Spring break is here and so is the nice weather we’ve all been waiting for! Participating in outdoor activities is a fantastic way to get out and get active while staying safe and socially distancing. We asked Stan State students to share their favorite outdoor spots in the Central Valley and surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains, where they like to get away and become one with nature.

California's Central Valley and the Sierra Nevadas are filled with outdoor recreation areas open to the public for activities such as hiking, camping, watersports, picnicking, and even sunbathing! Whatever your calling, there is a spot for you! If you're looking to get outside this Spring Break, there is surely a spot shared in this article that you'll want to visit!

Yosemite National Park

Video provided by Lorena Jurado, showing the roaring Bridalveil Fall at Yosemite National Park. 

About two hours away from the Stan State campus in the Sierra Nevada mountain range is the famous and jaw dropping Yosemite National Park. Tourists from all over the world travel to see this magnificent natural wonder, and we are lucky to be located so close! 

Lorena Jurado (senior, Psychology) shared that Yosemite is her favorite recreational place to visit “because there are various activities that can be done, and it is a beautiful park.” Jurado’s activity of choice is hiking up close to the spectacular waterfalls, such as the Bridalveil Fall shown in the video above!

She further shared that when she visits with her family, “we have a small picnic on the benches that are right in front of the Bridalveil Fall and after we are done eating, we walk around the park until it gets dark.” 

Selfie of Lorena Jurado at Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite National Park

Photo provided by Lorena Jurado, showing a selfie near Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite National Park. 

Jurado also explained that “the best time to go is in the Spring because it is when the waterfalls are more filled, and the weather is nice and cool.” She recommends that first time visitors are “to be aware of slippery surfaces near the waterfalls and to wear comfortable shoes because the park is best experienced walking.”

Jurado additionally mentioned anyone planning on visiting in the summer should be sure to stay hydrated as well as bring sunscreen and insect repellent! Preparation is key to enjoying your time in Yosemite as nature can be unpredictable!

Cougar Rock Trail

View from Cougar Rock

Photo provided by Alicia Gavrilis, showing the breathtaking views of the valley below from the top of Cougar Rock. 

Senior Communications major, Alicia Gavrilis shared her favorite outdoor recreation spot, the Cougar Rock Trail. Located just past Murphy’s, “The Cougar Rock Trail is a small portion of the larger Arnold Rim Trail,” explained Gavrilis. The hike is roughly 4 miles with around a 1,000 foot elevation gain. As you can see in the photos above, it is clear that the best part about this spot is the view from the top, Cougar Rock! Gavrilis mentioned that “you can climb on top for a snack and look out over miles of forest.” 

Safety is the first most important thing to consider when hiking or participating in any outdoor activity. Gavrilis recommended that anyone planning on hiking the Cougar Rock Trail should use the AllTrails app “to make sure you are following the trail correctly as there are lots of intersecting trails.”

Alicia Gavrilis on top of Cougar Rock

Photo provided by Alicia Gavrilis, showing her at the top of Cougar Rock. “It’s a steep climb but the views are worth it!” said Gavrilis.

Furthermore, she made sure to include to be on the lookout for bears. “They’re just black bears so they won’t bother you..But I saw one last time I was out there and it definitely spooked me!,” exclaimed Gavrilis. If you like hiking, you don’t want to skip out on this spot! The views are unbeatable!

Knights Ferry

View of the Knights Ferry Covered Bridge

Photo provided by Leslie Sanchez, showing her and friends heading back down to the river after a hike.

About 15 minutes past Oakdale towards Sonora sits the little town of Knights Ferry nestled right along the Stanislaus River.

This historic town was established in 1848 during the beginning of the California gold rush. “Founded by Dr. William Knight, and originally founded as a ferry-ing stop for those seeking gold, the town of Knights Ferry transitioned from gold rush town, to industrial area (you can still see the flour mill) to a haven for those seeking outdoor recreation,” the town’s website shares. 

Leslie Sanchez (senior, Psychology) said that Knights Ferry is her “favorite outdoor spot to visit in the Central Valley because it’s really nearby so if I’m feeling desperate to get out into nature it’s a convenient spot.”

Sanchez further explained that there are numerous short hiking trails in the area. “I love using the hiking trails on a hot day, then swimming in the river to cool off after,” shared Sanchez. Whether you're interested in hiking, kayaking, rafting, picnicking, sunbathing, or even history, Knights Ferry is a nearby spot you need to visit!

Turlock Lake State Recreation Area

If you’re looking for a nearby lake to fish or a river to take a dip, Turlock Lake State Recreation Area is an awesome spot! The recreation area is situated between the Tuolumne River and Turlock Lake offering a wide range of possibilities for outdoor activity. 

According to their website, “Open all year and featuring camping, picnicking, fishing, swimming, boating, water skiing, and clean country air, the area offers visitors an opportunity to see the wonderful variety of native plant life that once flourished alongside the rivers of the San Joaquin Valley.” The recreation area is just a 30 minute drive from the Stan State campus and this time of year the area is prime for seeing native wildlife and enjoying the refreshing water!

Donnelly Park 

If you don’t want to venture out of Turlock, have no fear! Donnelly Park is the perfect outdoor spot whether you want to picnic, play frisbee, or even just relax. As mentioned on the City of Turlock website, “This 40-acre site includes a 10-acre man made storm basin, and offers two large playground areas, two restroom facilities, a half-court basketball area, several large open spaces for play, 14 rentable picnic areas (Labeled A-N) with three of them being covered areas, and 17 individual picnic areas with barbeques labeled with numbers.” With all of these amenities, there is surely something for everyone at Donnelly Park!

Much of the past year has been spent inside our own homes. With all the natural beauty surrounding our community, don't hesitate to get out and enjoy the beautiful scenery and refreshing weather this Spring Break! You won't regret it!

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