Tucked among the pines at Yosemite's doorstep is family-friendly Bass Lake, a mellow place for weekend wandering.
Pretty-as-a-postcard Bass Lake has been the backdrop for many movies, ranging from the sublime ("Hiawatha," 1952) to the ridiculous ("The Great Outdoors," 1988, starring Dan Aykroyd and John Candy).
Autumn is a particularly good time to experience the great outdoors around Bass Lake and surrounding Sierra National Forest. By early November, the black oaks, big-leaf maples and dogwoods are aflame in yellows, oranges and reds. At an elevation of only 3,500 feet, many of Bass Lake's scenic attractions--and the hiking trails that reach them--are open most of the year, making Bass Lake centrally located.
To reach Bass Lake and its Pines Village commercial center, follow California 41 through Oakhurst. Turn right at the Bass Lake turnoff (Road 222). Proceed four miles to Bass Lake, then veer left where the road divides. Continue 2 1/2 miles on Road 274 to Pines Village.
Three trails explore the mountains surrounding the lake. For the latest road and trail conditions, visit the Bass Lake Ranger Station (open weekdays) located on Road 222.
Way of the Mono (half-mile loop) is an interpretive trail that describes how the native Mono lived on the land. High point, both literally and figuratively, of the trail is a rock promontory where native women ground acorns. The grinding rock offers grand vistas of Bass Lake and the High Sierra.
Access: Join the trail from the signed trail head along Road 222 between the Bass Lake Ranger Station and Forks Resort.
Goat Mountain Lookout Trail (five miles round trip) climbs to a summit lookout for dramatic views of Bass Lake and Sierra National Forest.
Access: Join the trail from either Forks or Spring Cove campgrounds (both closed for the season) off Road 222.
Willow Creek Trail (five miles round trip) follows the North Fork of Willow Creek past some pretty cascades, quiet pools. Angel Falls is only a half-mile hike up the trail. Over-the-shoulder views of Bass Lake are memorable.
Access: The trail head is located on the north side of Road 274, about two miles west of Pines Village.
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Way of the Mono, Goat Mountain Lookout, Willow Creek Trails
WHERE: Bass Lake, Southern Sierra Nevada.
DISTANCE: 5 miles round trip.
TERRAIN: Pine-cloaked lake shore.
HIGHLIGHTS: Family-friendly hiking and lodging.
DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: Easy-moderate.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Southern Yosemite Visitors Bureau, tel. (209) 683-INFO; The Pines Resort, tel, (800) 350-7463; U.S. Forest Service, Bass Lake Ranger Station, tel. (209) 642-3212.