The Sugar Pine Railway Strawberry Branch is maintained as a rail trail by the Stanislaus National Forest and has an interpretive guide keyed to numbered posts along the trail. The gently sloped trail along the South Fork Stanislaus is a very popular multi-use trail and scenic bike ride suitable for casual bike riders and families.
The Strawberry Branch trail extends three miles from the South Fork bridge on Fraser Flat Road to Old Strawberry Road. Even with some single-track, it’s an easy ride, but it climbs about 400 feet from Fraser Flat to Strawberry. If you have small kids, starting east from Fraser Flat is a good idea, so they’ll have a downhill ride going back.
Parking is available at both ends of the trail, but the parking areas on Fraser Flat Road and at the Fraser Flat trailhead have much more room. Better yet, there’s camping near both ends at the Fraser Flat Campground or Pinecrest Lake. Riding to the trail from Pinecrest adds two miles and uses roads open to vehicle traffic including a crossing of Highway 108.
The main attractions along the trail are the river canyon and the Philadelphia Ditch flume and diversion dam. The Philadelphia Ditch diverts water from the South Fork Stanislaus along the north side of the canyon to a penstock at Spring Gap. The penstock drops the water 1,900 feet to a powerhouse on the Middle Fork Stanislaus. A stay at the Fraser Flat Campground provides an opportunity to hike the ditch and flume as well as ride the rail trail. Follow the road across from the campground entrance uphill to catch the ditch where it crosses the road. Hike west to Spring Gap or east to the flume and diversion dam. The Fraser Flat Campground itself is a former railroad lumber camp, and 4N01/Fraser Flat Road on the north side of the river is mostly built on railroad grade.
Closer to Strawberry the trail climbs away from the river on gentle single-track. Finding the start of the trail from Old Strawberry Road can be a challenge. The official signage is small, but a neighbor has posted more conspicuous signs pointing toward the trail in an attempt to reduce use of the road on their property, the former Boy Scout Camp Bray and, previously, Strawberry Camp 1 of the Sugar Pine.
Ride with GPS map: Sugar Pine Railroad Strawberry Branch (5.4 miles out and back, 430 feet of climbing)
To ride from Pinecrest to the trail, ride out from the lake/campground to the Ranger Station on Highway 108 and turn right onto the highway. Look for a dirt road across the highway just barely east of the Ranger Station. Cross onto the dirt road (4N51Y) and continue as it changes to pavement (Pine Ave.) and eventually ends at Old Strawberry Road. Turn left and look for the trail on the right after 1/2 mile. Pine Ave. and 4N51Y may be too steep for some kids and casual riders.
Ride with GPS map: Pinecrest to Strawberry Branch (5 miles out and back, 400 feet of climbing)
This is one of three Sugar Pine segments that form a continuous route from Old Strawberry Road to Confidence South Fork Road. See the pages for the other Sugar Pine segments for additional description of the route:
- Downside—Not much in the way of parking on Old Strawberry Road.
- Upside—Historic and scenic route, lots of lodging and camping options nearby, the river.
- Dirt and mostly level with some climbing closer to Old Strawberry Road.
- tires: cross to mountain, most will prefer mountain.
- seasons: Fraser Flat Road is closed during winter (Dec 16–April 14). Winter snow, spring mud.
- current weather