The Sierra foothills present a compelling case for why California is called the “Golden State.” After all, the rolling golden brown hills define much of eastern California’s stellar landscape, offering even more beauty as they give way to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Much of this is centered around Fresno, the state’s fifth largest city that most people describe as having “nothing there” a few minutes before admitting they’ve only driven through it.

One of the best distractions from the San Joaquin Valley is the area around Millerton Lake, where the eponymous river has diverted by Friant Dam. We can discuss back and forth about the impact of damming the river has had on the region’s ecology and water supplies until we are all blue in the face, but there is one indisputable truth: the area sounding the Millerton Lake State Recreation Area is gorgeous.

Shimmering hills are dotted by oak trees and manzanita. Plenty of trails offer views of the nearby Table Mountain and their flat mesas soaring above the San Joaquin River. And on a clear day, the snow capped Sierras leave you wistful. The secret has long been out, as bicyclists and trail runners can be seen, especially on weekend mornings.

The best time to visit this area is in the spring or fall – summer is far too hot, and winter could be dodgy depending on how wet that time of year is. Roads such Sky Harbor and Auberry offer plenty of places to enjoy the views and find places to explore; just be aware that if you’re not in the actual state park area, you could be on federally or privately owned land not open to the public. Nevertheless, this area is worth your time if you happen to travel in this region, either on your way to the Gold Country or Yosemite.

Image credits: Leon Kaye

Millerton Lake, Fresno, San Joaquin Valley, California, travel, Leon Kaye, california buckeye

California Buckeye and its distinctive white bark are all over

Millerton Lake, Fresno, San Joaquin Valley, California, travel, Leon Kaye, Sky Harbor Road

Lake Millerton from Sky Harbor Road

Millerton Lake, Fresno, San Joaquin Valley, California, travel, Leon Kaye

A lone oak

Millerton Lake, Fresno, San Joaquin Valley, California, travel, Leon Kaye

Lake levels are still low, but the scenery is spectacular

Millerton Lake, Fresno, San Joaquin Valley, California, travel, Leon Kaye

Mesas and cloud formations await

Millerton Lake, Fresno, San Joaquin Valley, California, travel, Leon Kaye

Igneous rock formations reveal this area's prehistoric volcanic past

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in California, he specializes in social media consulting and strategic communications. A journalist and writer since 2009, his work has appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Areas of interest include the <a Middle East, sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (Leon Kaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). Since 2013, he has spent much of his time in Abu Dhabi, UAE, working with Masdar, the emirate's renewable energy company. He lives in Fresno, California.