Manchester State Park is a state park in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of northern California, United States. The park straddles U.S. Route 50 between Sonora and Tehachapi. It preserves the site where author Louis M. Dimmick discovered gold during the 1849 California Gold Rush, which he mined with pickaxes and shovels before going on to become one of the first Europeans to settle at what would become Manchester. The park was named after him in 1958. The 1,936-acre (7.91km2) park contains meadows full of grazing cows, spring wildflowers, stands of ponderosa pine and white fir, and lakes stocked with rainbow trout.
There are over 100 campsites for tents or RVs, as well as cabins that sleep up to six people in two bedrooms. A modern bathhouse/restrooms facility is provided. In addition there is an equestrian staging area with ample parking for horseback riding stables. For those interested in more active recreation, Manchester has miles of trails open to hiking, mountain biking, and horses.
Access to fishing areas is also possible but requires a valid California fishing license. No dogs are allowed within the park, and no feeding of any kind is permitted. The main entrance to Manchester State Park is located at 76 W. Lake St., Sonora, CA 93501. Additional entrances exist at other locations around the perimeter, some accessible by car, others requiring a hike of .5 – 1 mile (0.80 – 1.61km). By foot, the furthest entrance is at approximately 178 E. Cuyamaca Rancho Blvd. in Cuyamaca, Ca.
This location can be accessed from Highway 79 via County Routes S79 & S76. Entrance fees do not apply to this portion of the park. These roads may be closed due to snow, however, Hikers are able to access these remote areas using the Skyline Trail.(as of March 2016) Toilets, showers, vending machines, camping sites, picnic tables, etc. are present at all campgrounds and most major trail heads. Vending machines contain mostly soft drinks, chips, candy bars, and snacks. Water and ice are common beverages.
Camping facilities consist of three separate group campgrounds; Manchester, Waimea, and Cottonwood. Each group campground features a central restroom building with individual shower houses surrounding it. Some campsites feature fire rings and picnic table shelters, while others are completely shaded and have no amenities. Tent and RV sites are both available, though tent sites are much less common than their RV counterparts. Half of the campsites are reserved, the remainder being open on a first come, first served basis. Reservations can only be made through Reserve America, a reservation system operated by the Greater Los Angeles Area Conservancy. The Cottonwood Group Campground is the largest of the three, containing 57 sites in total, 27 of which have sewer, water, and electricity.
The Manchester Group Campground consists of 21 sites, 13 of which have sewer, water, and electric hookups. The Waimea Group Campground contains 15 sites, 12 of which have sewer, water, and electric hookups. On the south end of the park, near the town of Manchester, there is a primitive “cabin” type campground consisting of seven walk-in sites and four leantos. No drinking water is available here, but restrooms and garbage cans are. Owing to the abundance of nearby water, none of the campsite’s leantos require dump stations either. All seven sites have level gravel pad sites, and six have fire rings.
Drinking water is available at hand pumps throughout the campground. Picnic tables are scattered throughout the campground, along with several large shade trees. Swimming is possible at two ponds, including one that is partially bordered by a causeway. Geocaches are hidden throughout the park, and several cachers frequent the park daily. Several small streams flow across the park, providing excellent opportunities for beginning hikers to learn about stream crossings and the environment. One such crossing occurs at Log Creek, below the Waimea Group Campground. There are many trails leading out of Manchester State Park, ranging from easy to moderate difficulty. Easy trails lead to pond and creek crossings, while moderate trails go further afield, passing scenic vistas and reaching higher elevations. More difficult trails are labeled with color blazes, and advanced hikers can even attempt the Hard Stone Fire Road Trail, which climbs 2,400 feet (730m) above the park.
After the fort was decommissioned in 1960, the Department of Veterans Affairs purchased the property, creating Manchester State Park in 1978. The name change from Manchester Naval Station to Manchester State Park occurred in 1982. The park offers a variety of year-round recreational opportunities, including picnics, swimming, geocaching, disc golf, nature photography, and camping. During the summer season, there is live music every Friday night, as well as outdoor movies on the lawn.
The Manchester Country Store sells food, gifts, fuel, and bait. Located inside the store is the Manchester Marine Center, run by the Friends of the Parks organization. This non-profit group works closely with the parks staff to monitor local marine environments, collect data, and perform habitat enhancement projects. Their current focus is on seabirds and sea urchins. Manchester State Park has ten designated wilderness areas (DWA), ranging from dense coniferous forests to grasslands with sagebrush shrub-steppe ecosystems. Most of these areas are inaccessible to vehicles, although some are crossed by narrow dirt roads.
Other activities available include:
- disc golf
- nature photography
Winter activities include:
- cross-country skiing
- ice fishing
They provide excellent examples of how natural processes affect landscape evolution, and support diverse wildlife populations. Amphibians and reptiles inhabit the various DTID species monitoring program sites, as well as the non-designated areas of the park.
Mammals observed at the park include:
deer mice, chipmunks, raccoons, opossums, rabbits, muskrats, ground squirrels, coyotes, kit foxes, black-tailed jackrabbits, cottontail rabbits, striped skunks, porcupines, badgers, otters, weasels, beavers
Among the flowering plants found in the park are:
- Butterfly pea
- coast bleeding heart
- fairy slipper
- western trillium
- monkey flower
- mariposa lily
- redwood sorrel
- bay laurel
Trees commonly seen in the park include:
- Douglas fir
- big leaf maple
- tan oak
- river birch