Courtright and Wishon Reservoirs
(via Dinkey Creek)

Revised 1 Dec 2015 - please send updates to the webmaster

home See Driving Directions > Western Sierra > Fresno and Madera for context and how to get here.
north prev in Western Sierra: Kaiser Pass from Shaver Lake to Edison and Florence
south next in Western Sierra: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
info GPS waypoints: download GPX file
This file starts at Shaver Lake, and directs you to five trailheads by way of Dinkey Creek.

NOTE: In winter, the road is gated at the Dinkey Creek Bridge - you cannot drive across the creek, nor can you drive to the ranger station, but there is a plowed parking lot near the gate. From here, you can follow a number of logging or 4WD roads on skis or snowshoes. In spring, the road should be open to Red Top Meadow, a short walk to Courtright. In late spring, you can drive to the Wishon spillway. Even when the road is gated, it is plowed and sanded for PG&E to access their installation... suggesting that a mountain bike might get you much further!

Scroll down for an explanation of this area map: You are driving southeast from Shaver Lake, along Dinkey Creek to the Red Top Meadow intersection, where you go north to Courtright or south to Wishon.

GPS route DINKEY CREEK - from Shaver Lake to Red Top Meadow

Follow separate directions and waypoints to
Shaver Lake.

Turn east off Hwy 168 at the village of Shaver Lake (waypoint SHAVER, last chance for dinner, and gas is not a certainty here). Cell phone service fades quickly as you leave Shaver Lake.

Take Dinkey Creek Rd East (a right turn from 168 just after the Sawmill Restauant, at waypoint SHAVER) for 12.3 miles (via waypoints DINK01-DINK08). Just before the Dinkey Creek campground and Ranger Station, turn right on McKinley Grove Rd and cross Dinkey Creek at waypoint DINK09.

Take McKinley Grove Rd more or less East for 14 miles (very winding) via waypoints DINK10-DINK21 to the Courtright turnoff (waypoint REDTOP) in Red Top Meadow. Just over half a mile before REDTOP you'll go past the turnoff to Clyde Pack Outfitters headquarters (waypoint CLYDHQ). They also have several "spike stations" in the area, but this is their main facility.

From Red Top Meadow, follow the Courtright or Wishon directions to the actual trailheads.

GPS route WISHON RES - from Red Top Meadow to Wishon Reservoir

Follow separate directions and waypoints to Shaver Lake.

Follow directions and waypoints above to Red Top Meadow.

From waypoint REDTOP, continue east for Wishon 3.3 miles to the spillway at the SouthEast corner of the Wishon dam. The Woodchuck trailhead (waypoint WOODCH) near the Wishon spillway is an option, especially in winter when the road is closed there, but most people go to road's end at waypoint RANCHA.

To start from the Woodchuck trailhead (waypoint WOODCH), park just past the southeast end of the spillway.

To start from the Rancheria trailhead (waypoint RANCHA), continue up McKinley Grove Road and turn left at waypoint WISHN7. The paved road dead ends shortly past the trailhead turnoff, so turn around and turn right at the first gravel road if you missed it.

GPS routes COURTRIGHT CLIFF and COURTRIGHT MAXSON - from Red Top Meadow to Courtright Reservoir

Follow separate directions and waypoints to Shaver Lake.

Follow directions and waypoints above to Red Top Meadow.

At waypoint REDTOP, turn left and go north on the Courtright road. Stay on the main road until you first see the Courtright Reservoir. There is a large parking area and a junction (waypoint COURTJ) where you can drive around the east or west shore of the lake. There are trails going up both sides of Courtright (spelled wrongly as 'Courtwright' on some maps).

A sign at the COURTJ junction says Marmot Rock Campground and Courtright Reservoir straight (including a boat dock), Trapper Springs Campground and Cliff Lake trailhead left (trailhead waypoint CLIFTH), and across the dam to the right (which is for Maxson, trailhead waypoints MAXNTH and VOYAGR, but the sign doesn't say so). There is lots of parking suitable for horse and boat trailers between this junction and the reservoir.

Cliff Lake Trailhead - west side - GPS Route COURTRIGHT CLIFF

To reach the Cliff Lake trailhead for Three Sisters, etc, stay left at waypoint COURTJ and drive up the west side of the Reservoir. You'll go past Clyde Pack Outfitters west-side Spike Station (waypoint CLYDSW) and the Trapper Springs campground. Bob Ayers points out that there is a small rock climbing dome right at this campground, for your convenience!

The end of the road is at the Cliff Lake trailhead (waypoint CLIFTH). There are 4 standard bear boxes (food storage lockers) here, but the nearest outhouse is in the campground a tenth of a mile south.

Maxson Trailhead - east side - GPS Route COURTRIGHT MAXSON

For the Maxson Trailhead, turn right at waypoint COURTJ and cross the Courtright Dam (waypoint COURTD), then follow the paved road around to the saddle east of Point 8353. There are pullouts for looking down this incredible gorge, and there appear to be concrete steps leading down the east edge of the dam. On the 7.5' topo this is shown as a 4WD road, but it's definitely not! You'll drive past some open camping on slabs (on the east) near the turnoff to Clyde Pack Outfitters east-side Spike Station (waypoint CLYDSE). About 100 yards after CLYDSE is the Maxson Trailhead parking area (waypoint MAXNTH).

The parking area has several passenger car loops and a trailer parking lot. There is the requisite outhouse, and there are also two sets of standard size food storage lockers (bear boxes) in the main parking loop, plus 4 more lockers in the trailer lot. Right where the parking loops join there's a rough 4WD road that goes downhill to the north. This is not the trail! You can follow a footpath that stays closer to the river and avoid the dust of the road for a short distance.

The trail (green line) and the road (purple line) merge until just south of the Maxson Meadow Slabs (waypoint MSPLIT). The slabs are where 4WD's get to drive on "slick rock" and try to figure out that the road leaves the northwest corner of the slabby area. The trail leaves the northeast corner of the slabs (waypoint MSLABS) and remains by the creek while the road bears west on higher ground to Voyager Rock Campground.

If you have a high-clearance 4WD (not a Subaru!) you can drive almost 2 miles up the east shore of the lake past Voyager Rock Campground (the purple line) and park in the trees at the unmarked trailhead (waypoint VOYAGR). Locate the Dusy-Ersham trailhead sign, then go a bit northeast to where the road ends behind a "No Vehicles" sign. It doesn't look like there's a trail here, but there is. Don't climb up the slabs toward the lake. Go northeast!

Once you find the trail (yellow line) it seems wide and well maintained. It joins the main trail near the Chamberlain's Camp cabin, an unmarked junction at waypoint CHAMBJ. This junction is hard to notice on the way out, but when the main trail levels near a meadow you can cut over to the cabin and regain the Voyager Rock trail.

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