Miwok Meadows Nature Walk

By Marco Burger, Sheila Coll, and Harriot Manley


With grasses and marsh plants waving in the wind, encircled by tall oaks and dark green bay trees, Miwok Meadows stands out as a beautiful and peaceful place in China Camp State Park.


This eight-stop, roughly 1-mile loop tour begins at the entrance gate to Miwok Meadows, along N. San Pedro Rd. It follows the dirt fire road section of Shoreline Trail through the Miwok Meadows picnic area, then continues northeast around the meadow on Shoreline Trail, past Bullet Hill, and back to N. San Pedro Rd. The hike finishes with a short walk along N. San Pedro back to your car.


This self-guided tour will help you explore the natural wonders of this important meadow. We’ll show you where to look for animals, where they live and what they eat. We’ll also point out some of the meadow’s most interesting plants and why they’re special.

Know before you go

Safety Reminders

  • Leave pets at home.
  • Fill your water bottles before you start your walk; there is no drinking water on the trail.
  • Remove all valuables from your car. Be sure to lock all doors and close windows. 
  • Stay on the trail to avoid damaging habitat, and to reduce your risk of getting poison oak and getting ticks. Avoid ticks by wearing long sleeves and pants. Tuck pant bottoms inside socks. After your hike, check yourself and your companions closely for ticks. Wash any exposed skin with Technu or strong soap to reduce your risk of poison oak.
  • Don’t disturb wildlife.
  • Share the trail—be alert for mountain bikers, as well as runners.


Once you go through the entrance gate, look at the tree on the right. Do you see that big pile of sticks in the tree, about three feet off the ground? It’s the home of a dusky-footed woodrat. These native rodents are known for building stick nests that reach up to five feet tall and eight feet wide. Woodrats like cool, sheltered places, so they often build their houses against the trunk of a shady tree trunk or log, or inside dense shrubs. Female woodrats build large nests to rear their young. When the mother dies, her daughters stay in the nest to raise their young. Males tend to build smaller nests, sometimes perched high in trees. 

Just a pile of sticks? Nope! If you could crawl inside you’d discover that woodrats create rooms for separate uses, like food storage, sleeping, and going to the bathroom. You might also discover shiny items, like bottle caps and coins. That’s because woodrats, nicknamed packrats, are known for collecting shiny objects. So if you lose your keys at China Camp, they might end up in a woodrat’s nest. 

Woodrats make their own bug repellent. Dusky-footed woodrats are known to line their nests with leaves of the California bay laurel, since the leaves’ oils naturally repel insects. 

Watch out! At China Camp, woodrats have to be on the lookout for all kinds of predators—owls, coyotes, bobcats, hawks, snakes, and even skunks. Woodrats are generally nocturnal, and tend to be extremely shy and skittish. You would be too if you had that many predators interested in eating you!

(Woodrat image: Peterson B. Moose/USFWS)

NOTICE: Some sites at the Back Ranch Meadows Campground will be closed Sunday through Thursday from November 14, 2022 until May 13, 2023 due to construction. The group site will remain open during the week. Go to reservecalifornia.com for available reservations.

ADVISORY: December 3, 2023, 8am-2pm. Footrace beginning at Miwok Meadows. Expect increased foot traffic on Shoreline Trail, Oak Ridge Trail, and Bayview trail. Plan your trip to the park accordingly. See calendar for details.