- Melones Lake is a 186-mile-long Sierra foothills lake offering a relaxing getaway spot
- The lake is not far west of Yosemite National Park
- Boating and water skiing on the lake are very popular
- There are hundreds of camping sites around New Melones Lake
- Fish for bass, trout, catfish and perch
New Melones Lake is the fourth largest manmade lake in the state of California, and there are many who have not yet discovered its beauty and recreation opportunities, making it an un-crowded paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. It’s a fairly short drive from Yosemite National Park and is a wonderful place to settle down for a few days to enjoy all this lake has to offer.
Location & Information
To get to New Melones Lake from Yosemite, you take California Highway 120 and get on Highway 49, which takes you right to the lake.
The New Melones Reservoir is accessible 24 hours a day. There is an entrance gate, however, and it does close at night to help prevent vandalism. Although you can exit at any time, you will need to call for the times the entrance closes if you plan on arriving later in the day.
New Melones Visitor’s Center and Information
- Boating and Water Skiing
With over 100 miles of shoreline to explore, there’s nothing like boating around New Melones Lake. The water is smooth as glass for excellent water skiing, and there is also a slalom ski course to try out. One marina offers services and you’ll find several boat launching sites.
Melones Lake fishing is perfect the year round. Anglers can catch bass, trout, catfish and perch. Two to seven pound rainbow are common. Kokanee salmon also thrive in this lake.
- Hiking and Mountain Biking
Close to the Glory Hole Recreation Area and the marina, you’ll find some challenging trails for both hiking and mountain biking.
- Wildlife Viewing
Hundreds of species of wildlife frequent the area. You may catch sight of fox, deer, beaver, raccoon and many more. Bald eagles will be flying around in late winter and in the spring. Shore birds will be seen as they fish for dinner, and you will see turtles sunning themselves.
There are hundreds of campsites on the lake, so New Melones Lake camping is convenient and easy. Reservations are easy to make, and prices are reasonable. There are picnic tables, barbecues, campfire rings and showers. RV campers will find accommodations at Glory Hole Recreation Area.
- Stop by the Visitor Center
The Visitor Center and Museum has exhibits that contain information about much of the local history as well as cultural and natural history. See how the prehistoric people used the Stanislaus River for their survival.
In 1944, the New Melones Project was begun, to create a large reservoir for a new hydroelectric plant. Many opposed the dam, saying it would result in natural features being destroyed. But the project won out and the dam was built. The valley filled with water after the construction of the dam, and the mining town of New Melones and the original dam are now 200 feet under the lake.