The Great Outdoors

The Great Outdoors

Yosemite National Park

“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”
- from John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir

As mentioned under Day Trips, one cannot think about going out (or in, according to John Muir) without exploring Yosemite National Park. Even the most avid urbanite can appreciate the glacial-carved Yosemite Valley with its cascading waterfalls and sheer granite cliffs. Modesto is only two and a half hours from this natural wonderland. The activities are bountiful, where adventurous spirits engulf themselves in rock climbing Half Dome or hundreds of other routes scattered throughout the park. Backpacking, horseback riding, cross country skiing, day hikes, birdwatching, fishing, and biking are all activities one can do in the park. There are also art galleries and the Yosemite Art Education Center that features an artist-in-residence program.

Modest Reservoir

The Modesto Reservoir is located east of the town of Waterford off highway 132. The reservoir is a part of a regional park that covers 3,240 acres of land and 2,800 acres of reservoir that allows boating, swimming, water/jet skiing, fishing, camping, and other forms of recreation. The camping facilities are varied, wither with full power hook-ups for RV’s or undeveloped campsites. Restrooms are located on site as well as picnic shelters, picnic tables, barbeque pits, concession stands, and an archery range. Campsites are available on a first come first serve basis. There is also waterfowl hunting with a permit during certain times of year, and an area for radio control airplane flying. There are no pets allowed at Modesto Reservoir.

Turlock Lake State Recreation Area

Turlock Lake State Recreation Area is open year round and features camping, picnicking, fishing, swimming, boating, and water skiing. This is a great place to come to spend a day or stay for a week. It is located about 25 miles east of Modesto on the south side of the Tuolumne River. The recreation area features 26 miles of shoreline, and the Tuolumne River is located about a mile from the lake. On the south bank of the Tuolumne River is a 66 site campground. Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day is when the area is used most frequently. The best time to camp is from Labor Day through October as days are warm and nights are cool with few crowds.

Lake Don Pedro

Located in the Sierra Nevada foothills, Lake Don Pedro has 160 miles of shoreline for camping with 2.3 million acre feet of water in which one can boat, fish, or swim. It is the fifth largest man-made lake in California and is tucked into a canyon wooded with oak trees. One of the great events is the annual firework show in celebration of the Fourth of July. The Don Pedro Recreation Agency has been stocking the lake with Florida strain Black Bass since the early 1980s. There are also opportunities for trout, salmon, bluegill and catfish. Houseboat and motorboat rentals are available at both Lake Don Pedro Marina and Moccasin Point Marina. Visitor information, café, and convenience store is also available at the marinas.

Yosemite Trails Pack Station (horseback riding)

Since 1966, the Knapp family has raised Black Angus cattle at the Yosemite Trails Pack Station, which is located outside of Yosemite’s south entrance off Highway 41. Rustic and timeless, this is a working ranch where cowboys herd cattle from the high country each fall, and move the herd onto winter pasture in the San Joaquin Valley. The Knapp family has opened their ranch to invite guests who want to explore the Sierra Nevada’s on horseback. One can enjoy a 1 to 2 hour horseback ride to a half day outing into Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove that features 2,000 year old Giant Sequoia trees. During the winter months, horse-drawn sleigh rides are available. Riding experience is not required, and seasoned cowboys are there to lend a hand.

Badger Pass

Badger Pass Ski Area is located in Yosemite National Park and is a great place for families to partake in downhill skiing, cross country skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. Seasonal passes are available, and the Early Bird Rate makes a season pass more affordable if it is purchased before October 31st. If you are new to the snow sport world, ski and snowboard lessons are available in a package that includes all of your equipment, a lift ticket and a morning group lesson. Badger Pass also offers mid-week trip packages that include lift tickets, equipment rental, a group lesson, and a tour of Yosemite Valley for each night one lodges in the park at either the Ahwahnee, Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, Wawona Hotel, or Curry Village.


Kirkwood has the highest elevation out of any major resorts in the Lake Tahoe area, starting at a baseline of 7,800 feet. This gives the ski resort an extra edge to catch the snowstorms that roll into the Sierras, powdering 2,300 acres of slopes for skiing and board riding. Expanded terrain parks area a large attraction to the park, such as Adventure Land that has mellow hills and ski-through tunnels for kids. Three and a quarter hours from Modesto, one can find days of snow sport entertainment as well as ski school for kids, equipment rentals, and child care. Lodging is located within walking distance or at South Lake Tahoe. Besides skiing and snowboarding, there is ample hiking, mountain biking, golfing, disc golf, a climbing wall, fishing, horseback riding, and kayaking.

Bear Valley

Bear Valley is located on the scenic Highway 4 that is tucked between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite. Access is easy two hour drive from Modesto. This mountain is good for downhill skiing and snowboarding, as well as snowmobile rentals. Bear Valley also hosts events in the off season, such as the Tough Mudder race. This mud run covers seven miles of obstacle courses designed by the British Special Forces to test the mind and body’s strength, endurance, and stamina. Come see (or participate if you dare) the Tough Mudder race this fall at Bear Valley. Summer fun includes hiking, biking, kayaking, and summer camps for kids.

Whitewater rafting

Modesto is located along the Tuolomne and Stanislaus Rivers, granting nearby opportunities for whitewater rafting trips. Whitewater rafting companies, such as Beyond Limits Adventures, Sunshine Rafting Adventures, and O.A.R.S., offer trips that go for a half day to two days of river voyaging. These trips include equipment, shuttle, and a guided rafting tour. Previous rafting experience is not necessary, and age limit is 5 years old. There is no better way to spend hot summer days than floating down a river with friends and family!