Map credit to: Sierra Foothill Conservancy/Ben Ogren
Stockton Creek Preserve is a rolling hike through the Sierra Nevada foothills that will get your heart pumping as you climb up and down the ridgeline that separates the town of Mariposa from the Stockton Creek Watershed. This hike features a small lake, the Stockton Creek Preserve, Stockton Creek and a waterfall itself and is open for hiking as well as mountain biking.
Keep your eyes out on the trail for deer, squirrels and a number of different birds including California Quail, Ravens and the occasional Redtailed Hawk, Great Horned Own or Vulture. Keep an eye out underfoot as rattlesnakes are known to inhabit the area. A number of different fauna are native to the area as well including manzanita, a number of different wildflowers including the California Poppy.
In total, the hike will take you to as high as 2,508 and drops down as low as 1,963 feet. The trail was expanded to go down to Stockton Creek in 2019 which now provides options to make the trail more difficult for those looking for an extra workout. Wanna take it a bit easier? Follow the dirt road for a few miles of flat walking before climbing up the lake.
Two separate trailheads exist for the preserve. One on Highway 140 heading east out the town of Mariposa. Keep on eye out on the right for a gravel parking area near a gate just after passing Old Highway 140. The second exists on the western side of town on Trabucco Street. Park near the football field and walk around the gate and past the water treatment facility to find the trailhead.
Starting from Highway 140: Walk around the gate near the parking area and follow the dirt road a short distance before turning right down the dirt trail. Follow the trail until you come to an information board. At the board, a trail will veer off into the grass to the right that will eventually head up to the higher portions of the Stockton Creek Trail and to more difficult portions of the trail. If looking for an easier hike, continue straight at the information board until coming to a second gate near the preserve. Go around the gate and follow the road around the quiet little body of water. After passing the lake, keep an eye out on the left side of the road for a trail spur that will take you around to the northern side of the canyon and eventually down to the bottom of the canyon and the babbling Stockton Creek. If you’re looking for an easier route, just stay on the road and follow it through the canyon until reaching the western trailhead. From there either turn back and take the road, hike down to the creek and back up to the lake on the northern side of the canyon or take the trail marked “difficult” up through the hills to the southern side of the canyon and eventually the lake.
Starting from Trabucco Street: Walk around the gate near the football field and head up the road past the water treatment facility until you reach the trailhead, which presents you with three options. Follow the road straight for an easy stroll through the canyon for a few miles before climbing up to the reservoir. Take the trail spur to the right to hike down into the canyon through switchbacks to Stockton Creek before crossing the creek and slowly making your way up out of the canyon to the preserve. The trail spur to the right is marked difficult with a metal sign on a post and climbs up to the highest point of the area. Any of the three trails will eventually bring you to the preserve. From there, hike back the way you came or follow the dirt road through the area to get back down to your starting point either via the road itself or through the lower trail.