This section of the Sugar Pine Railroad Grade continues on where the Confidence to Lyons section leaves off. The distance from Lyons to Fraser Flat is 9.5 miles one way and as with most railroad grades is relatively flat with the exception of a few sections. Much of the grade follows the South Fork Stanislaus River which adds to the beauty of this hike/bike ride. The trail is open to hikers, bikers and horseback riders year round but the Lyons Day Use Area closes seasonally from November to May (click here for area status) so you will need to park at the top of Lyons Reservoir Rd and begin your journey from there. This will add another two miles each way and just over 700 feet in elevation change. The entire round-trip from Lyons Reservoir to Fraser Flat Rd is better suited for mountain bikers since covering 19 miles in a single day on foot is no small feat.
This trail is particularly nice in the warmer months since much of the trail is shaded and if you get too hot a quick dip in the river can quickly stop any potential over-heating. The cooler months are also a nice time but the trail gets rather muddy after some decent rains so plan to get your boots dirty if you come during this time.
If you venture out far enough you likely will not encounter anyone else on the trail except for the occasional OHV (off highway vehicle) or dispersed camper since most of the trail occupies the Stanislaus National Forest. There are numerous places along the grade to stop, explore, and maybe have some lunch on the Stanislaus riverbank. I find that this is usually more enjoyable than trying to trek the entire 9.5 mile journey and back in one day.
This section of the Sugar Pine Railroad Grade is also nice for exploring in your truck or SUV, especially if you’re camping at the Fraser Flat Campground. The only direct access by motor vehicle is at the east end (Fraser Flat). The opposite end, Lyons Reservoir, is not accessible by motor vehicle. There are other access points off of hwy 108 but that is beyond the scope of this article. If you decide to explore by vehicle I recommend getting a Stanislaus National Forest map so you don’t get lost.