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There are a few options once the summer temps begins to swelter. The first is to stay inside and let the air conditioning cool you off. Second, find a pool to jump into. Third, and our personal favorite, is to head up high into the mountains. Here’s four hikes to beat the summer heat this year.

Shirley Canyon

Distance: 3.1 Miles (one-way)
Elevation Gain: 1,925 feet

Shirley Canyon Trail in the summer hiking
Image appears courtesy: Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows

A little more than ten miles from the historic downtown of Truckee is Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows. In the winter, thousands of people descend upon its slopes to enjoy the world-class skiing & snowboarding it provides. In the summer though, things slow down a bit. Shirley Canyon is a great hike with everything from a waterfall to a bubbling stream filled with boulders while finishing off with breathtaking views of Squaw Valley. Typically, most people end with the aerial tram so that they don’t have to hike back down.

COVID-19 Update: Currently, the aerial tram is closed so this hike becomes 6.2 miles in length roundtrip.

Methuselah Trail

Distance: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 761 feet

Methuselah Trail near Bishop
Photo by Instragrammer: @siebrandjeff – Image appears courtesy: Bishop Visitor Center

Although Bishop’s climate can get a bit “toasty” in town during the summer, it’s pretty easy to beat the summer heat by heading in any direction up to the mountains surrounding it such as the White Mountains. At around 11,000 feet above sea level, the air is cool, the scenery is magnificent, and you get a chance to walk amongst some of the oldest living non-clonal living things on planet Earth. Even though the oldest known as “Methuselah” isn’t marked, don’t worry. All the other ancient bristlecone pines surrounding it are thousands of years old too.

Crystal Lake

Distance: 3.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 833 feet

Crystal Lake with the Crystal Crag in the distance
Photo by: Josh Wray – Image appears courtesy – Visit Mammoth

At a base elevation of 7,881’ above sea level, pretty much any hike you go on from Mammoth Lakes will be rewarded with cool air. So, the question is then what to see or do? The options are literally endless. If you’re heading to the Eastern Sierra, the hike to Crystal Lake is a must do. Departing from the Lake George day-use area, you’ll be afforded panoramic vistas of Mammoth Lakes basin and a close-up of the Crystal Crag. This granite monolith soars more than 10,364 feet above sea level and is one of the most recognizable features on this section of the Mammoth crest. For a few less strenuous hiking options, check out Visit Mammoth’s 7 Easy Hikes In And Around Mammoth Lakes.

Crescent And Log Meadows

Distance: 1.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 206 feet

Crescent Meadow in Sequoia National Park on a lush summers day
Image appears courtesy: Visit Visalia

When it comes to some serious hiking terrain, Sequoia National Park is near the top of the list. You have the classic Giant Forest Loop which features the largest Sequoia — General Sherman. Then there’s the Lakes Trail which is home to one of the most scenic lakes in the High Sierra – Heather Lake. For those looking for a trail fit for ANY skill level but still want a taste of why John Muir became so captivated with this region, check out the Crescent and Log Meadows Trail. You’ll be rewarded with a bounty of wildflowers and maybe even see a few birds. For more ideas on where to go hiking, check out Visit Visalia’s Hiking Guide for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. 

If you’re looking to beat the summer heat, these four hikes in the High Sierra will do that and so much more. So, as the eloquent Dr. Seuss once wrote, “You’re off to great places, today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.”

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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