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Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park

South Nature Trail

0.5 to 1 mile round trip

The grinding rock-a 173-foot length of bedrock with 1,185 mortar cups is something to behold. If you let your imagination go a bit, you can conjure a whole village at work.

The Miwok gathered acorns when they ripened in autumn and stored them in large granaries. The acorns were cracked and shelled, then ground with stone pestles in the mortar holes, or chaw'se, into flour. The acorn meal was then cooked on hot rocks.

Evidence of the Miwok, whose ancestral territory centered on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, and ranged over to the San Francisco Bay area, has been discovered in numerous locales-and in such state parks as China Camp and Olompali-but here around the grinding rock, in the Sierra foothills, it’s easiest to imagine their way of life.

Miwok crafts are on display in the park's excellent Chaw'se Regional Indian Museum. On the grounds are replicas of the Miwok’s sturdy bark-houses and a roundhouse, a traditional ceremonial gathering spot of old as well as a meeting place for several different Native American groups today.

Directions to trailhead: From Highway 49 in Jackson, head east nine miles to the hamlet of Pine Grove. Turn left and travel 1.5 miles to Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park. There’s ample parking near the trailhead and museum-visitor center.

The hike: Two short trails explore the park. North Trail (one mile round trip) begins near the museum. It follows a low ridge and loops back to the reconstructed Miwok village. At the village, you can join South Nature Trail or return to the museum via a more direct route past the ceremonial roundhouse.

South Nature Trail (0.5 mile loop) is a self-guided interpretive path keyed to a park pamphlet. As you tour meadowland, oak woods, plus stands of sugar pine and ponderosa pine, you’ll learn how the Miwok collected and used the bountiful local vegetation.

© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author.  To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at