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Directions: From eastbound U.S. 50, exit at Sly Park Rd. Turn right and go for about 5 miles past the entrance for Sly Park Recreation Area, then turn left on Mormon Emigrant Trail. You’ll cross two dams and immediately after the second, look for a parking pullout on the right. The trail begins on the left side of the road.
About 8 miles round-trip
Moderate because of distance
The big question at Jenkinson Lake in Pollock Pines is whether to channel your inner Magellan and circumnavigate the reservoir, or opt for the more natural experience of an up-and-back hike along the Southshore Trail. Here’s a suggestion: Unless you’re a fiend for loops, stick to the south shore. The trail begins inauspiciously along a fence just past the second dam. Soon, however, you leave road and fence behind and the trail edges the shoreline. Set at 3,500 feet, the trail is flat overall but gently roller coasters as it travels through the forests of ponderosa pine, Douglas fir and incense cedar that give the hike its high country flavor (and aroma). There’s a parallel route for equestrians and sections for mountain bikers, whom you’ll also see on portions of the hiking path. The lake noticeably narrows, then you’ll hear cascading water before crossing Park Creek Bridge about three miles from the start. A side trail (potentially muddy and wet depending on recent weather) leads to a picturesque waterfall that flows from a diversion tunnel. Back on the main trail, you’ll reach an ideal turnaround point in about a mile. Hazel Creek Camp offers picnic tables and a boardwalk trail over a restored meadow habitat, where interpretive panels point out bat boxes (there are five species here) and a bald eagle nest. Beyond Hazel Creek, the trail becomes more urbanized and follows sections of road as it winds through numerous campgrounds. So just turn around. Look for black-tailed deer in the forests and scan the sky for eagles. And remember, Magellan never made it around the world. He got whacked in the Philippines. jenkinsonlake.com —M.J.