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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.
At the western end of the trail in Long Barn, parking is available at the Fraser Flat Road Trailhead (near the intersection of FR 4N01 & FR 4N42, adjacent to the South Fork of the Stanislaus River on the south side of the road, 0.5 mile east of Fraser Flat Campground). There is roadside dirt parking for 4–5 vehicles. Note that FR 4N01, which leads to the Fraser Flat Road Trailhead, is closed starting at CA 108 from mid-December to mid-April.
At the eastern end of the trail in Pinecrest, parking is available at the Old Strawberry Road Trailhead (west side of Old Strawberry Road, 2 miles northeast of CA 108 and Crabtree Road). There are roadside dirt pullouts for 2–3 vehicles. While Old Strawberry Road and the trail from this end are plowed of snow during the winter and reachable year-round, the parking area itself is not plowed.
Visit the TrailLink map for detailed directions.
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