Motivated by pent-up wanderlust last April, I booked a campsite at a place we’d never been, Dinkey Creek Campground. Logging into some trusty camping sites, I searched for a campground that was a 3-4 hour drive from home with a range of swimming options for the kids. The idea of Dinkey Creek Camping fit the bill with two swimming holes, a lake, the namesake creek, and a sequoia grove all nearby.
Shortly before our trip, John’s parents and our nephew decided to join in the fun. We agreed that wearing masks while together outdoors was worthwhile if it meant finally having a safe way to connect this year. It was wonderful to have family join in on our latest adventure.
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DINKEY CREEK CAMPING BASICS
The Dinkey Creek Campground is 12 miles east of Shaver Lake in the Sierra National Forest with campsites that follow along the namesake creek. You can’t see the creek from its 122 campsites, but by our third day, we found a quiet trail leading directly to the creek next to our site and imagine that there are many more.
Dinkey Creek itself has two swimming holes and is a popular location for fishing and hiking. Single sites are $34 per night for 6 people. Each campsite has a picnic table and campfire ring with a small grill. There are no food storage lockers.
Our overall impression was that it is a popular, fun, family-friendly destination with a lot of good outdoor recreation options nearby. However, it felt a bit too crowded for our family, compounded by the number of trees being removed due to bark beetle damage. On a return trip, we’d book one of the hike-in sites E48 and E50, which require carrying your gear a bit further into the site but are removed from the crowds.
OUR TOP THREE DINKEY CREEK CAMPING EXPERIENCES
SPENDING THE DAY AT SHAVER LAKE
We spent the bulk of day two at Shaver Lake, where we found a little cove with calm water all to ourselves. With their new fishing poles, a fish float, and their sand toys, the boys could have played there all day. Shaver Lake beachfront is hard to find without knowing where to go. We followed local advice and paid $10 for a day pass at Sierra Marina. You then access the beach from Roads 1, 2, or 3. We chose Road 3, which involved some off-roading on our way to the beachfront! All part of the adventure. Oh, and while we loved this quiet little stretch of lakefront, the beach has no bathrooms or amenities.
EXPLORING THE TRAIL FROM OUR CAMPSITE TO THE CREEK
A visit to Honeymoon Pool is worthwhile, but we preferred the quiet stretch of creek that we found by following an unmarked path next to our campsite (E53). Following this unmarked path felt like a big adventure, especially for my 11-year-old nephew who was on his first camping trip in the forest. It also showed all the boys a new side of their abuelita, who forged ahead with just as much enthusiasm as the kids. The tranquil stretch of creek that we found at the end of the trail was a perfect reward for our exploits and a reminder of the simple joys of a family campout.
MCKINLEY GROVE OF GIANT SEQUOIAS
McKinley Grove is located just 6 miles down the road from the Dinkey Creek Campground. It’s a small but impressive grove of giant sequoia trees, with a 1/4 mile path through the largest trees in the grove. The boys had heard of sequoias but had never seen them up close, so this was an awe-inspiring experience for them. And to be honest, the grown-ups expressed their fair share of oohs and aahs too!
DAY BY DAY: OUR 3-DAY DINKEY CREEK CAMPING TRIP
DAY 1: HONEYMOON POOL AND S’MORES
We arrived at Dinkey Creek Campground around noon to discover the rest of the party stretching out by the General Store. The last part of the drive to the campground is a very winding road, and both Bug and our nephew had experienced their first bouts of motion sickness. Though it was only noon, we were allowed to take a quick drive in to see if our site was open, which it was. Phew! Time to set up camp.
After lunch, we decided to take a walk to the Honeymoon Pool swimming hole. The walk was about a mile at a slight incline, pretty easy for everyone except for 3-year-old Bug who wanted to be carried for half of the walk. Honeymoon Pool is a pretty cool destination, but the little kids had some difficulty navigating the slick granite. We awkwardly clambered to a corner where we could hang out for a while, but it was also more crowded than we anticipated. We filed this one under the “would be a lot of fun in a few years” file.
Back at the campground, we enjoyed John’s parents’ carne asada dinner. The day ended as every campout should, with s’mores.
DAY 2: SHAVER LAKE AND SEQUOIA GROVES
After enjoying delicious campfire breakfast burritos, we headed out to Shaver Lake. We were told to go to the Sierra Marina lot and pay for day use ($10). Turnoffs from that day use road are labeled 1, 2, and 3. Feeling like we somehow landed on the lakefront version of “Let’s Make a Deal,” we chose road 3. Shortly after, the pavement ended and we found ourselves off-roading toward the water! A few minutes later, we finally arrived at a side cove, popped up the Easy Up, and pulled out the lake toys. Many visitors rent boats, but on this visit, we were content to spend the day relaxing.
After the beach, we drove to McKinley Grove. Gawking at these giant trees woke us from our post-beach sleepiness. It’s only a 0.25-mile path, but what a great little hidden gem for those camping in the area!
When we finally returned to the campsite, my mother-in-law still wanted to explore, so we took the boys out into the forest for a wander. The kids had so much fun simply exploring without a pre-planned destination (something that’s usually hard for me to do!). Landing at the creek in the stillness of the evening was a simple, but somehow magical, end to the day.
DAY 3: EXPLORING DINKEY CREEK
Though it was tempting to get started on our long drives home after cleaning up the campsite, we decided to take one more walk together on the path to Dinkey Creek. Now that we knew where we were going, we found the path more easily. There was one other family fishing when we arrived, but still plenty of space for everyone to explore. All the boys had fun doing some rock scrambling and spying on fish in the cool clear water.
As we walked back to the cars, we agreed that we’d definitely stay in the more remote sites E48 and E50 on a return trip, even if it meant some extra setup and clean-up work. I’d also heard good things about the sites in the J and K Loops north of Honeymoon Pool, but we never made it there to check it out for ourselves. The loops are much smaller than the E, F, G, and H loops, so I can imagine that they’d have a more private feel.
After our morning at the creek, we said “goodbye-for-now” to Dinkey Creek camping. It was a short but full trip, and I hope we make it back again … but maybe on an off-season next time!