Caswell Memorial State Park
Oak Forest Trail
1 mile or so round trip, plus optional longer walks
Before the San Joaquin Valley was cleared for cultivation, it was dotted with hardwood forests. Most of these woodlands have vanished, but at Caswell Memorial State Park, a remnant oak forest is preserved, a reminder of how the great valley appeared in days gone by.
Along the Stanislaus River banks is a thriving grove of valley oaks. Some splendid specimens stand 60 feet high and are 17 feet around.
Most visitors come to Caswell for the bass (striped, largemouth and smallmouth) ﬁshing. The park’s beach and swimming areas are popular on summer days.
The park also offers an opportunity to exit busy highways 99 and I-5 and stretch your legs. Walkers will ﬁnd a historical plaque commemorating Indian leader Estanislaos (Stanislaus River and County namesake) who, in 1829, won a skirmish or two against a band of Mexican soldiers, before the full weight of the Mexican army crushed his insurrection.
Spring and fall are the most comfortable times to meander Oak Forest Nature Trail through stands of valley oak, then along the Stanislaus River. Heed all warning signs and stay well away from the nesting birds.
The nature trail once was an interpreted path, but isn’t any longer. Instead, the walker will ﬁnd a path that loop the loops through tangles of wild grape and blackberry bushes on the banks of the Stanislaus. Rangers conduct nature walks on Saturday mornings during the summer months.
The hiking is strictly improvisational; loop as long as you wish (you could actually get a few miles of hiking along the river and through the woods) before returning to the parking area or the park’s swimming beach.
Directions to trailhead: From Highway 99, some 10 miles north of Modesto, take the Ripon exit. Follow West Main Street through the little town, then past kiwi groves and produce stands to Austin Road. Turn left and travel 2.5 miles to the park. The trail departs from the park’s day use area.
© 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 www.thetrailmaster.com.