Sierra National Forest Overview
Best known for the giant sequoias (redwood trees) of the Nelder and McKinley groves and the High Sierra, Minarets, and John Muir wilderness areas, the Sierra National Forest lies on the western slope of the beautiful Sierra Nevada range for which it was named.
Terrain ranges from gently rolling, oak-covered foothills along the edge of the great San Joaquin Valley, to the majestic snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada crest. The Mt. Dana-Minarets Escarpment is one of the forest's scenic highlights, with many of its peaks exceeding 12,000 feet. Hundreds of miles of trails are maintained in the Mammoth-High Sierra area. The highest peak, Mt. Humphrey (13,986 feet), is on the Sierra crest.
Hike to Twin Falls
The 11-mile hike from Bear Dam Junction to Twin Falls is leisurely and lovely. Bear Creek has a rugged, pristine feel unmatched by many creeks in the Sierra. Never constant, it jumps, trips, cascades, and tumbles down a rocky course, interrupted by smooth, surprisingly graceful intervals, where you'll find deep, slow-moving, sandy-bottomed pools, full of golden, brook, and brown trout. The trail is gentle, and beautiful pools and fine campsites line the creek, which alternates between falls, rapids, and long pools perfect for a refreshing dip followed by sunning on the nearby rocks. This is a great day hike or a leisurely two-day backpack. Either way, it's a wonderful trip.
More on hiking in Sierra National Forest
Raft the Kern River
Descend one of the most beautiful and demanding sections of whitewater in California, the Wild and Scenic Kern River. This Class IV-V cataract rates as the longest whitewater river in California, and the longest Wild and Scenic river system in the continental US. The Kern River has a tremendous variety of sections and rapids, and is extremely popular with boaters from Southern California and the Central Valley. Though changing water levels generally prohibit rafters from entering the river late August through February, kayakers can enjoy the river year-round. It's an ideal river to spend several days exploring; you camp on the banks at night.
Fish Bass Lake
You just know this place is good—the Hells Angels make a run here every year. You'll find Bass Lake is popular with a diverse group, and that makes sense. A long, beautiful lake set in a valley and surrounded by forest, Bass covers nearly 1,200 acres, houses 13 species of fish, and boasts four campgrounds. It's well stocked with 10-12 inch rainbow trout, as well as bass, bluegill, crappie, and catfish. The better fishing spots are found along the southeastern shore from the point south of Pines Village on the dam. You will find one deep cove there and a series of smaller ones, where warm-water species hold during the summer months.
Ride the Sugar Pine Railroad
Ride into history where powerful locomotives once hauled massive log trains through the Sierra Mountains, mighty lumberjacks felled old growth and flumes carried lumber to the distant valley below. The Sierra National Forest's majestic woods provide the backdrop for the narrow gauge journey back in time. A section of the original railbed has been reconstructed using the same techniques employed at the turn of the century. Two vintage Shay steam locomotives have been brought in from the Westside Lumber company and restored to provide authentic motive power for the trains. Railcars once used to provide transportation for logging and track repair crews have been refurbished and are now operated for passenger excursion.
Ski to Strawberry Lake
For access to a variety of cross-country trails, go to the Coyote Nordic Area, near Shaver Lake. The area offers 155 miles of groomed trails for novice as well as experienced skiers. One standout trail is the Strawberry Lake Trail, which intersects the Coyote Lake Trail before Westcreek. Strawberry Lake is picturesque, and it's a good ten-mile trip.
Drive the Sierra Vista
The Sierra Vista Scenic byway is a 100-mile open loop through the forest, and it features the dramatic view from Mile High vista. The overlook offers views of the Ansel Adams, John Muir, and Kaiser Wilderness areas. The route also features Redinger Overlook, Arch Rock, Portuguese Creek, Globe Rock, Fresno Dome, and Nelder Grove. Cold Springs Summit, at 7,308 feet, is the highest point on the byway.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication