The experience of Pinecrest depends upon the season.
Summer. Summer is the peak season, with much activity. The marina at Pinecrest is open from April 24 to October 14 for 2014. (Despite the drought, the lake is expected to fill normally.)
Winter. In winter the lake is largely drained and often covered with snow. Activity moves mostly to Dodge Ridge Wintersports area, Leland Meadows Snowplay, and other areas for snowplaying. A few diehard ice fishermen.
Spring and Fall.
In the spring and fall the area is beautiful and relatively quiet and unpopulated, with visitors
apparently too busy with their lives in the city to realize that this is often the best time to come here.
Cold Springs. This tiny town, on Hwy 108, has a general store/gas station, a restaurant, and a ski shop.
Strawberry. This town, on Hwy 108, which the South Fork of the Stanislaus River flows through, has a lodge and restaurant, a general store, and many vacation rentals.
Aspen Meadows. This area has a pack station and hiking (and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing) trails.
Fraser Flat. This area, next to the Stanislaus River has a campground and hiking (and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing) trails.
Beardsley Reservoir. This area has Beardsley Reservoir, with fishing and boating, including water skiing.
Leland Meadows. This area has a snowplay area with sledding, tubing, and the like.
Dodge Ridge. This area has downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and snowplay. It also has restrauants and rental cabins.
Pinecrest Lake. This area, one mile off of Hwy 108, has Pinecrest Lake, with fishing, many kinds of boating, a sandy beach with swimming. It has a tiny town with a general store, post office, sports/fishing tackle shop, expresso bar, a restaurant/bar, bicycle rentals, and an art gallery. There are campgrounds, rental cabins, and rental rooms. There is a ranger station on Hwy 108 on the turnoff to Pinecrest Lake.
Later, in the late 1800s, permanent sawmills were built in the Pinecrest area, with lumber transported by wagon trains pulled by large teams of mules.
The sawmills in the forest were eventually shut down after the Sugar Pine Railroad was built in the early 1900s. This line went from Standard, in the foothills east of Sonora, up into the forest through what is now Twain Harte and up to Strawberry. The right-of-way is now used as a hiking trail. Timber was transported to a sawmill in Standard and the resulting lumber transported to the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere via the Sierra Railway, which as built in 1897.
Lake fishing is available at Pinecrest Lake and Beardsley Reservoir, while stream fishing can be done in the Stanislaus River and the many creeks and streams that feed into it.
Pinecrest Lake has a marina with a boat launch ramp and outboard fishing boats for rent. The lake is stocked, with, for example, about 80,000 rainbow trout planted for the year 2013. See the blackboards at the marina and at the sports shop for information on plantings and on where in the lake fishing are being caught and with what. Bank fishing is popular around the lake (not allowed at the beach or marina), especially near the dam.
Beardsley Reservoir also has a boat launch ramp, and is stocked with trout.
The marina also rents sailboats, party boats, paddle boats, and kayaks. A relatively large
sandy beach at the south end of the lake allows sunbathing, picnicking, wading, and swimming.
A hiking trail runs all the way around the lake.
Bicycles can be rented, and there are bicycle trails south of the lake.