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Hiking from Sky Harbor along Millerton Lake

Lupine really really showing off their dramatic purple long plumes of flowers but they weren’t the only wildflowers I saw as I hiked along Millerton Lake.

Where: Millerton Lake State Recreation Area, San Joaquin River Gorge Special Management Area, Bureau of Land Management
Distance: 6 Miles, but you can go shorter or longer
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Elevation Range: 575′ – 1,413′
Date: March 31, 2017
Maps: Millerton Lake East Topog
Dog Hike? Dogs not allowed on Millerton Lake Recreation Area trails but are on the other jurisdictional areas.

I drove out Friant Road past the entrance to Millerton Lake State Recreation Area and just before Table Mountain Casino, I turned left on Sky Harbor Road. I drove all the way to the end of the road and parked along side the road. I walked up toward the day use parking area, following a trail that skirted the metal drive through gate, which was closed. If you walk through the day use area, there is a restroom and note that there is a $10 day use fee for this Day Use Area.

As soon as I reached the trail, there were several signs that said that dogs were not allowed on the park trails. More about this issue at the end of the blog.

Last week I had hiked the San Joaquin River Trail from the east side, starting at the Ya-Gub-Weh-Tuh Trailhead and on today’s hike, I started from the opposite end and west side of the trail that starts at Millerton Lake State Recreation Area, connecting to the San Joaquin River Trail. I sure wasn’t going to do the entire 12.7 miles (and back) but wondered how far I would get as I walked through the gate up the trail.

Baby Blue Eyes lined the trail, along with a beautiful display of other wildflowers.

And so did poison oak in a few spots.

I climbed to a high point to check out the view.

Then I headed cross country to another high knob to see what the view looked like from there.

And what cow doesn’t appreciate a good view?

And of course with those cows and that green grass, came a few trail hazards that you had to keep your eyes on. I think some of them were quite artistic.

I headed back toward the trail and couldn’t help but admire the lupine along the way.

The fiddleneck were already starting to seed out.

The poppies were looking nice.

There was such a beautiful display of flowers around every bend of the trail.

In some areas, the colors were all jumbled up.

In some spots, they were of just one type of wildflower such as these baby blue eyes.

Some parts of the trail just had yellow wildflowers.

Some wildflowers had bugs.

And some blooms like this lupine provided the perfect frame for the view.

I think this hike is perfect in early spring and if you can hit the wildflowers just right, you are in for a treat. It is not a hike that I would like to do on a warm day though. There are many exposed areas and those south facing slopes can get darn hot. Also, this area dries out sooner than the gorge part of the trail and the flower display doesn’t last as long into the season. No matter the weather, don’t forget to bring your water with you because you are a long ways away from good water sources. Be advised this area has rattlesnakes and once the weather warms up, they will be out.

Dog Hike? Not on Park Trails within Millerton Lake State Recreation Area

The first part of this trail goes through the Millerton Lake State Recreation Area where dogs are not allowed on the trails. There is a smidge under 2 miles of the first part of the trail in this jurisdiction but some people chose to disregard the signs. I asked several people with dogs on the trail if dogs were allowed on this trail and they said yes. I had seen the sign at the trailhead that said no dogs were allowed yet so many people told me the exact opposite so I figured that I needed to ask Millerton Lake State Recreation Area what the rules were. Sure enough, the sign is correct. No dogs allowed on the trail.

There are other options to get on the San Joaquin River Trail outside of the Recreation Area. You can enter this area from many places off of Sky Harbor Road lower down the road. You will see many pullouts where vehicles have parked and this can also allow you to get your dog to the San Joaquin River Trail without going through the State Recreation Area. You can also enter it from other areas to the east such as Ya-Gub-Weh-Tuh Trailhead (link from my last hike there at the bottom) or Wellbarn Road.

Dogs are allowed in certain areas within Millerton Lake State Recreation Area on leash and under control such as park campgrounds, picnic areas and parking lots.

Map and Profile:

Sky Harbor Doarama

Sky Harbor Topographic Map

Sky Harbor Profile


Millerton Lake State Recreation Area

Goals and Objectives of the Millerton Area Watershed Assessment

BLM San Joaquin River Gorge Special Recreation Management Area

Prior Blogs in the Area:

Hiking with the Cows along the San Joaquin River Gorge March 23, 2017

Hiking the San Joaquin River Trail March 31, 2016

Hiking the Pa’san Ridge Trail February 21, 2016

San Joaquin River Gorge Hike April 17, 2014

San Joaquin River Gorge Basin April 13, 2014

San Joaquin River Gorge Hike April 6, 2013

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