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Stories from the valley

Wonderful Outdoor Experiences Await You At Sly Park

Contributed by Carl Gwyn

Only an hour’s drive from downtown Sacramento, the Sly Park Recreation Area features hiking, camping, and boating in a spectacular setting. Nestled in the Sierra Foothills in a mixed pine and oak forest is Lake Jenkinson, with beautiful campsites and over 20 miles of hiking trails. 

Captain James Sly discovered this scenic valley as the Mormon Battalion was making its way back to Salt Lake City after the discovery of gold in California. With the creation of Lake Jenkinson in 1955, when dams were finished across the Hazel Creek and the Park Creek drainage, the area has become a favorite destination.

I arrived early, so I was able to use one of the limited number of free parking spaces at the park entrance. Following a quick descent to the lake level, I began the nine-mile hike around the lake on the well-defined trail.

After passing the boat launch ramp and crossing the two dams, the trail took me along the south side of the lake. I hiked in mostly pine-forested splendor, encountering friendly hikers and mountain bikers. No equestrians were out that day, but there are well-marked trails for them as well. 

The view across the lake is super and changes quickly as you proceed to the far end of the lake, where hikers are rewarded with a view of the Park Creek waterfall. Right now, the waterfall is flowing magnificently and will keep you and your camera busy capturing the beauty.

Continuing along the trail, I arrived at the restored Hazel Creek meadow area, offering pit toilets, picnic tables, and a short interpretive trail. From here the hike became more civilized, going past the camping areas, boat rental dock (kayaks, paddle boards and canoes), and additional picnic areas.

The entire north shore of the lake to the Hazel Creek area is accessible by motor vehicle, so if you aren’t in the mood for an energetic hike, plenty of picnic spots are readily available. Campsites can be reserved (highly recommended in the summer) and have ready access to clean and well-maintained pit toilets.

To get to Sly Park, take Highway 50 to the Sly Park exit in Pollock Pines and travel south along Sly Park Road to the park itself.  The day use fee is just $5. For information on the cost of individual or group campsites, equestrian campsites, and other fees, please go to the EID recreation site by clicking here.

I would recommend starting with a day trip to check out the recreation area and choose your preferred future campsite. You could then book your reservation and venture up alone or with your family and friends for a high-quality outdoor experience.