Nestled among cedars and pines at 3,415-feet elevation, Bass Lake is a charming getaway in California’s Sierra National Forest. With a variety of outdoor adventures, water sports, boat rentals, and accommodations, Bass Lake has a lot to offer people who visit Yosemite Madera County. In addition, it’s only 17 miles to the south entrance to Yosemite National Park, a top destination in the United States. With such close proximity to Yosemite, Bass Lake is also an ideal home-base for exploring the park.
While researching dog-friendly accommodations in the Yosemite National Park area, my husband and I decided to stay at the Pines Resort in Bass Lake. Rated among the west’s best lakes, Bass Lake is situated in the Sierra National Forest, and is 17 miles from the park’s south gate. Open year-round, the lakeside resort is dog-friendly and a stone’s throw to Yosemite National Park. We had a great time when we stayed there a few years ago with our three kids and my husband and I had a great time on this visit when we stayed there with our dog.
From our home in Los Angeles County, it was about a 3.5-hour drive to the Oakhurst Visitor Center. There, we stopped for maps and tips from friendly (and masked) staff for things to do with dogs in Yosemite National Park. The center also provides information about public, private and specialty guided tours, such as rock climbing, hiking, horseback riding, fishing, and more. These are helpful for people who don’t have a permit or reservations for Yosemite but would like to visit the park.
About The Pines Resort in Bass Lake
From the Oakhurst Visitor Center it’s about a seven-mile drive to Bass Lake. We arrived at noon to the family-owned Pines Resort, which has lakeside suites, chalets, and rental cabins. Seasonal events (fairs and farmers markets) take place at the onsite Pines Village, which has a well-stocked market and gift shops. The resort also has a full-service marina, pool, and two restaurants – Ducey’s on the Lake, and Ducey’s Bar & Grill. In addition, there’s seasonal live music by the lake.
Because of COVID-19, check-in takes place outside the lobby. A sign notifies guests about safety precautions, such as wearing face coverings, observing physical distancing, etc. We arrived before the 4 p.m. check-in time so our chalet wasn’t ready. We had the option to lounge by the pool while our chalet was being cleaned. However, we decided to drive around the lake (about five miles long) to find a picnic spot and take a short hike.
Way of the Mono Trail
There are several trails in Bass Lake that showcase the beauty of the Sierra Nevada. Since it was our first day there, and we were traveling with our dog, Maya, we opted for the short Way of the Mono hike.
The trailhead is located across from the Little Denver Church Day Use Area at Road 222. The 0.6 mile long interpretive loop trail offers a spectacular vista point to view the lake and mountains. Signs along the trail describe who the Mono people were and how they lived.
Though it’s an easy hike, the path meanders over rocks at times. Soon, we were back to our car. Driving back toward the Pines Resort, we saw the trailhead for Willow Creek and Angeles Falls hike, a popular trail that leads to a waterfall. We’ll try that next time.
TravelingMom Tip: If you do this hike, when you get to a fork in the trail turn left to continue the loop back to the parking lot.
Swimming in Bass Lake
The nearly five-mile long lake was a comfortable temperature for swimming when we visited in August 2020. Though the water was warm, it was devoid of algae bloom (which can be fatal to dogs). Small public beaches surround the lake, so you can find your own spot to enjoy the lake.
At The Pines Resort, there’s a private swim area. Although there’s not a sandy beach (at least, not during our visit), a few short steps lead down to the water. Maya entertained everyone with her swimming skills as other dog owners tried to coax their pups in the water. The Pines Resort also has an area with lounge chairs and a swimming pool overlooking the lake.
TravelingMom Tip: If you venture around the lake to find a sandy swim beach in a cove, get an early start. People claim their spots in the morning.
Bass Lake Water sports
Water sports are popular in Bass Lake, and include jet skiing, water-skiing, kayaking, paddleboarding, canoeing, boat rentals, and tubing. In addition, anglers can cast their line for rainbow trout, brown trout and bass. When we visited with our kids, we rented a pontoon and tubes. The pontoon had a grill, so we had a BBQ while cruising the lake. The kids loved splashing along in tubes behind the boat.
If you want to enjoy the lake before the motorized water crafts rev up, go kayaking before 8 a.m. It’s a peaceful way to enjoy the lake and paddle to cozy coves. We rented kayaks from Miller’s Landing Resort located in a secluded area on the south shore.
Dining at Ducey’s
The resort’s two restaurants – Ducey’s on the Lake and Ducey’s Bar & Grill – serve delicious meals. During COVID-19, indoor-dining is not permitted. However, we bought take-out food from the restaurants and ate it on our chalet deck. There’s also an outdoor lakeside deck, which is a nice place to enjoy a Ducey Sunset drink while watching a sunset.
Ducey’s Bar & Grill features a more casual menu that includes sandwiches, burgers, and salads. Ducey’s on the Lake dinner entrees include steaks, chicken, pasta and seafood. Generous portions are served with a dinner salad or soup, and fresh baked bread with butter. We usually had a cocktail while waiting for our food, and then took our dinner back to our chalet.
Day Trips to Yosemite National Park
Although Bass Lake is a destination in itself, it’s fun to take a day trip to Yosemite National Park. A permit is required to enter the park, so don’t just show up. You can get a day-use permit and make lodging reservations to stay in the park at recreation.gov. But do so well in advance of your trip. Also, keep in mind that although the southern entrance of Yosemite National Park is just 17 miles from the lake, it’s about a 20-30 minute drive. From there, it’s at least another hour to the famous landmarks in Yosemite Valley.
TravelingMom Tip: Try to get an early start and know the sights you want to see before reaching the park.
What We Enjoyed about The Pines Resort
The lakeside location can’t be beat. Everything we needed, from groceries to a gas station, was within easy walking distance. The charming mountain resort’s Pines Village has gift shops and a market.
Although the two-story chalets are rustic, they’re comfortable and have many amenities. The chalets have kitchens, a living space, downstairs bedroom(s), and an upper outdoor deck with a BBQ grill and table.
Depending on the location, some chalets have lake views. During our stay, WiFi was spotty, but we were able to connect while near the lobby.
More Lodging Options
In addition to the Pines Resort, more lodging options include campsites, and cabins at the Forks Resort, and Miller’s Landing Resort.
Pros and Cons of Staying Outside Yosemite National Park
If the focus of your trip is Yosemite National Park, it might be easier to stay inside the park. That way you’ll do less driving. However, especially during COVID-19, it can be challenging to get a reservation. Campgrounds and hotels are not operating at full capacity. Also, while dogs are allowed in the park, there are restrictions where they can go.
Staying outside the park but near one of the entrances gives you more lodging options. Places like Bass Lake and Oakhurst are destinations in themselves, brimming with activities and various accommodations. Plus, they tend to be more dog friendly.