Skip to Content

The Millerton Lake Road Trip Guide

If your travels take you through California this year, a pitstop at Millerton Lake is something you won’t regret.

This easily accessible lake surely has something for the whole family to enjoy. Take a look at what you’ll experience when you include Millerton Lake as a part of your vacation plans. 

Let’s jump in!

Where Is Millerton Lake? 

Millerton Lake is a human-made lake in Friant, California. Friant is a small town that sits approximately 15 miles north of Fresno.

The closest major city to Millerton Lake is Sacramento, around 2 hours and 45 minutes away, and San Franciso is about a three-hour drive. 

About Millerton Lake

Millerton Lake is a result of the 319-foot high Friant Dam on the San Joaquin River. The San Joaquin River, including Millerton Lake, serves as the county line between Fresno and Madera counties. The lake itself features about 40 miles of shoreline, making it an excellent area to explore.

The deepest part of the lake is 319 feet. 

And, no, that’s not a typo. Friant Dam is 319 feet high, and in fact, Millerton Lake is 319 feet deep. The numbers are just a strange coincidence.

Those that enjoy fishing and water recreation will enjoy their time at Millerton Lake. A day paddling around the lake in a kayak is certainly a day well spent. Visitors also have the option to hike the hills that surround the lake.

If you enjoy spending the day fishing or swimming, this area is great for that as well.

People who enjoy wildlife viewing won’t be disappointed here either! Many bald eagles call this area home. In fact, in the winter, there are even special bald eagle boating tours. Eagles aren’t the only popular animal sightings here, though. It’s common to spot mule deer and cottontail rabbits.  

Pro Tip: Here’s how you can easily get a fishing license at Walmart.

Is There a Town Under Millerton Lake?

Millerton thrived in the days of the gold rush, until 1868 when a flood devastated the area. Much of the town washed away, and by 1942 the courthouse was the only intact structure. However, the building was dismantled in 1942 before the dam was built.

Then, construction on the lake began in 1944, and locals thought they’d never see the town again. Though, during extreme droughts, remains from the town are often visible. 

Keep in mind: If you like ghost towns, here are the best ghost towns in California.

Best Hikes Near Millerton Lake 

Millerton Lake’s water activities are just the tip of the iceberg. Hiking is also a popular activity in the area, and the hilly terrain provides some exceptional views. Stretch your legs, and let’s see which hike is the best one for you.

Pincushion Peak

Pincushion Peak Trail is a 2.8-mile loop trail with an elevation gain of 994 feet. This trail is moderate in difficulty, and the best months to experience it are March and October. The climb to the top can get your heart pumping, but when you’ve made it to the top, you’ll be rewarded with amazing views of the lake. 

Hikers will love seeing many wildflowers in the spring on their hike to the top. So, this trail can be a popular choice. In other words, crowded. Those who prefer hiking alone should consider making the hike during the week. 

Blue Oak Trail

Coming in at 6.9 miles and an elevation gain of 291 feet, Blue Oak Trail is a great way to get a longer hike built into your day. While this trail is on the longer side for a day hike, it is rated for all skill levels. This is perfect for those wanting to hike for longer periods but can’t handle more technical hikes. This hike is available all year which is another reason to love this trail.

Hikers boast about the great lake views. Those who are up for this hike will enjoy lake views almost the entire hike. Bird watching is also a bonus for those who find themselves on the Blue Oak Trail. 

Best Campgrounds Near Millerton Lake 

Millerton Lake is a great place to spend the day, so why not extend your time there by camping. We’ve gathered a few great options for you to pitch a tent or park your RV. Take a look!

Millerton Lake State Recreation Area

Millerton Lake State Recreation Area has 135 campsites available. Of those, 26 have full hookups, making them great options for RVs. Each campsite comes with a table, food storage cabinet, and a fire ring. Bathhouses with toilets and showers are available to campers. However, the showers do have a fee. 

The boat ramp allows visitors to experience the lake fully. Bird watching is great on here, so be sure to grab a pair of binoculars before you head out onto the lake. Picnicking and a playground are also available to campers.   

Blackstone North RV Park

Blackstone North RV Park is an RV-only park, which means tent camping is not permitted. The 89 sites all offer full hook-ups with both 30 and 50 Amp electrical options. The sites range from 24 to 65 feet in length, ensuring there’s a site for you regardless of your RV’s size.

There’s a laundry facility available for campers to catch up on laundry. If you’re traveling with a pet, Blackstone North RV Park is pet-friendly as well. 

This RV park is in Fresno, providing many great food and entertainment options. There’s a bowling alley nearby that the park recommends, as well as a shopping center. This is a great place to stay on your way to Millerton Lake. 

Is a Millerton Lake Road Trip Worth It? 

Those that enjoy great hiking and water recreation will enjoy their trip to Millerton Lake. It’s an especially excellent spot to stop if you’re looking for a quiet place to relax on your way to or from Yosemite National Park. Those that enjoy bird watching will certainly find their trip here worth it too. 

Year-Round Enjoyment at Millerton Lake

There are many fabulous lakes in California, Millerton Lake being one of them. These lakes make cooling off on a hot summer day enjoyable, and exploring or wildlife-watching are excellent choices for the shoulder seasons. Will Millerton Lake make your travel list this year? 

Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA

To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).

You should give it a try!

As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers who love to score the best site! 

We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below:

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Mike K says:

    With the drought here in California I wonder what the lake level is at now?

  2. A bit says:

    We camped at millerton for years. Water was great for water skiing. Quit going when kids grew up. Many fond memories anita