The Sierras are one of the most majestic and diverse mountain ranges on earth. How diverse are they? On a single road trip you can see live volcanoes, glacial valleys, great sequoias, and scorching deserts. Here’s a list of some of the must see destinations if you’re a nature lover in the High Sierras . . .
- Yosemite National Park – Home to Half Dome and El Capitan, Yosemite National Park is one of the original crown jewels of the United States of America’s National Park system. Its scenic alpine vistas, pristine lakes, cool mountain rivers, and majestic granite walls make it a mecca for adrenaline junky rock climbers and casual naturalists alike.
- Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park – These two national parks in the Southern tip of the Sierras are home to some of the last remaining old growth sequoia forests in North America. Be sure you stop to see General Sherman, the largest tree on the planet, and hike the Congress Trail in Kings Canyon National Park. Being in the presence of some of the largest and oldest trees on earth is often described as a life changing experience for those who visit.
- Mount Whitney – Sitting at the southern edge of Sequoia National Park, Mount Whitney is the tallest mountain in the lower 48, rising to 14,494 feet above sea level. If you climb it in the spring or early summer, make sure you have crampons and an ice axe at the ready. July through October, however, it’s a non-technical (though still challenging) climb to the summit.
- Death Valley National Park – Tucked away on the South East edge of the Sierras you’ll find Death Valley National Park. Not for the weak of heart, Death Valley is the hottest place in North America (temperatures regularly rise to 110-120 degrees in the summer), has the lowest elevation in North America (it’s actually below sea level), and is the driest place in the lower 48.
- Lassen Volcanic National Park – Found in the Northern Sierra, Lassen Volcanic National Park is a well kept secret, and sports active volcanoes and hydrothermal vents, as well as hundreds of hiking trails, beautiful alpine lakes, and breathtaking mountain valleys. In addition to walking the fumaroles, Lassen is popular with backpackers, stargazers, and cross-country skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts in the winter!
If you’re trying to explore the Sierras on a budget or if you’re a camping enthusiast, you’re in luck. Much of the year, this is a great part of country for camping. During the warmer months, you can head up into the mountains and still find moderate temperatures. During the cooler months, you can stick to lower elevations. Either way, much of the Sierras is bear country, so be prepared to hang your food, or there are also plenty of campgrounds that provide bear boxes.