Hiking for me is nearly always a joy. Walking along the 8.5 mile trail that surrounds Jenkinson Lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains is pure pleasure. The drive from Sacramento is only 50 minutes and the trail has an easy rolling terrain, full of shade. Lots of places to dip your toes in the water and relax along the way as well.
A Brief History
Jenkinson Lake was originally a wide, open meadow with a spring bubbling within. The Maidu and Miwok people would come to this lush meadow to hunt and gather the acorns from the abundant Black Oak trees. In 1848 a group of Mormons returning from California and the Mexican War to Salt Lake City, cut a path across this area and through the mountain divide which is known as the Mormon Emigrant Trail. They stopped in what is now called Sly Park (named after one of the Mormon men), grazed their animals and prospected for gold. Over the years, the rich terrain enticed ranchers to settle and the valley grew in population.
In 1951 “the Bureau of Reclamation began to clear the area and build Sly Park Dam. Storage of water was started in November, 1954, and the resulting 41,000 acre feet capacity lake was named after Walter Jenkinson [Secretary-Manager of the El Dorado District] who persevered to make it a reality” (The Pollock Pines Epic).
Hiking Jenkinson Lake Trail Today
The lake is split into two sections. The long narrow top is for non-motorized water craft and the large bottom is open to both motorized and non-motorized adventurers.
On a hot weekend in the summer, Jenkinson Lake brings hikers, kayakers, paddle boarders and water skiers. But it never seems busy. The lake is surrounded by a thick forest of tall Fir, Oak and Pine. The lovely trail meanders all around the edge of the lake.
There is also an easy destination at the northeast end of the Jenkinson Lake called Hazel Creek Waterfall. It is only flowing with vigor in the spring. But a pretty hiking destination none-the-less. As the lake is around 3,600ft, it is a great place for a cool escape from the Central Valley summer heat.
For a more complete history of the Jenkinson Lake area check out The Pollock Pines Epic.