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The sun is shining brightly, and the snow is beginning to melt. It’s definitely spring and that means festival season is starting to ramp up! This year, why not skip the more obvious events and hit up a one-of-a-kind, bucket list festival instead? Here’s three festivals in the High Sierra you should plan on checking out this year.

Calaveras County Frog Jumping

May 16th – 19th

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Calaveras Frog Jumping Contest
Image appears courtesy: Calaveras County Visitors Bureau

Become a part of the living legend this May at one of the longest running fairs in California. It’s none other than the internationally beloved Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee. Named for the short story that launched Mark Twain’s career, the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee commemorates the small town tale of a jumping frog contest. This unique event planted a seed in Mark Twain’s imagination! Resulting in his first successful work of fiction, it kicked off the great legacy we all know and love today.

After 90+ years of annual celebration, this internationally beloved shindig has really got the show in line! In addition to the classic fair fixings, take advantage of the chance to compete in the international jumping frog competition yourself. Expert frog handlers will teach you how to hold and coax well-pampered live bull frogs to help you win a chance at the grand prize of $5,000 for the longest jump. Luckily, these bullfrogs aren’t filled with lead (as Mr. Twain’s story goes) and leap some vast distances. Frog jumping is such a “seriously” silly affair that expert frog jockeys come from around the world with their frogs! A chance to win the grand prize for breaking the current world record set in 1986 can be quite enticing.

This legendary four day event is a blend of entertainment, exhibits, livestock, and arena events, like the derby smash up. You’ll find great food, regional award winning wine tasting, live music, classic Americana fashion, and the signature event, the Frog Jump. This piece of literary and Californian history will have you leaping to return every year on the 3rd weekend of May.

Mule Days

May 21st – 26th

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43rd annual Bishop Mule Days Celebration
Images from the 42nd annual Bishop Mule Days Celebration in Bishop, Calif., – Photos by David Calvert – Appears courtesy: Visit Bishop

It all began on Memorial Day weekend in 1969 as a way to mark the beginning of the packing season. Now transformed into a nearly week-long event, it draws more than 700 mules and riders to compete in equestrian events. 2019 also marks the 50th anniversary of celebrating the legacy, diversity, and talents of the good ole American mule. The festivities include a parade and competitions like barrel racing and cow penning. The most unique event of them all is the pack scramble. This wild and unpredictable spectacle is something for those who like to root for the underdog.

Mid-Sierra Loggers Jamboree

July 6th – 9th

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bucket list festivals in the high sierra
Photo By: Steve Montalto – Image appears courtesy: Visit Yosemite|Madera County

The High Sierra has been an important home to the logging industry, helping build cities like San Francisco. Even back in 1959 when the annual Mid-Sierra Loggers Jamboree started, the lumber industry was still a main employer of the region. Over the years, the region has become a tourism destination but at the same time still embracing of its past heritage. To this day, several recent participants in the Jamboree used to either work at the mill or are still employed in or own businesses with very tangible connections to the forest.

This is your chance to celebrate time-honored traditions as well as a bright tomorrow. Come celebrate the loggers of times past and those passionate about our future forests. Held the first weekend of July in North Fork, it features contests like axe throwing, double hand bucking, choker setting, and hot power sawing. It’s just one of the many events that happen every year in Madera County that honors its past and looks toward the future.

A mountain range so unique and wondrous as the Sierra Nevada calls for originality. From the wild and crazy pack scramble to hot power sawing and even leaping frogs, these three High Sierra festivals showcase what makes this region so special.  

Author: Alex Silgalis

Alex Silgalis is an outdoors travel writer who enjoys snowboarding, mountain biking, or having a cold one from a local mountain brewery. See more of Alex’s work at

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