Since our family first started going on day hikes, at this time of year the mountains start calling and I find myself searching for any weekend opportunity to answer. Living in Fresno affords us wonderful opportunities to travel to nearby hiking trails in not one but two national forests, Yosemite National Park, and—if you’re willing to drive a bit further—even beautiful coastal hikes like those in Los Osos and Morro Bay.
Last weekend the mountains called incessantly, so I opened up my trusty All Trails app (a free search tool for outdoor trails of all types) and started searching for kid-friendly, easy hiking trails under 7 miles and within an hour and a half of home. This is my typical search for when the whole family is going or there will be other kids joining us. I came across the Shaver Lake Trail, a two-mile-out-and-back trail suitable for all ages and leashed dogs. We packed our lunches and headed for the Sierra National Forest.
After visiting this trail, I feel it’s only fair I share it with you, as it was so enjoyable and offered a spectacular end point on the shore of the lake perfect for pictures and picnicking.
How to find Shaver Lake Trail
To get to the Shaver Lake Trail (which was just an hour and six minutes from our Fresno home), you’ll take the 41 freeway north to Friant Road, then take Friant north to Copper. At Copper turn right until Auberry Road, where you’ll make a left. Stay on Auberry Road into Shaver Lake (45-50 minutes of the drive) and then watch for Dinkey Creek Road, where you’ll turn right.
Follow Dinkey Creek to the Camp Chawanakee entrance and turn into it. You’ll be headed down a dirt road (well traveled and my Prius handled it with no issue) and watching for a metal gate on your right. Park in the small dirt area directly across from the gate. (For Google Map directions to the GPS coordinate of the trail head, click here.)
Tip: If you or little ones in your party need a restroom stop before you begin your hike, there are public restrooms in Shaver on the left-hand side of the road before you turn onto Dinkey Creek Road. Take advantage, as there aren’t other restrooms that we saw after that.
To begin your hike, start at the middle gate and follow the wide path, passing big piles of cut logs. You’ll see a few signs for other trails, but don’t veer off, just stay on the widest path. On your way to the lake, you’ll be heading gradually downhill. The path will weave through the woods a bit, and after approximately one mile, you’ll see Shaver Lake through the trees.
As you proceed just a bit further, you’ll also start seeing smaller paths from the main one leading to the shore. We passed a couple of steep paths and went down the third, which was easy to walk down, and enjoyed our lunch on the shore of the lake sitting on rocks. You’ll see a teepee made of branches on the shore and rocks, and you’ll enjoy a great view of the back of Shaver Lake. If you go when the weather is warm, you may want to take a swim or play in the water.
The majority of the trail is at least partially shaded, though there are a few short stretches in full sun, which you notice more on the way back to your car, as you’re walking uphill. The incline isn’t intense by any means, but it is noticeable.
On our recent trip, we didn’t see a lot of wildlife, though we did see a wolf/hearty coyote(?) running in the distance from our car driving to the trail, and a number of very large birds flying into the trees near the lake. Oh, and a squirrel. We saw a squirrel which our son pointed out very excitedly (as though we don’t see them eating anything edible that dares grow in our yard on a daily basis).
If you’re looking for an easy, shorter hike that offers a big payoff in the way of lake views, the Shaver Lake Trail is sure to please. Carve out half a day soon, and head on up the mountain while the leaves are changing and before the weather gets cold. You won’t regret it!
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