I felt like taking a little break from the treadmill routine for my daily cardio exercise and headed over to Ahwahnee Hills Regional Park. The day after some rain had the morning smelling so fresh, clean and fall-like for this hike. Although I walked a little over five-and-a-half miles, you can do more or less and over flatter or hillier ground, your choice!
Where: Ahwahnee Hills Regional Park
Distance: 5.69 Miles (more or less, depending on how far you wish to go)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Elevation Range: 2,278’– 2,603′
Date: September 9, 2014
Map: Ahwahnee Topographic Quad
If you don’t have time for a trip up to Yosemite and still want to get out and enjoy nature, you sure don’t have to go far to get your fix in our own backyard at Ahwahnee Hills regional Park.
The Ahwahnee Hills Regional Park offers up 5 miles of walking or hiking trails, 2 miles of equestrian trails, picnic areas, restrooms, interpretive and study centers on 241 acres. Dogs are welcome, on leash, but I left Sally home for this adventure.
Entrance to the park is free for individuals, but a fee is required to reserve space or conduct events. Their website says that when staffing levels permit, the park will be open daily from 8:00 a.m. until dusk Wednesday through Sunday, with pedestrian access Mondays and Tuesdays via the Wasuma gate. A park host will be in residence or volunteer docents will be on duty at most times when the park is open to the public. I suggest that you check their website here (http://www.ahwahneepark.org/index.html ) for more specific and up to date information. Directions to the park, along with maps of the trails are located on the website.
The park land is owned by Madera County, but the day-to-day operation, maintenance, and improvements are the responsibility of the Friends of Ahwahnee Hills Regional Park, a non-profit organization formed for this purpose. They have done an amazing job on the trails and park. The Friends is an all-volunteer group and they count on your donation of time or money to help this park going.
Their website also is full of information on the history of the land that the park is on, along with some wonderful historical pictures. They shared that the name Ahwahnee is an Indian word meaning “deep grassy valley.” Did you know that in 1851, a force of 74 Anglo miners under the command of Captain James Burney, Sheriff of Mariposa County, fought a battle with the Miwok Indians on or near the park? Lt. Skeane died from his wound received in the battle and was buried in what is now the park. In 1970 his body was moved to Oakhill Cemetery in Oakhurst. To learn more about how Skeane met his death and how Dick Tillinson lost half of his nose, here is a link to a 1928 description of what led up to this battle and the aftermath. http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/california_rangers/indian_skirmish.html
This property has had quite the history. The local Native American history, homesteading in 1882, the Ahwahnee Tavern Stage Stop (1893 – 1913), Tri-County Tuberculosis Sanatorium (1918 – 1969), and the Ahwahnee Hills School for Boys (1969 – 1985) are just some of the recent historical events that the Park has captured in their historical information.
I headed down the paths, wandering on the different loops, keeping an eye out for rattlesnakes because they are there and they are out right now. I didn’t see any but I would bet big money that they saw me!
I checked out the restrooms, which were immaculate! There are several of them located throughout the park and along the trails.
I hiked up to the Viewpoint, which had the most elevational gain of any of the trails.
I even spotted a few brightly colored late summer wildflowers alongside the trail.
I did a few passes by the lake but you could also just sit on this bench and watch the action. I didn’t see the resident beaver on this day but I did see quite a bit of duck activity and those turtles made quite a splash! Please note that you can park not too far from this bench at the lake and take the wheelchair accessible path to it from that parking area.
I only saw two men with their dog on my 2 hours that I spent today. Although I went on a Tuesday, the main gate was open due to the work that the construction crew was doing. While I was walking, I remembered an article that Tony Krizan had written for the Sierra Star on the park and have included a link for you to read about the adventure that he took. Come on out and enjoy our new park!
The Last of the California Rangers (1928) by Jill L. Cossley-Batt