Sierra Nevada Forests, part 3B: National Forest System

The National Forest system in the Yosemite area includes Stanislaus National Forest to the north, Sierra National Forest to the south, and Inyo National Forest to the east. Toiyabe National Forest to the northeast was previously described in Part 2 in the Tahoe-Eldorado region. Within these forests are special areas including the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area, experimental forests, and the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, administered by the Forest Service. The trail is further described under the National Trails System section. The Stanislaus-Tuolumne Experimental Forest is further described under Man and the Biosphere Reserves. Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area, California, is described separately under Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. Wilderness areas and national recreation trails within the national forest system are also described separately.

Inyo National Forest

Inyo NF, California and Nevada, includes lands in the Sierra Nevada, Great Basin, Great Basin Montane Forest, and Mojave Desert ecoregions. This 1.8-million-acre forest is on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, adjoining Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, and Sequoia National Park. However, it includes the (eventually) westward-flowing upper Kern River drainage in the Golden Trout Wilderness. The southernmost points in the forest are at Kennedy Meadows (N36º2’ W118º8’) and Tunawee Canyon (N36º3’ W118º0’), while the northernmost point in the Sierra Nevada ecoregion is at Copper Mountain (N38º2’ W119º12’) near Mono Lake. The Ansel Adams Wilderness, Golden Trout Wilderness, Hoover Wilderness, John Muir Wilderness, Owens River Headwaters Wilderness, and South Sierra Wilderness, all described separately, are included in the Sierra Nevada ecoregion portion of Inyo National Forest. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail passes through wilderness areas of the forest (see description under Hoover, Ansel Adams, John Muir, Golden Trout, and South Sierra Wildernesses) and also through Agnew Meadows (N37º41’ W119º5’) and Kennedy Meadows (N36º3’ W118º8’).

Mammoth Lakes to Kennedy Meadows

Much of the Sierra Nevada portion of the forest south of Mammoth Lakes consists of trailheads for the John Muir Wilderness. Some of these trailheads are Whitney Portal (N36º35’ W118º14’), Onion Valley (N36º46’ W118º20’), Oak Creek (N36º51’ W118º18’), Big Pine Creek (N37º7’ W118º27’), South Lake in Bishop Creek Canyon (N37º10’ W118º34’), Lake Sabrina in Bishop Creek Canyon (N37º22’ W118º41’), Rock Creek Canyon (N37º27’ W118º44’), McGee Creek (N37º33’ W118º48’), Mammoth Lakes Basin (N37º36’ W119º0’), and Convict Lake (N37º35’ W118º52’). Oak Creek and Division Creek (N36º56’ W118º17’) are wildflower viewing areas.

At Whitney Portal trailhead west of Lone Pine, trails lead to Mount Whitney and to Meysan Lakes (N36º33’ W118º15’), an alpine lake basin. At Onion Valley west of Independence, trails lead to Kearsage Pass with views of Sequoia National Park, lakes, and boulder fields. At Big Pine Creek, a nine-mile trail leads to Palisades Glacier, the southernmost glacier in North America, passing waterfalls and lakes. The Glacier Lodge cabin development is at the trailhead (N37º7’ W118º26’).  Bishop Creek Canyon (N37º15’ W118º35’) features an 18-mile drive on State Route 168 climbing 5,000 feet in elevation west of Bishop. This passes a Southern California Edison hydroelectric development. Glacier-carved Rock Creek Canyon includes the Little Lakes Valley (N37º26’ W118º45’), 50 lakes surrounded by 13,000-foot peaks. Rock Creek Canyon provides a dramatic vegetation transition in a short distance, from desert to lodgepole pine and subalpine forests. South of Crowley Lake, McGee Creek (N37º33’ W118º48’) is a wildflower viewing area.

The Bishop Creek Hydroelectric System of Southern California Edison consists of reservoirs, diversion dams, and powerhouses, which have their own dams and intakes. On the South Fork Bishop Creek, South Reservoir (N37º10’ W118º34’) provides water storage. The storage is supplemented by water from Bluff Reservoir (N37º11’ W118º33’), which is on Green Creek, a tributary to South Fork Bishop Creek. Water is released from South Reservoir, passes a Weir Lake, then is diverted at the South Fork Diversion Dam (N37º14’ W118º34’) to Intake 2 Reservoir (N37º15’ W118º35’) on the Middle Fork Bishop Creek. On the Middle Fork Bishop Creek, water is also released from Sabrina Reservoir (N37º13’ W118º37’) to Intake 2 Reservoir. Intake 2 Reservoir diverts water to the Second Powerhouse (N37º16’ W118º34’).

Water is also diverted to the Second Powerhouse from storage in Longley Reservoir (N37º17’ W118º40’) on McGee Creek. Downstream from Longley Reservoir, McGee Creek Diversion Dam (N37º17’ W118º38’), Birch Creek Diversion Dam (N37º17’ W118º37’), and East Fork Birch Creek Diversion Dam (N37º16’ W118º36’) also divert water to the 2nd Powerhouse. Below the second powerhouse, another diversion dam sends water to the 3rd Powerhouse (N37º18’ W118º32’), and in turn another diversion sends water to the 4th Powerhouse (N37º19’ W118º30’). The 5th and 6th Powerhouses are not in Inyo National Forest.

The South Fork Kern River is a wild and scenic river as it passes through the forest in the Golden Trout and South Sierra Wilderness areas, as well as in the Monache Meadows (N36º12’ W118º10’) and Kennedy Meadows (N36º2’ W118º8’) areas outside of the wildernesses.

Mammoth Lakes

The remains of a volcanic eruption 760,000 years ago, Long Valley Caldera is bordered by Mammoth Mountain (N37º38’ W119º2’), Crowley Lake (N37º36’ W118º45’), and Glass Mountain (N37º46’ W118º42’). Glass Mountain is part of the Mono Hills IBA, and is noted for long-eared owl and northern harrier. More recent eruptions were 500 years ago at Obsidian Dome (N37º45’ W119º1’) and South Deadman Dome (N37º43’ W119º1’). Inyo Craters (N37º42’ W119º1’) are two volcanic pits. Near Crowley Lake, glacial moraines are visible at McGee Creek (N37º34’ W118º47’) and at Convict Creek (N37º37’ W118º50’).

At Mammoth Lakes, a fissure in the earth called Earthquake Fault (N37º39’ W119º0’) runs through the pine trees near State Route 203. Dead trees in the vicinity of Horseshoe Lake (N37º37’ W119º1’) signal high levels of carbon dioxide emissions underground. Horseshoe Lake is in the Mammoth Lakes Basin, along with four other glacial lakes. State Route 203 continues to Minaret Vista, then Forest Highway 11 descends into the San Joaquin Valley, ending at Reds Meadow (N37º37’ W119º5’), providing access Devils Postpile National Monument, campgrounds, and hiking areas in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. Reds Meadow is currently (2016) accessible only by shuttle bus in summer. Sentinel Meadow RNA (N37º48’ W118º48’) is a 3,800-acre lodgepole pine and limber pine forest on the northern rim of the Long Valley Caldera. Whitebark pine, sagebrush, and mountain mahogany vegetation are also present. Indiana Summit RNA (N37º49’ W118º55’) is a pristine Jeffrey pine forest of 1,162 acres on a volcanic plateau. The Middle Fork San Joaquin River is eligible for the wild and scenic rivers system in the Ansel Adams Wilderness and in the Inyo National Forest in the vicinity of Rainbow Falls (N37º36’ W119º5’).

Mono Basin

Between Mammoth Lakes and Lee Vining, June Lake Loop Road (State Route 158) passes a U-shaped canyon with lakes and 270-foot Horsetail Falls (N37º46’ W119º8’), which is on Rush Creek below Agnew Lake. Nearby, a glacial moraine is visible in Bloody Canyon (N37º54’ W119º8’).  The Rush Creek Hydroelectric Project of Southern California Edison includes Agnew Lake (N37º45’ W119º8’) and the Rush Creek Powerhouse on the June Lake Loop. Downstream of the powerhouse, Grant Lake, City of Los Angeles (N37º51’ W119º7’), diverts water to the Owens River watershed for eventual diversion to the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Off of the June Lake Loop, Parker Creek (N37º51’ W119º8’) is a wildflower viewing area for mule ears and balsamroot flowers.

West of Lee Vining, on the road to Yosemite National Park, are waterfalls, campgrounds and resorts in Lee Vining canyon. Tioga Lake (N37º56’ W119º15’), Saddlebag Lake (N37º59’ W119º17’), and Ellery Lake are part of the Southern California Edison Lee Vining hydroelectric project. Between Tioga and Ellery Lakes is the Nunatak Nature Trail, which provides high elevation wildflower identification opportunities. Mono Mills (N37º55’ W118º58’) is a former logging and mining site on State Route 120. Wood was hauled via railroad to Bodie via the east shore of Mono Lake. At the northern edge of the forest, Lundy Lake (N38º2’ W119º14’) is another hydroelectric development of Southern California Edison.

Kings River Special Areas

Kings River Experimental Watersheds, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Sierra National Forest, California is a group of eight watersheds where research is conducted on forest management in the semi-arid, patchy southern Sierra Nevada landscape. There is one watershed in the Teakettle Experimental Forest (N36º58’ W119º2’), three in the Dinkey Creek drainage centered on Bull Creek (N36º59’ W119º5’), and four in the Providence Creek area (N37º3’ W119º12’). Physical, chemical and biological indicators are being collected.

Kings River Special Management Area, Sequoia National Monument and Sierra National Forest, California, is 49,000 acres and protects the 8,000-foot-deep Kings Canyon, and extends from its easternmost point at Horseshoe Bend on State Route 180 on the South Fork Kings River (N36º49’ W118º50’) to the confluence with the North Fork Kings River and to the ridges overlooking the canyon. The southernmost portion is south of Sampson Flat (N36º46’ W119º5’), the northwestern portion is on the North Fork Kings River at Rodgers Ridge (N36º53’ W119º7’), and the northeasternmost portion is at Spanish Mountain (N36º55’ W118º55’). There is a wild trout fishery in the Kings River, and the Boole giant sequoia tree (N36º49’ W118º57’) is in the area. The Kings River National Recreation Trail traverses the area.

Sierra National Forest

Sierra National Forest, California, is 1.3 million acres on the western side of the Sierra Nevada between Yosemite National Park and Kings Canyon National Park. Its northern border is the Merced River and its southern boundary is the Kings River. Dinkey Lakes and Kaiser Wildernesses are completely within the forest, while Ansel Adams, John Muir, and Monarch Wildernesses are in both the Sierra National Forest and adjoining public lands. Wilderness areas are described separately. The granite monoliths of the Sierra Nevada are found in this forest which bridges the gap between Kings Canyon NP and Yosemite NP. Vegetation ranges from grasslands to subalpine meadows; ponderosa pine predominates between 4,000 and 8,000 feet elevation. There are no trans-mountain roads leading across the Sierra Nevada in the Sierra National Forest. State Route 168 is the Sierra Heritage Scenic Byway and ends at Kaiser Pass. The Sierra Vista Scenic byway makes a loop in the northern part of the forest south of Yosemite National Park.

Kings River Watershed

In the southern part of the forest is the Kings River watershed. The Helms Pumped Storage Project of Pacific Gas and Electric Company consists of an upper Courtright Reservoir (N37º5’ W118º59’) and a lower Wishon Reservoir (N37º1’ W118º58’). Both reservoirs are reached by taking Forest Highway 40 east from Shaver Lake. In between is the Helms Powerhouse, capable of 1,212 MW of generation. The powerhourse is in a chamber 1,000 feet underground carved out of granite. Courtright Reservoir adjoins the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness and Wishon Reservoir adjoins Ansel Adams Wilderness. Courtright Intrusive Contact Zone Geological Area (N37º5’ W118º58’) is east of Courtright Dam. The contact between two large granitic intrusions at the bedrock of the Sierra Nevada range may be viewed. On the way to Wishon Reservoir, Forest Route 40 crosses Dinkey Creek and the McKinley Grove Botanical Area (N37º1’ W119º7’), 520 acres surrounding an isolated giant sequoia grove. Dinkey Creek Recreation Area (N37º4’ W119º9’) is in the ponderosa pine zone and contains campgrounds and resorts in a streamside setting. King Caverns Geological Area (N36º 55’ W119º 0’) is 338 acres with three major caves and 2,000 feet of passageway and delicate cave formations.

Water from Wishon Reservoir is diverted downstream into the Haas Tunnel, which transports water to the Haas Powerhouse above Black Rock Reservoir (N36º55’ W119º1’). East of Black Rock Reservoir is the Kings River Geological Area (N36º55’ W118º59’). Water from Black Rock Reservoir enters another tunnel which exits at the Balch Powerhouse on Balch Afterbay (N36º55’ W119º6’). Water from Balch Afterbay enters a tunnel which exits at Kings River Powerhouse on Pine Flat Lake (N36º55’ W119º10’).

Sierra Heritage Scenic Byway

The Sierra Heritage Scenic Byway begins at Clovis on the east side of Fresno and climbs to Kaiser Pass at 9,200 feet elevation. After entering the Sierra Nevada ecoregion, Pineridge Vista (N37º4’ W119º22’) provides a view of a 40-mile flume from Shaver Lake used for logging. At Shaver Lake, the Museum of the Central Sierra (N37º7’ W119º18’) at Camp Edison is on land provided by Southern California Edison. The road continues climbing to Huntington Lake, where it provides access to the China Peak Mountain Resort (N37º14’ W119º0’) and two national recreation trails (NRTs) on Sierra National Forest lands. The byway ends at White Bark Vista Point (N37º17’ W119º5’) near Kaiser Pass, adjacent to the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness. From Kaiser Pass, Forest Route 80 continues to Mono Hot Springs (N37º20’ W119º1’) on the South Fork San Joaquin River.

Along the State Route 168 corridor, Dinkey Creek Roof Pendant Geological Area (N37º9’ W119º6’) is 640 acres established to interpret a sequence of five sedimentary rock units metamorphosed by intruded granite. Near Huntington Lake are Black Point National Recreation Trail and Rancheria Falls NRT, described separately. Crater Lake Meadow proposed Geological Area (N37º24’ W119º9′), is 80 acres partially in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. The mountaintop depression is a volcanic pipe of basalt about 3.5 million years old. Granite boulders deposited by glaciers dot the meadow.

The Big Creek Hydroelectric Development of Southern California Edison is accessed from State Route 168 and consists of multiple reservoirs and tunnels in the Sierra National Forest. The complex system is on the South Fork San Joaquin River, San Joaquin River, and Big Creek, all of which are near SR 168. The uppermost reservoirs are on the South Fork San Joaquin River and tributaries. Florence Lake (N37º16’ W118º58’) is on the South Fork San Joaquin River. Its water is supplemented by a diversion dam on Hooper Creek (N37º18’ W118º57’). Water from Florence Lake is diverted into the Ward Tunnel. Water from Chinquapin (N37º18’ W119º1’), Camp 62 (N37º18’ W119º2’), and Bolsillo (N37º19’ W119º2’) Creeks is also diverted to the Ward Tunnel. Lake Thomas A. Edison (N37º23’ W118º59’)) receives water from Mono Creek and Warm Creek. The Mono Creek Diversion Dam (N37º21’ W119º0’) below Lake Thomas A. Edison and the Bear Creek Diversion Dam (N37º20’ W118º59’) divert water to the Mono-Bear Siphon, which also feeds the Ward Tunnel. Ward Tunnel passes the Portal Forebay (N37º19’ W119º4’), where it captures water from Camp 61 Creek, then exits the tunnel through Portal powerhouse at Huntington Lake (N37º14’ W119º12’).

Water from Huntington Lake (Big Creek Dam 3 Reservoir) may be diverted through three pathways. Tunnel 1 leads to a powerhouse above Big Creek Dam 4 Reservoir (N37º12’ W119º14’). Tunnel 7 delivers water to North Fork Stevenson Creek, a tributary of Shaver Lake, or as is usually the case, Tunnel 7 delivers water to Balsam Meadows Forebay (N37º10’ W119º15’). Tunnel 7 also receives diverted water from Pittman Creek (N37º12’ W119º13’). If sent to Balsam Meadows Forebay, the water passes through the Eastwood Powerhouse on Shaver Lake (N37º7’ W119º17’). Shaver Lake is operated as a pumped storage facility with Balsam Meadows Forebay, which is not on national forest lands.

Water from Shaver Lake is diverted through Tunnel 5 to a powerhouse on Big Creek Dam 5 reservoir (N37º12’ W119º18’). Big Creek Dam 5 reservoir also receives water via Tunnel 2 from Big Creek Dam 4 Reservoir. Water in Tunnel 2 is supplemented by water from Balsam Creek (N37º11’ W119º16’) and Ely Creek (N37º11’ W119º17’).

On the San Joaquin River is Mammoth Pool Reservoir (N37º20’ W119º19’). Water from Mammoth Pool is diverted to a powerhouse on Big Creek Dam 6 (N37º12’ W119º20’), which is on the San Joaquin River. Dam 6 also receives water from Big Creek Dam 5 reservoir. The powerhouse on Dam 6 also receives water diverted from Rock Creek (N37º16’ W119º20’) and Ross Creek (N37º14’ W119º21’).

Below Bear Creek Dam 6, water is diverted through Tunnel 3 to Redinger Lake (N37º9’ W119º27’). Water from Redinger Reservoir is diverted to a powerhouse on the upper end of Kerckhoff Reservoir (N37º8’ W119º31’), which is operated by Pacific Gas & Electric. Kerckoff Powerhouse (N37º6’ W119º33’) is just above Millerton Lake in the California Interior Chaparral ecoregion.

Sierra Vista Scenic Byway

The Sierra Vista Scenic Byway has Yosemite-like scenery, with granite domes and rock formations. It begins at North Fork (N37º14’ W119º31’) and follows a loop using Forest Highways 81, 7, and 10, ending at Yosemite Forks on State Route 41. At North Fork is the Cedars Interpretive Trail along Willow Creek. Leaving North Fork on County Road 225 (Italian Bar Road), the byway passes the geographic center of California marker (N37º10’ W119º27’). The route then backtracks to follow Forest Highway 81 (Minarets Road). On Minarets Road is an overlook of Redinger Reservoir (N37º11’ W119º26’), then the road climbs to Ross Cabin (N37º14’ W119º22’), built in the 1860s near a Mono Indian Trail. The Mile High Vista (N37º19’ W119º21’) provides expansive views of the Minarets and numerous domes and buttes. A granite arch known as Arch Rock (N37º27’ W119º17’) is further up Minarets Road.

The byway turns west at Beasore Road (Forest Highway 7) to Jackass Meadow (N37º30’ W119º20’). On Forest Highway 7, Portuguese Overlook (N37º30’ W119º22’) provides a view of the Balls, a series of granite domes in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. Globe Rock (N37º29’ W119º25’) is a granite sphere, precariously perched. Cold Springs Meadow (N37º25’ W119º30’), the highest point on the drive at 7,300 feet, provides a view of Madera Peak.

Continuing on Sky Ranch Road (Forest Highway 10), the byway provides a view of Fresno Dome (N37º27’ W119º32’), then continues to Nelder Grove Historical Area (N37º26’ W119º35’), a 1,400-acre giant sequoia grove that was subjected to lumber activity between 1884 and 1893. There are also more than 100 mature trees left. At Nelder Grove is the Shadow of the Giants National Recreation Trail.

On the North Fork Willow Creek in the Sierra National Forest is the Crane Valley Hydroelectric Development of Pacific Gas and Electric Company. The uppermost reservoir of this development is Chilkoot Lake (N37º25’ W119º29’), which is a storage reservoir. Downstream is the largest of the development, Bass Lake (N37º18’ W119º32’), formed by Crane Valley Dam. Supplemental water is diverted to Bass Lake from the Browns Creek Diversion Dam (N37º18’ W119º30’). From the powerhouse at Bass Lake, the water is diverted through tunnels to a forebay at San Joaquin No. 3 Powerhouse (N37º15’ W119º32’). The outflow from the powerhouse goes into Manzanita Lake (N37º15’ W119º31’). From Manzanita Lake water is diverted to the San Joaquin No. 2 Forebay (N37º12’ W119º30’), where additional power is generated. Water from San Joaquin No. 2 forebay is supplemented through diversion dams on the South Fork Willow Creek and North Fork Willow Creek (both N37º13’ W119º30’). From San Joaquin No. 2, water is sent to the San Joaquin No. 1A Powerhouse, which discharges into Corrine Lake (N37º10’ W119º30’). Water from Corrine Lake is sent through the A.G. Wishon powerhouse to the San Joaquin River (PGE 2006).

Southwest of Yosemite

Along State Route 41 to the south of Yosemite is the Lewis Creek National Recreation Trail, described separately, providing access to waterfalls. The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad (N37º27’ W119º39’), a tourist train, and is nearby to SR 41, as is the Miami Off-Highway Vehicle riding area. Bishop Creek candidate Research Natural Area (N37º36’ W119º42’) is a ponderosa pine stand south of Bishop Creek on the Yosemite National Park boundary southwest of Yosemite Valley. It adjoins the South Fork Merced National Wild and Scenic River. Devils Peak proposed Botanical Area (N37º 36’ W119º 45’) is 1,600 acres protecting Yosemite onion, Congdon’s woolly sunflower and lewisia.

Merced River is designated a wild and scenic river along the northern boundary of the Sierra National Forest from El Portal (N37º40’ W119º49’) to Briceburg (N37º36’ W119º58’). Between El Portal and Briceburg, the vegetation is pine-oak savannah and chaparral. The section from Briceburg to Lake McClure (N37º36’ W120º6’) is considered eligible for the wild and scenic river system. The river in the Sierra and Stanislaus National Forests contains five outstandingly remarkable values (USDA, FS 2015):

  • Geology: contact between metasedimentary and granitic rock
  • Vegetation: four state-listed rare and endangered plants
  • Wildlife: threatened salamander habitat
  • Recreation: white water rafting, camping and hiking
  • Cultural: old Yosemite railroad and mining sites)

South Fork Merced River within the Sierra National Forest is a wild and scenic river. The sections on the boundary with Yosemite National Park (N37º32’ W119º31’) and downstream from the park (N37º35’ W119º42’) for 18 miles to the confluence with the Merced River (N37º39’ W119º53’) are included in the designation. The river contains five outstandingly remarkable values (USDA forest service 2015).

  • Recreation: fishing, nature study, white water rafting
  • Geology: oldest gold-bearing rocks
  • Wildlife: riparian dependent wildlife and rare limestone salamander
  • Fisheries: habitat for native fish
  • Botany: four state-listed rare plants

Stanislaus National Forest

Stanislaus National Forest, California, is 898,000 acres between the Merced River and North Fork Mokelumne River. The forest borders Yosemite National Park on the east. Wilderness areas are Carson-Iceberg, Emigrant, and Mokelumne. Within the Stanislaus, the Stanislaus-Tuolumne Experimental Forest, described separately, is a Biosphere Reserve. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail passes through the wilderness areas of the forest and is accessed at Ebbetts Pass (N38º33’ W119º49’) and Sonora Pass (N38º20’ W119º38’). The forest includes portions of the Merced and Tuolumne National Wild and Scenic Rivers and two national recreation trails.

Merced River

The southern boundary of the Forest is the Merced Wild and Scenic River. Merced River is designated a wild and scenic river along the southern boundary of the Stanislaus National Forest from El Portal (N37º40’ W119º49’) to Briceburg (N37º36’ W119º58’). Between El Portal and Briceburg, the vegetation is pine-oak savannah and chaparral. The section from Briceburg to Lake McClure (N37º36’ W120º6’) is considered eligible for the wild and scenic river system. The river in the Sierra and Stanislaus National Forests contains five outstandingly remarkable values (USDA, FS 2015):

  • Geology: contact between metasedimentary and granitic rock
  • Vegetation: four state-listed rare and endangered plants
  • Wildlife: threatened salamander habitat
  • Recreation: white water rafting, camping and hiking
  • Cultural: old Yosemite railroad and mining sites

North of the Merced River, the Trumbull Peak Historic and Botanical Area (N37º41’ W119º52’) is 150 acres west of El Portal. The area includes a railroad spur, a logging incline from the peak to the Merced River, and Trumbull Peak lookout. There are populations of three sensitive plants, Allium yosemitense, Eriophyllum congdonii, and Lewisia congdonii. To the northwest in the North Fork Merced watershed, the Jordan Creek Bower Cave Cultural and Geologic Area (N37º45’ W120º2’) is 1,600 acres on Forest Highway 20 south of State Route 120, or east of Coulterville on Greely Hill Road. The site includes a wildflower area, cave, and tribal sacred site. Grizzly Mountain Research Natural Area (N37º43’ W119º55’) is 668 acres with California black oak, ponderosa pine, and chaparral. It is west of Yosemite National Park and north of the Merced River off of Forest Highway 20.

Tuolumne River

South of State Route 120 off of Forest Road 1S13, the Pacific Madrone Botanical Area (N37º48’ W120º0’) is 15 acres in two tracts near the South Fork Tuolumne River. It contains the southernmost groves of Arbutus menziesii, a species more commonly found in coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest. In the Clavey River watershed, a tributary to the Tuolumne, Bell Meadow Research Natural Area (N38º10’ W119º56’) is an aspen stand in a Jeffrey pine forest. William B. Critchfield RNA (N38º7’ W119º54’) is at Bourland Meadows adjoining the Emigrant Wilderness. The 1,003-acre RNA is a red fir research site. Oak scrub is also present. Bourland Creek Trestle Historic Area (N38º3’ W120º0’) is near Forest Road 2N14 off Forest Highway 31. The large, curved wooden trestle is 76 feet above the creek. Nearby is Jawbone Falls Heritage Area (N38º1’ W119º58’), off of Forest Highway 31.

North of State Route 120, Cherry Lake (N37º57’ W119º55’), along with Holm Powerhouse on Cherry Creek (N37º54’ W119º58’)and Kirkwood Powerhouse on the Tuolumne River (N37º53’ W119º57’) within the forest are part of the Hetch Hetchy hydroelectric development of the City of San Francisco. On the South Fork Tuolumne River near State Route 120 is the San Jose Family Camp (N37º50’ W120º0’), operated by the City of San Jose on Stanislaus National Forest lands. Downstream from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park is the Tuolumne Wild and Scenic River (see separate description).

Route 108 to Sonora Pass

State Route 108 bisects the forest between Mi-Wuk Village and Sonora Pass. At the western edge of the forest, the West Side Railroad Grade Trail (N38º0’ W120º12’) provides North Fork Tuolumne River canyon views. Lyons Reservoir, Pacific Gas & Electric Company (N38º6’ W120º10’), is on the South Fork Stanislaus River in the Stanislaus National Forest off State Route 108 at Sierra Village. Water is diverted via the Tuolumne Ditch to Sullivan Creek, and power is generated outside the forest at the Phoenix Reservoir Powerhouse (N38º0’ W120º19’). Uphill on SR 108, Pinecrest Lake (N38º12’ W119º59’), also called Strawberry Reservoir, is operated by Pacific Gas & Electric Company on national forest lands.

Near Pinecrest Lake is the Stanislaus-Tuolumne Experimental Forest (described under Man and the Biosphere Reserves) and Pinecrest National Recreation Trail (described separately). Bull Run Scenic and Geologic Area (N38º15’ W119º57’) is 340 acres, featuring a horseshoe-shaped, lava-capped ridge with unique rock formations. The Trail of the Gargoyles traces the rim. It is found on Forest Road 4N12 (Herring Creek Road) off of State Route 108. Further up Herring Creek Road is a mountain biking area surrounding Herring Creek Reservoir (N38º15’ W119º56’), operated by the Stanislaus National Forest for recreation.

On the Middle Fork Stanislaus River north of State Route 108 are reservoirs and hydroelectric developments. Within the national forest are Sand Bar Dam and tunnel (N38º11’ W120º9’) and Spring Gap Dam and Powerhouse (N38º11’ W120º7’), operated by Pacific Gas & Electric Company. Beardsley Reservoir (N38º13’ W120º4’), Beardsley Afterbay (N38º12’ W120º5’), and Donnell Reservoir (N38º20’ W119º57’) are operated by the Tri-Dam Project, a partnership of the South San Joaquin and Oakdale Irrigation Districts. Niagara Creek and Falls Scenic and Geologic Area (N38º20’ W119º56’), is 320 acres adjacent to State Route 108 near Donnell Lake. A 900-foot waterfall, 500 feet of which is freefall, cascades into the lake in the spring from a hanging valley. By taking Forest Route 5N01 for 12 miles east of SR108, the turnoff for the Bennett Juniper (N38º19’ W119º48’) is on the western edge of Sardine Meadow. This is the largest living western juniper tree.

A few miles to the east of Donnell Reservoir on State Route 108 is the Columns of the Giants Scenic and Geologic Area (38º20’ W119º48’), 105 acres featuring unique columnar basalt formations also found at Devils Postpile National Monument (see under National Park System). Clark Fork candidate Research Natural Area (N38º23’ W119º48’) is 460 acres in the Middle Fork Stanislaus area and contains examples of white fir and red fir forest. Relief Reservoir, Pacific Gas & Electric Company (N38º16’ W119º44’) is on Summit Creek in the Stanislaus National Forest headwaters of the Middle Fork Stanislaus River. It adjoins Emigrant Wilderness and provides supplemental water to downstream reservoirs. The Middle Fork Stanislaus River is eligible for the national wild and scenic river system from the Emigrant Wilderness boundary (N38º18’ W119º44’) downstream 15 miles to Donnell Reservoir (N38º21’ W119º56’). Deadman Creek is eligible for the national wild and scenic river system from Sonora Pass (N38º20’ W119º38’) downstream to the confluence with the Middle Fork Stanislaus River (N38º19’ W119º45’). Both streams are adjacent to State Route 108. The California National Historic Trail traverses the forest in the Emigrant Wilderness (see) and from Burst Rock (N38º12’ W119º52’) west to Long Barn on State Route 108 east of Sonora (N38º5’ W120º9’).

Route 4 to Ebbets Pass

State Route 4 bisects the forest between Columbia and Ebbets Pass. Windeler Cave Geologic Area (N38º5’ W120º21’) is near Silver Gulch on Forest Road 2N63 northeast of Columbia. The limestone cave is 2,500-feet long with stalagtite and stalagmite formations. At the edge of the national forest along SR 4, Hunter’s Reservoir (N38º12’ W120º22’) is operated by the Utica Water and Power Authority. The dam stores water and diverts it into the Utica Canal, which crosses national forest land on the way to Murphy’s Powerhouse along SR 4 (N38º9’ W120º26’). Arnold Rim Trail extends to the west of SR 4 from Crescent Cove (N38º11’ W120º23’) north to the Sierra Nevada Logging Museum (N38º16’ W120º21’), which overlooks White Pines Reservoir (N38º16’ W120º21’) of the Calaveras County Water District. Further up SR 4, Highland Lakes former Research Natural Area (N38º29’ W119º48’) is a 440-acre mountain hemlock and wet meadow area adjacent to the Carson Iceberg Wilderness. The North Fork Mokelumne River is eligible for the national wild and scenic rivers system from Highland Lakes (N38º30’ W119º48’) downstream nine miles to the Mokelumne Wilderness boundary (N38º32’ W119º55’) downstream of State Route 4.Highland Lakes are reached by turning off State Route 4 west of Ebbets Pass. Downstream of the Mokelumne Wilderness on the North Fork Mokelumne River, Salt Springs Reservoir (N38º30’ W120º11’) is operated by Pacific Gas & Electric on national forest lands. At the western edge of the forest, Schaads Reservoir (N38º23’ W120º26’) is a hydroelectric reservoir on the Middle Fork Mokelumne River. It is operated by the Calaveras Public Utility District.

To the south of State Route 4 in the forest are hydroelectric reservoirs and facilities on the North Fork Stanislaus and tributaries operated by the Northern California Power Agency. The Upper Utica Project consists of three reservoirs. Lake Alpine (N38º29’ W120º0’) is on Silver Creek adjacent to State Route 4 as well as the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. Union Reservoir (N38º26’ W120º0’) is the uppermost reservoir on the North Fork Stanislaus River. Just downstream is Utica Reservoir. Both release water to the North Fork Diversion Dam (N38º26’ W120º1’) of Calaveras County Water District, which sends water to New Spicer Meadows Reservoir (N38º24’ W120º0’) on Highland Creek for storage. Downstream, water from the North Fork Stanislaus River reaches McKays Point Reservoir (N38º14’ W120º17’) of the Calaveras County Water District. Water from Beaver Creek Diversion Dam (N38º14’ W120º7’) is also diverted to McKays Point Reservoir. At McKays Point, the water enters an 8.5-mile tunnel for power generation at Collierville Powerhouse (N38º9’ W120º23’) on New Melones Reservoir.

Teakettle Experimental Forest

Teakettle Experimental Forest, Sierra National Forest, California (N36º58’ W119º2’), is a watershed management research area with a red fir forest and meadows, located west of the North Fork Kings River on Forest Road 11S12, Black Rock Road.