Having run around Pinecrest Lake on previous trips, I became determined to figure out how to run from Strawberry, up to the dam, around the lake and back. We asked around, looked at topo maps, etc. The Forest Service wasn’t much help – the trail head was about a mile from their office, but they didn’t know anything about the place. Talking to some locals helped; we were able to at least find the trail head.
Our first attempt was pretty much a disaster. We missed the initial turn and ran to the end of a logging road. While trying to figure out where to go next, an employee of the local water company drove up. He hadn’t ever been on the trail either (??!!) but called his office and told us we were in the wrong place. We went back down to the highway and up another trail that he assured us “went right to the base of the dam”. While it is possible that the trail did indeed get there 100 years ago, we spent a lot of time trying to find the trail as it went missing every couple of hundred yards. (Not naming names, but one of the people in the group was carrying a sharp stick and was sure we were going to be attacked by a mountain lion or possibly a bear at every turn) After quite a bit of cross-country hiking/running, we crossed the river and found the trail. We made it to the top of the dam and promptly turned around as we had blown through our allotted running time.
The second attempt was a success! We found the trail and had a great run. Our course was as follows:
- Drive to start: Hwy 108, turn at the Strawberry Inn. Follow the road (Herring Creek) until it dead-ends.
- Run approximately .25 miles, turning right at the first fork. Make sure to pay close attention as this is very easy to miss.
- Cross the creek (Herring Creek) next to the washed-out cement bridge.
- Look closely for the trail, and follow it to the base of the dam. Note the signs 20 feet off the ground that say something like “Listen for horns. If heard, immediately seek higher ground as there is a water release from the dam”. Not sure how high you need to climb if the horn blows (~1 mile)
- Head up the switchbacks to the dam. At the top, go left (yes, up more) and run counter-clockwise around the lake (~4 miles). Note that some stretches are tough to navigate; watch for sprained ankles.
- If desired, head over to the store and refuel when you get to the docks.
- Follow the trail over the dam and back down through the valley to the start. (~1 mile)
- As an add-on, you can continue on Old Strawberry Road (as shown below)
Start: Herring Creek Road, behind Strawberry Inn
Distance: 6.2 miles
Altitude: 5124 feet (min), 5933 feet (max)
Course: Very scenic, varying conditions
Support: No water, store at ~4.5 miles
Special Note: Listen for the horn!
The map from my Garmin is below: