Relief Reservoir

June 1, 2017 · Stanislaus National Forest

Early season trip with some snow on the ground, fishing, beautiful alpine lakes, cold dips, and a mountain summit.


14.9 mi

Elevation gain

2,848 ft


3 days

The trail

Check out the route in detail on AllTrails.

Thu Jun


Finding a trail

We left the city at 8:45am on Thursday after dropping Jing off at Airbnb. Matt, Stani, and I headed east towards the mountains. Our intention was to hike in to Wheeler Lake, but when we went to the rangers station they told us it was super snowed in. They suggested we head to the southern part of Stanislaus to Crabtree. I had been there before at an earlier Dece trip, so I figured it would be a good last minute change.

We detoured around the park and headed up to the Pinecrest area. We stopped at the local rangers station but it was closed till 2:15. Instead of waiting 20 minutes, we decided to give Crabtree a shot. We drove a couple miles up the road and discovered that the road was closed.

We drove back to the rangers station which was open now and got another alternate destination. We were told the conditions at Relief Reservoir were excellent. We got a wilderness permit for that area, and then headed a couple miles up towards a ski hill that apparently forgets to turn their internet off for the season. We used their free wifi from the parking lot and sent a message to the rest of the scouts so they knew where to find us. We drove another 50 minutes or so to the Kennedy Lakes Trailhead. We were parked around 4pm.

As we were getting ready we met a guy and his dog Marley (can't remember the human's name). We hiked along the trail with him, but eventually got separated right before the reservoir.

The hike was pretty easy. Stani did a pretty great job for her second hike. I used a long leash to give her some more freedom, but didn't want to let her off leash because there were a lot of other dogs heading back along the trail.

There was a bunch of old rusty scrap metal pieces at the reservoir, probably from the construction of the damn. It made it a little hard to find a camping spot that reflected the beauty of the area. After scouting the area, we decided to cross the damn and found a great spot on top of a granite hill, close enough to the water to make it convenient for water refills.

We had a delicious dinner, pre-assembled by Jing. It was Thai fried noodles with egg. Super easy to make, and tasty.

A clearish sky gave us some great star gazing. In bed by 10ish with Stani cuddled up between my legs.

Fri Jun


Exploring the reservoir

Up at 5:30ish with Stani. Super snuggly in the morning. We had scrambled eggs with sausage.

We headed along the east side of the reservoir, on a higher trail, and made markers and arrows out of rocks so Matt, Laura, and Luna could find our camp site. Matt found a good spot for fishing where the granite spilled low into the water, while Stani and I went to explore the south end of the reservoir.

We crossed a creek and Nick, the guy from yesterday and his pup Marley were camped out. We chatted and headed on after a few chases as Stani really wanted to eat Marley's food.

We bushwhacked down to the lake and pecked along some rocks by the water, took a quick break, and then headed back to where Matt was.

We took another nice break with some cheese and crackers, a hammock, and a nap.

We hiked back to the trail and made our way back to camp. Stani was tired and needed lots of coaxing.

We chilled at camp (back around 1pm). Matt napped in the hammock, Stani napped under a bush by the kitchen. I read a book.

We had dinner around 6 and we were pretty sure Jon and Laura weren't going to be meeting us, but around an hour later they showed up on the other side of the lake. We yelled and they got the idea and headed over to where we were.

It was great having a larger crew and another pup to put Stani over the edge of tiredness.

We stayed up till 11, chatting around a fire that Matt built.

Sat Jun


Up the hill

Up around 6. Luna and Stani spent the entire morning playing and wrestling. We ate oatmeal and coffee, and generally took it easy at camp.

We weighed our options for the day and decided on hiking to the top of a nearby bluff. We slowly pecked our way up along scree and granite boulders. Once at the top, we relaxed, had a snack, and the pups took a quick snooze. We continued in this fashion for the rest of the day, slowing working our way towards a more distant mountain. We eventually stopped when we got to a raging stream of melt-off that we couldn't cross. After another relaxing break in open alpine forest, we headed back down to the camp. Stani and Luna worked great together, Luna mostly keeping Stani interested and moving with the pack.

It was still sunny when we got back, so we chilled by the reservoir. Jon set up the hammock, and Matt and I tried to make a bow-drill (unsuccessfully). We had an amazing dinner prepared by Jing. Mushroom and Field Roast sausage risotto. Everyone loved it and we cosmically thanked Jing from the campsite.

We chilled by the fire as night came. In bed by 9:45.

Sun Jun


Heading out

Preparing for this trip

Here is some information that comes in handy when preparing for this trip like this.

Trip posted by KP