Lose yourself to the magic of the Sierra Nevada range
California’s Sierra Nevada range is a dramatic granite backbone defining the state’s eastern edge. There are many attractions in and around it—from spectacular mountain routes to incomparable alpine destinations. You can also see waterfalls and monoliths in Yosemite, giant trees in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, and the lonely, windblown beauty of California’s best-known ghost town, Bodie.
Blue as a topaz and circled by majestic peaks, this High Sierra gem straddling the California-Nevada border is a bucket-list staple, a place where the air is “very pure and fine...it is the same the angels breathe,” according to author Mark Twain. Lakefront towns dot the shoreline, each with their own appeal. Winter and springtime snow lets you carve it up at world-class alpine resorts.
Surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the west, folks in this laid-back mountain town know they’ve got a good thing going. It’s a land of serious outdoor lovers, who take to the slopes of the signature Mammoth Mountain (a massive volcano surrounded by granite peaks) and nearby June Lakes resorts in winter, then head out on trails when the snow melts to fly-fish in clear mountain streams, hike and mountain bike through wildflowers in high alpine meadows, and dip into natural hot springs.
Follow Highway 203 west of Mammoth Lakes to explore this remarkable natural wonder. Looking like a lumber pile left over by the gods, the 60-foot/18-meter basalt columns at this national monument induce a lot of head-scratching and pondering.
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
Climb back into the Sierra, this time on the mountains’ west side, to explore this expansive and diverse parkland. Famous for their giant sequoias, soaring mountains, deep canyons, and roaring rivers, these parks have plenty to see. Thanks to the General Sherman Tree, the world’s largest living thing, and its gargantuan neighbours, gawking at the big trees is the most popular activity here.
Yosemite National Park
California’s first national park and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984, Yosemite attracts 4 million visitors each year—with good reason. Nearly the size of Rhode Island and covering more than 1,100 square miles/284,899 hectares, it features unforgettable natural beauty, from the sheer walls of Yosemite Valley to the alpine beauty of Tuolumne Meadows.