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Bass Lake's Browns Ditch flume trail offers a unique hiking experience

Bass Lake.
Bass Lake.
Jonathan Cook

Hiking is a favorite pastime for many in the Fresno area and Bass Lake offers many beautiful and interesting hikes. However, one of the most unique hikes to be found anywhere is the Browns Ditch flume trail. This hike not only offers grand vistas and a level, low-impact journey, but also a fascinating pathway in which you hike directly above the water flume that, depending on the time of year, may be carrying water to Bass Lake.

Bass Lake's Browns Ditch flume trail
Jonathan Cook

Bass Lake was originally a lush meadow known as Crane Valley. After several enlargements, the current dam was completed in 1910 and stands 145 feet high. Browns Ditch was built at that time to bring additional water from nearby Willow Creek. Predominantly a concrete channel, it averages about four feet deep and six feet wide.

Flume construction
The trail is not just a walk in the dirt. Long sections of the ditch are actually metal flumes suspended across canyons and off the sides of the hills. The purpose of the flumes is to create a short and properly graded pathway for the water to flow to Bass Lake. On top of these portions of the trail, the walking path hangs above the flumes where you walk along metal grates above the moving water (in the wet season). This is truly a unique experience in hiking.

Be careful
As with any hike be sure and take all necessary precautions for the conditions. The Browns Ditch flume trail is no exception. This trail is not an official forest service trail although it is easily accessible and well maintained. As such, you take on all risk and responsibility for traveling this trail.

Know yourself, your balance and your hiking confidence in attempting this trail. While it is an easy, level hike, some people may find it unnerving to walk along a 2-foot wide grate suspended above a flume (possibly with running water) which crosses canyons and hangs from hillsides.

You can reach the head of the Browns Ditch flume trail by traveling from Fresno north up route 41, through Oakhurst, to the Route 222 Bass Lake Road turnoff. Continue along to where the road becomes Route 274 Malum Ridge Road (and Government Un High Road) which follows the northeast side of Bass Lake. Past the dam, you will find the intersection with Central Camp Road; park in this area. The trail head stands just a few feet south of Central Camp Road.

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