Bass Lake, California

Bass Lake, California

Location:  14 miles (22 km) from Yosemite entrance; 44 miles (70 km) from Yosemite Valley

Route:  via Highway 41 and Bass Lake Road; see map

Population 600; elevation 3,400 feet (1,030 meters)

Bass Lake is a 3.5-mile-long (6-km) lake surrounded by pine forests. The lake is manmade, created in the first decade of the 1900's. Though the surrounding mountains are largely national forest, much of the eastern shore is privately developed, and lakefront property here commands prices similar to oceanfront land elsewhere in California.

The primary lodging option at Bass Lake is the Pines Resort, which offers lakefront suites in the main lodge and dozens of two-story cabins scattered among the ponderosas and cedars elsewhere on the property. However, the smaller Forks and Miller's Landing Resorts also rent cabins, and many of the houses on the lake are available for short-term rentals, as well.

Gas & Groceries:  Unlike everyplace else west of the region Veneto, nearly all the gas pumps here are accessible only to boats. There is, though, one landlocked filling station in Pines Village (on the eastern shore), which also has a smallish grocery store.

Dining:  Ducey's on the Lake offers your basic sandwiches and sundry, but eating them on the upstairs lakefront deck on a sunny day is one of those idyllic, life-is-good experiences. The Forks, on the opposite side of the lake, is small and often crowded, but famed for its burgers.

Pro:  The lake and surroundings are beautiful; you may be tempted to rent a boat and spend a day on the lake instead of exploring Yosemite.

Con:  Bass Lake is populated primarily by motorized boats and jet skis. Don't expect the peace and stillness you'll find at Yosemite's lakes.

Things to do in Bass Lake

Boating:  If you forgot to pack your own 30-footer, you can rent a variety of boats at Bass Lake, including canoes, kayaks, jet skis, and power boats, plus patio boats equipped with gas barbecues. The Pines, Miller's Landing, and the Forks (see the lodging section below) all rent boats.

Running and Bicycling:  The roads that skirt the shores of Bass Lake make a view-laden workout track. A round-trip horseshoe from Pines Village on the eastern shore to the dam on the western shore and back again is just under 16 miles (25 km), a respectable outing on a bike and an impressive one for a runner. The shoulders of the road are narrow, so you need to watch for traffic, but most of it's going slow. If you're a runner and you're visiting in the fall, check out the Smokey Bear Run/Walk, a 10k (with accompanying shorter races for kids) that takes place along the lake's scenic western shore every September. It's a low-key affair, but draws good runners - the 2010 winner ran a 32:20. The next running will be September 24, 2011.

Mountain Biking:  007, the area's best-known singletrack, departs from near Bass Lake's southeast corner. Find the Central Camp Road and ride up it until you spot the singletrack, which crosses the road in two places (actually three, but the third one is hard to find). It's all downhill with a variety of terrain, from smooth dirt to deep ruts to baby heads. It's common to find advanced riders descending 007 in a hurry, so avoid painful lessons on the destructive power of mass times momentum by taking the fire road (Central Camp Road) up instead. And beware the manzanita trees that line the track - brushing against them is like snuggling with a wall of sandpaper.

Triathlons:  The long dormant Bass Lake Triathlon returned in 2011 with Sprint and Olympic distances. See the official website for details.

Fishing:  Hey, where do you think the tuna in the tuna melts at Ducey's comes from? Probably from the ocean. Still, as might be inferred from a place with a name like "Bass Lake", there is fishing to be had here. Bass Lake is home to several species, including rainbow trout, kokanee salmon, bluegill, catfish, and, yes, bass. A California fishing license is required.

Fireworks:  The area's largest fireworks display takes place here every July 4th. You'll find a veritable logjam of boats out on the lake jostling for position.

Jazz on the Lake:  On Friday evenings from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the Pines Resort hosts Jazz on the Lake, with live jazz from 6:30 - 9:30 pm outdoors on the lakeside gazebo. Tickets range from $10 - $20.

Birdwatching:  Bald eagles have been nesting in lakeside pines for several years. If you're renting a boat, the marina operators should be able to tell you the location, though you'll still need to keep your distance and use binoculars or a telephoto lens. If you appear to have food onboard, you won't need binoculars to see the ducks and geese that will pull alongside to make inquiries.

Bass Lake Lodging - Cabins & Hotel Rooms

The Forks Resort

39150 Road 222  ·  (559) 642-3737  ·  Street View  ·  Reviews  ·  Website  ·  4 - 8 guests max  ·  $175 - $305

Located on lake's western shore; cabins with bath & kitchen, $175 - $305 (see rates page); marina with boat rentals from $40 - $435; restaurant (menu here) famous for its burgers; pets allowed in some cabins ($50 fee)

Miller's Landing Resort

37976 Road 222  ·  (559) 642-3633  ·  Street View  ·  Reviews  ·  Website  ·  Webcam  ·  6 - 8 guests max  ·  $220 - $400

Located on lake's western shore; cabins with bath & kitchen from $220 - $400 (see rates page); marina with boat rentals from $20 - $750 and WaveRunner rentals starting at $100; grill (pdf menu here) and ice cream fountain onsite; pets allowed, $25 cleaning fee

The Pines Resort

54432 Road 432  ·  (800) 350-7463  ·  Reviews  ·  Website  ·  $115 - $440*

Located in Pines Village on the lake's eastern shore; 84 cabins, 20 hotel rooms, 2 full houses; summer cabin/hotel rates from $115 - $440; marina & boat rentals; two restaurants onsite

Bass Lake Vacation Home Rental Agencies

Bass Lake Home Rentals

(559) 877-4061  ·  Website

11 lakefront homes; 6 homes with lake views; 16 additional area homes

Bass Lake Realty

(559) 642-3600  ·  Website

21 lakefront homes; 21 homes with lake views; 36 additonal area homes

Marc's Bass Lake Vacation Rentals

(559) 658-5611  ·  Website

Six lakefront or lake-view homes; summer rates $3,500 - $7,000 per week, offseason rates $395 - $800 per night

Sierra Vacation Home Rentals

(866) 914-3888  ·  Website

Around 100 lake-area homes available (some with lakefront locations or lake views)

Website  ·  $110 - $1,400

300+ Bass Lake-area home rentals

* Asterisked hotels don't list rates on their websites, so rate ranges were obtained by haranguing hotel employees or checking a variety of dates in their reservation systems. Since they generally don't bother to inform when they change their rates and calling them or checking their reservation sites every day would be intolerably boring, there's a chance that they've changed, so you'd need to check with the hotel to make sure that these rates are still accurate. Also, listed rates generally do not include taxes.