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Jenkinson Lake & Sly Park: fun for all seasons

Summer boating, fall colors, winter snowshoeing, and spring waterfalls make this El Dorado park enjoyable year round
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Rating: 4 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 5.5 miles
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly

Overview :  The trails around Jenkinson Lake can be visited on horseback, mountain bike and foot. This guide, however, is going to focus on hiking... more »

Tips:  Bring lots of mosquito repellant in the spring and early summer.
First-aid kits and mole skin (for blisters) are a must.
There are a... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Main park entrance

When you see this sign, you may want to pull in and check the information board to make sure the part of park you're visiting is accessible.

2. Parking option #1: Most expensive but may be best for camping and boat launch

Using the main entrance will cost at least $10 but offers three advantages:
* 2 boat launch docks
* Easy access to the waterfall
* Camping

Note: It does not cost anything to walk or bike into the park.

3. Boat launch and picnic area

There are two boat launch areas. Kayaking from here to the waterfall is quite a bit faster than hoofing it.

4. Parking option #2: free parking that day hikers & swimmers may want to choose

From Sly Park (E16) turn on to Mormon Immigrant Trail. Several locations on the south west portion of the lake are free to park. There is usually parking before the first dam. If these areas are full then you may find parking between the first and second dam. Mormon Immigrant Trail (previously known as Iron Mountain Road) has at least three areas... More

5. Parking Option #3: Park just before the 2nd dam

This spot is nice to stop for a quick swim or just walk along the beach.

6. Parking Option #4: rear entrance, close to picnic tables, 4 miles to waterfall

Street parking is often available outside this parking lot and may be the only option once the snow starts to stick. Parking in here for any length of time requires a that a fee be paid but it's much less costly than the main entrance.

7. Waterfall (Spring and early summer)

This serene spot is a great place to stop for lunch on your hike. Most people hike in, either by parking at Rainbow campground (accessible from main entrance) or by parking at the Stumpy Meadows and hiking four miles. In the spring you can kayak most of the way to the waterfall too.

8. Hazel Creek meadow

This lookout, constructed in 2009, has several informational signs that discuss the ecology, climate and physical geography of this area. There are plenty of picnic tables and campgrounds here.

9. Picnic area near campgrounds

10. Miwok Trail (3/4 mile Interpretive trail)

This side trip is well worth visiting even if it takes a 2nd trip into the park. Trees and foliage have signs telling you what each is. There's a teepee that was much like those used by the Miwok Indians that you can enter and poke around inside.

11. The Knott Hole Bar & Grill is a friendly one-stop shop across from Sly Park

This little family owned establishment is a fun place to stop in for food, drinks and supplies. There's a convenience store, gas pumps (including propane refills) and a complete bar/grill. There's a large area out back where bands play in the summer. Taco Tuesday offers $1 tacos (4 tacos for each drink) and is popular with the locals.

12. Free 15 minute parking and restroom break

Just before the guard gate is 15 minute parking area. You can pull in here if you'd like to use the facilities and check the rates for the park.

13. Last chance bathroom stop

14. Picnic spot with handicap accessible picnic tables

There are at least six picnic tables in this area. Some tables allow you to bring your own chair and seem to be designed specifically for wheel chairs.