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San Joaquin River Gorge Recreation Area

Address: Auberry, CA
Phone: (559) 855-3492
Website: https://www.recreation.gov/recreationalA...

San Joaquin River Gorge Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA) website.


The site is located approximately five (5) miles northwest of the town of Auberry, California in the scenic San Joaquin River Gorge. The visitor center is located at 40060 Smalley Road, Auberry, California. 

This scenic area straddles the San Joaquin River just upstream from Millerton Lake State Park Recreation Area and includes lands in Fresno and Madera Counties. The management area is bounded by Kerckhoff Reservoir and the Sierra National Forest on the eastern boundary. Hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders who use the San Joaquin River Gorge trails have access to several thousand acres of public land.


The Gorge is about two miles northwest of the town of Auberry and is accessed by Smalley Road, off Power House Road, north of Auberry. The trail head and parking lot are on the Fresno County side of the San Joaquin River, about 6 miles downhill on Smalley Road from the entrance at Powerhouse Road. The trail leads to BLM's trail bridge which crosses the San Joaquin River. It may be used by hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders. The Bridge allows recreation users to cross the river and explore the Madera County side of the Management Area.  The Madera County side contains the Pa’san Ridge Trail and the Wuh-ki’o Trail and has a combined length of ten miles.


The Dumna and Kechayi Native Americans people once occupied the Management Area and surrounding lands. It is from their language that we derive the names of the trails contained within the Management Area. The Pa'san Ridge Trail (pa'san translates to pine nut) is a six-mile loop trail. This trail takes one into the chaparral clothed uplands where they will encounter mountain lilac (ceanothus), manzanita, mountain mahogany, and many other shrubs and wildflowers.

The Wuh-ki'o Trail (Wuh-ki'o is the Dumna/Kechayi term for the San Joaquin River) starts from off the west side of the loop on the Pa'san Ridge Trail. About four miles long, it connects with Millerton Lake State Recreation Area on the Madera County side of the reservoir. The trail follows along the river and leads the traveler through oak woodlands with their mixture of foothill pines, shrubs and numerous wildflowers.

On the Fresno County side of the Management Area is a portion of the San Joaquin River Trail (SJRT).  Access to the SJRT is across the road from the SJRG's Trail Head Campground.

The San Joaquin River Trail Bridge at Big Sandy Creek, within the Millerton Lake State Recreation Area has been installed and is open for use. This bridge links the San Joaquin River Gorge trail system to the State Parks’ trail system. From the BLM trailhead to Sky Harbor is approximately 14 trail miles. Most trail users prefer to drop a vehicle at Sky Harbor, drive to the BLM trailhead and ride/hike down the trail back to Sky Harbor. This way, the hike is mostly downhill. When completed the San Joaquin River Trail will connect Highway 99 to the Pacific Crest Trail near the Devils Postpile National Monument. Portions of the trail cover prehistoric trade routes of the Mono Indians.

During the spring, the wildflowers are spectacular and usually bloom from March to May.

There is a wide range of wildlife present throughout the San Joaquin River Gorge area which can be enjoyed by the sportsman and the naturalist. The list of species includes the California mule deer, California quail, band-tailed pigeons, waterfowl, Audubon cottontail rabbit, gray squirrel, and mourning dove. The area is open to the hunting of game species only. Target shooting is prohibited.

In the spring and early summer, when Millerton Lake is nearly full, anglers can catch catfish and striped bass from the shoreline. But note that there is no vehicle access to the upper end of Millerton Reservoir in this area. You have to hike in on somewhat primitive trails which are steep and slippery in places.

Visitor Activities:

Fishing, Hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, camping, mountain biking, swimming and nature study. 

Note: the San Joaquin River Gorge Management Area is open to the public year round, however, because of hot summers, visitors will find it to be most enjoyable during fall, winter and spring seasons.

Educational Opportunities:

The San Joaquin River Gorge is a "Hands on the Land" and "Project Archaeology" program site, offering a variety of hands-on, interactive natural and cultural resource education programs that are correlated with state standards, from grades K-12. Reservations are required for these programs and it is recommended that you call several weeks in advance as these programs fill quickly. Programs can be customized to the group's needs, and range from guided nature walks and environmental exploration to simulated archeological digs, and cultural programs such as acorn processing, atl atl, Native American basketry, games and stories. Geology, historical Gold Rush and General Land Office programs are also offered. Call the Gorge office at 559-855-3492 for more information.

Permits, Fees, Limitations:

Beginning February 1, 2012 the following fee schedule applies to visitors in the San Joaquin River Gorge Special Recreation Management Area.

Fee Schedule

Day Use (per vehicle)$5

Annual Pass$25

Individual Campsite$10

Double/Triple Campsite$15

Equestrian Campsite*$25

Group Campground*$175

Interpretive/Educational Programs*$10

*Some organized group activities may require a Special Recreation Permit (SRP) in addition to the above fees. Furthermore, all competitive and commercial activities (including vending) will continue to require an SRP. For more information please contact the Outdoor Recreation Planner at the address listed at the bottom of this page.

Note: all trails are closed to motorized use. No off-highway vehicle travel is permitted within the management area.


Restrooms and campsites are fully accessible. Please call for further information regarding accessibility.

Camping and Lodging Facilities:

There are two campgrounds available. One is a Group camp with two (2) walk-in tent sites, which can accommodate up to 300 people. The other campground is located at the trail head and has six (6) walk-in tent sites, with a maximum of 8 people per site; double and triple sites are also available. However, each campground has accessible campsites which are reached via a primitive hardened path, located a short distance from the paved parking areas.

There is a large paved parking lot which can accommodate large trailers or motor homes. Drinking water is available at the campsites.

Corrals for equestrian users are also available. The corrals are very popular so you may want to call the Gorge office at 559-855-3492 for availability information.

Food and Supplies:

Food and supplies are available in Auberry. Drinking water is available at campsites. We recommend you bring your own firewood.

First Aid:

Nearest medical facility is located in the town of Clovis approximately a one hour drive from San Joaquin River Gorge. 

Additional Information:

Target shooting is prohibited within the San Joaquin River Gorge Management Area. Hunting of game species only is allowed in accordance with the regulations of the California Department of Fish & Game.

All trails are shared by hikers, equestrian and mountain bike users with heaviest use occurring on weekends. 

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