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Millerton Lake State Recreation Area, California, United States

Millerton Lake South Shore Trail

The easy South Shore trail is the best hike. The scenic portion starts at South Bay Picnic Area and is 2 mile 1-way.

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Difficulty: Easy
Length: 4.9 miles / 7.9 km
Duration: 1-3 hours
Family Friendly
Overview: Almost at the exact geographic middle of California, Millerton Lake State Recreational Area is 20 miles northeast of Fresno. Many people stop by the park on their way to the famous Yosemite National Park. The lake's cool blue water offers a pleasant escape from the summer heat of the central valley.

The park is dominated by the massive lake and popular among water sport enthusiasts and boaters. There are some hiking opportunities and the best hike is the flat and accessible South Shore trail. Also called Winchell Ridge Trail,the easy and smooth hike offers unobstructed, spectacular view of the lake. The multi-use trail is very family friendly for both hiking & biking. It starts at the Blue Oak Picnic Area, follows the contours of Winchell Bay and ends at the Marina at Winchell Bay. The first two miles run parallel to the road and therefore not very interesting, hence most people start at the South Bay Picnic Area. From South Bay Picnic Area to the Marina is about 2 mile one way and 4 mile round trip.

Almost the entire trail hugs the shoreline, visitors have good opportunities catching a glimpse of the bald eagle soaring over the blue lake as well as other water fowls. The trail is constructed on rolling hill with grassland, chaparral and oak woodland environments. The hills are green in the spring and fall from rain and brown in the dry hot summer.

Tips: The trail has very little shade and can get very hot in the summer. Be sure to bring sunscreen and plenty of water.

Points of Interest


South Bay Picnic parking area

The start of the hike can be hard to find because there is no sign to the trail. The trail comes from Blue Oak Picnic Area and passes continues behind the wooden fence and portable toilet. Up until this point, the trail follows the inland side of the road and is not very scenic.

The view of the Friant Dam from South Bay picnic area

The 319 foot dam was constructed in 1944 for the purpose of reclamation, flood control, irrigation and recreation. It is currently maintained by U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Trail sign

About 0.3 miles in, the trail finally leaves the road and gets closer to the lake. One side of the trail is the lakeshore while the other side is the cattle fence. The trail is multi-use and to be shared among cyclists and hikers.

View of the spectacular dam and the lake.

The lake shore directly ahead is La Playa beach, a dedicated swim area staffed with life guards in the summer. The relatively warm (up to 65 degrees in the summer) and calm water of the lake is great for open water swim. The USMS National One-Mile Open Water Swim Competition was held here in the past years.


Approaching the marina, the end of the hike. It is the only marina on Millerton Lake and is open
year round. The Marina offers a variety of slips. The Marina currently has 330 wet slips and 55 dry which can accommodate boats up to 32 feet.

Vista Point overlooking the marina

This structure is not a shelter: the roof has wide gaps that neither protects hiker from the sun nor the rain. Given that trail is exposed to the elements, it would be best to have some cover on top.

Winchell Bay Marina

The trail continues a bit farther along the lakeshore behind this sign, then it dead-ends on some private property. There are plans to make the trail circle around the entire lake, but for now you must turn around and head back to the start.

Easy Trail

The trail is mostly a level and smooth single-track. The conditions are good even during rain storms because of the trail's sandy texture (not muddy). Perfect for running and biking and very family friendly.

A big white house across the bay

This white glass structured mansion is a prominent sight for about half of the hike. Presumably it is one of the luxurious private properties with a million dollar lake view.

Lake Front Lot for sale

The inland side of the trail is private property and apparently up for sale. One can purchase it and construct a mansion just like the white house across the bay. The fence is for cattle and runs along the entire trail.

Boat launch ramp parking area

The park is very popular with boaters and there are totally three Boat launch ramp parking areas. The picture was taken in November and the lake is very quiet. As the weather warms up, sailing regattas and water skiers start to cruise the lake.

Lake view

The Lake is one to three mile wide and has a capacity of 520,500 acre-feet. It is difficult to imagine that underneath the calm water, buried the ancestral home of the Northern Foothill Yokuts, U.S. military encampment known as Camp Barbour and the gold mining town of Millerton.

The marina parking lot with the boat rental office

The commercial marina offering slip and boat rentals, gasoline, snacks, bait and tackle shop and marine supplies.
Pictures in this guide taken by: suetfei
Took the hike this morning it was beautiful, very quiet early in the morning. Weather was perfect this was my first hike and I have to admit I loved it!
Visited on Oct 20, 2013

by chrstlmrqz4 on Oct 20, 2013

Millerton Lake South Shore Trail Trail Map

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