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For more than 50 years in the early 1900s, the Sugar Pine Railway operated steam trains to haul logs along the Stanislaus River for the Standard Lumber Company and later the Pickering Lumber Company. Today this wooded corridor hosts a gentle 3-percent grade rail-trail for hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians and cross-country skiers. The trail represents a very small part of the Sugar Pine Railway system, which included about 70 miles of main line and almost 400 miles of spurs and branches. While there are a number of rail-trails in the Sierra left over from the area's extensive logging history, this is one of the easiest and most family-friendly because of its easy accessibility, gentle grade and relatively forgiving dirt surface.
Begin at the Fraser Flat Road trailhead for a nicely shaded, gradual uphill grade that affords great views of the majestic South Fork of the Stanislaus River below. The dirt trail surface can be loose in places, and there are some considerable dips in the trail—be careful and keep your eye on what's ahead. About halfway through the trail, you'll pass through an unlocked cattle fence to continue. When the trail opens up into a meadow, look across the meadow to see where the trail reenters the forest.
Interpretive signs along the trail point out historical highlights. The signs are numbered for use with an informational brochure that you can pick up at the Summit and Mi-Wok Ranger District offices of Stanislaus National Forest. It's a good idea to pick up a map of the area while you're there—the roads aren't well-marked and finding your way around can be challenging. The trail ends when it intersects with Old Strawberry Road. Your return trip on the trail to Fraser Flat Road is downhill.
To reach the Mi-Wok Ranger District office, head east from Modesto on State Route 108 for about 63 miles. From the district office, turn right (northeast) back onto SR 108 and continue for about 9 miles to Fraser Flat Road (Forest Road 4N01). Turn left and continue downhill to the bridge at the South Fork of the Stanislaus River. The trailhead (which has no signs) and parking are adjacent to the river on the south side of the road.
We found the parking area at the Frasier Flat end of the trail fairly easily. Was hard to find parking due to the number of cars. We later ran into the volunteer trail maintenance crew to whom all the cars belonged! It's good to know that these trail are maintained. This one is an easy uphill walk. You start at river level and slowly climb above it, later it catches back up to you. Was a beautiful walk in perfect weather.
We passed the road leading into the trail on accident and stopped at the Summit Ranger station in Pinecrest for directions. We found out that the Fraser Flat Road trailhead was closed on Dec. 30th due to snow. The helpful ranger suggested that we pick up the trail on Old Sugar Pine road.
The trail head on Old Sugar Pine road (residential area) is very poorly marked. In fact we missed it because the marker was behind a tree and was only visible coming from the other direction.
From hwy 108 its 1.8 miles in on the left, if you cross over a small bridge you went to far.
After asking one of the residence we found the trail which was covered in snow. We did find markers 8 and 9 but, unfortunately we weren't prepared with info. to find out the historic value.
I can see why the mention of the Meadow and picking up trail on the other side would be hard. If it wasn't for the foot prints in the show I don't know if we would have found it.
With all that being said.....IT WAS BEAUTIFUL!
I will for sure being attempting this easy trail again in the spring.
Family friendly trail.
"Some of the areas between Twain Harte and Lyons Dam are private property. Trail users, please respect this private property and keep to the trail."
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