly with Hwy 99. Look for the next exit, which is again Hwy 120 toward Sonora. Follow 120 east through Escalon until you reach a stoplight in downtown Oakdale that meets Highway 108. You have to turn left to follow Hwy 120, which will then be a combined Hwy 108/120. Continue east on Hwy 108/120 past Knights Ferry and into Tuolumne County. You will see signs to turn right on 120 to Yosemite. Do not turn right to follow 120, but continue on Hwy 108 for about 53 more miles. You will see a sign for Jamestown, and a few miles further signs for Sonora. Continue on Highway 108 another 30 miles past Sonora. Yyou see signs for Twain Harte and Mi Wuk Village along the way. (You may want to stop for lunch.) You will eventually see signs for Cold Springs and then Pinecrest. Turn right onto Pinecrest Lake Road go to the lake. Driving from Oakland to Pinecrest takes about 3 hours minutes with light traffic. Note that traffic can be very heavy during commuting hours driving on Hwy 580, and also heavy on 205. (The heavy traffic is going west in the morning and east in the afternoon.)

Directions from Sacramento and Points North

From Sacramento, get on Hwy 99 heading south. Go past Stocktown. Get off on the offramp for Highway 120 (Manteca/Sonora). Follow 120 east through Escalon until you reach a stoplight in downtown Oakdale that meets Highway 108. You have to turn left to follow Hwy 120, which will then be a combined Hwy 108/120. Continue east on Hwy 108/120 past Knights Ferry and into Tuolumne County. You will see signs to turn right on 120 to Yosemite. Do not turn right to follow 120, but continue on Hwy 108 for about 53 more miles. You will see a sign for Jamestown, and a few miles further signs for Sonora. Continue on Highway 108 another 30 miles past Sonora. Yyou see signs for Twain Harte and Mi Wuk Village along the way. (You may want to stop for lunch.) You will eventually see signs for Cold Springs and then Pinecrest. Turn right onto Pinecrest Lake Road go to the lake. Driving from Sacramento to Pinecrest takes about two hours 30 minutes if traffic is light.

Directions from Los Angeles and Points South.

From Los Angeles and points south, get on Highway 5. Follow it north over the mountain pass known as the Grapevine, and when you get into the valley take the exit to Hwy 99 north and pass through Bakersfield, Fresno, Merced. Continue on 99 to Modesto. In downtown Modesto you will see an exit for Sixth Street/Highway 108. Take it, follow Sixth Street North for a few blocks and turn right onto Highway 108 (also K Street). Head east on Highway 108 as it passes out of downtown Modesto, through Riverbank, and Oakdale. In downtown Oakdale it will merge and become a combined Highway 108/120. Continue east on Hwy 108/120 past Knights Ferry and into Tuolumne County. You will see signs to turn right on 120 to Yosemite. Do not turn right to follow 120, but continue on Hwy 108 for about 53 more miles. You will see a sign for Jamestown, and a few miles further signs for Sonora. Continue on Highway 108 another 30 miles past Sonora. You see signs for Twain Harte and Mi Wuk Village along the way. (You may want to stop for lunch.) You will eventually see signs for Cold Springs and then Pinecrest. Turn right onto Pinecrest Lake Road go to the lake. Driving from downtown Los Angeles to Pinecrest takes about 6 hours 30 minutes.

Directions from Nevada and Points East of the Mountains

From Hwy 395 south of Reno, turn onto Hwy 108. This will take you over Sonora Pass and into Tuolumne County. Continue on Hwy 108 past Kennedy Meadows and, finally, Strawberry. Turn left onto Pinecrest Lake Road to go to the lake. (Sonora Pass is closed in the winter, from approximately November until May. In the winter, take Hwy 88 to Jackson and turn left onto Hwy 49, following it south to Sonora and then turn onto Hwy 108 to go Pinecrest.)

Getting Around the Pinecrest Lake Area

Pinecrest is a good place to stay overnight if you want to seriously visit the forest, or, in winter, want to do serious skiing, snowboarding, or snowplay.

Visiting the Highway 108/Sonora Pass High Country

Pinecrest has Pinecrest Lake, with a marina, a sandy beach, hiking trails, and fishing. You can, except in the deepest part of winter, drive up Hwy 108 to Donnell, Dardanelle, and Kennedy Meadows, with beautiful views of the Stanislaus River. (From about November to March Highway 108 is closed, with the closure point in deepest winter about 8 miles east of Pinecrest.)

Visiting the Gold Country Towns

Each of the nearby Gold Country towns has something unique. Sonora, about 30 miles from Pinecrest, is the largest town with a historic downtown area and has many restaurants and shops. Columbia, about 35 miles from Pinecrest, is now a California State Historic Park and much of it has been preserved as it was, circa 1858. Jamestown, 35 miles west of Pinecrest, has a Victorian downtown area and a state park, Railtown 1897, where you can ride a steam train (except winter) and visit the historic roundhouse. Murphys, in Calaveras County, has wine tasting and a downtown with many stone historic buildings.

Visiting Yosemite

Yosemite is a beautiful 2 1/2 hour drive from Pinecrest. From Pinecrest, go west on Hwy 108 for about 30 miles, which will then turn into a combined Hwy 108/49. You will pass Jamestown, and about 5 miles past Jamestown you will see a sign that says, "Yosemite 70 miles". Turn left to follow 49. After a few miles it will merge onto Hwy 120. Follow 120 (combined with 49) for about 25 miles to Moccasin. You then want to follow 120 to the left, as 49 will go off to the right. You will be going up New Priest Grade and will pass Big Oak Flat and Groveland, and continue past Rim of the World (where the Rim fire started) and Buck Meadows. About 40 miles past Groveland you will reach the Big Oak Flat entrance to Yosemite. ($20 entrance fee.) You should get gas in Cold Springs, Sugar Pine, Sonora, Jamestown, or Big Oak Flat. There is no gas in Yosemite Valley, although there is a gas station in Crane Flat, just before Yosemite Valley.