Bucket lists are designed to push you out of your comfort zone. Urging you to embrace new experiences and live a more fulfilling life. They inspire you to explore the world in fresh and exhilarating ways. And if there’s a place that perfectly embodies this idea, it’s the High Sierra. Whether you’re eighteen or eighty-one, there’s no better time than the present. Here’s how you can check off some items on your “Before I kick the bucket, I want to…” list.

Camp Under The Stars

stars at night
Did you know that 80% of Americans and one-third of humanity can no longer see the Milky Way? Fortunately, the heart of the Sierra is perfectly situated for a brilliant night sky experience along with mastering the science of s’mores. All along the corridor of Highway 4, you’ll discover a wide range of camping choices. This includes everything from primitive to luxurious glamping sites. Being in Alpine County, this area is the least populated, making it the ideal location for stargazing with minimal light pollution. This, combined with perfect camping weather where it cools off at night, allows you to sleep comfortably, while warming up during the day for activities like fishing and hiking. It creates the ideal spot to camp under the stars.

Go On A Road Trip

Benton Crossing Road off HWY 395
Benton Crossing Road off HWY 395 near Lake Crowley; Image appears courtesy: Local Freshies®

Don’t just go on any road trip. Embark on one voted as BEST in the nation! US-395 takes the saying “the journey is the reward” seriously. Out of its 632 star-studded miles, the E.S.T. segment is particularly beautiful. You’ll find natural attractionsobscure activities, and down-home towns like Bishop which feels as if it was a living time capsule. The landscape is dotted with sights such as Mono Lake, the ghost town of Bodie, and even open-air hot springs like Keough’s Hot Springs. Don’t know where to start? Check out Bishop’s self-guided tour.

Summit A Mountain

aerial view of Donner Lake
Image appears courtesy: Go Tahoe North

Few experiences can match the exhilaration of summiting a mountain. The ascent provides the challenge but once at the peak, you’re rewarded with a sweeping view of the surrounding landscape. The Sierra boasts a variety of mountain peaks fit for ANY skill level. From day-long excursions like reaching the summit of Donner Peak overlooking Donner Lake. You can then cap off your adventure with a tour of North Lake Tahoe’s ale trail or even paddle off on a glass bottom kayak tour of Tahoe. Or all the way to multi-day expeditions aiming for the highest point in the lower 48.

Try Rock Climbing

Image appears courtesy: Visit Truckee-Tahoe

Nestled within the crags and crannies of the Sierra range, places like Yosemite and Bishop boast loudly to some the world’s most challenging climbing routes. Yet, amidst this rugged landscape, there are plenty of opportunities for beginners to dip their toes into rock climbing. You can explore the Via Ferrata courses at Palisades Tahoe Resort or venture further south to Mammoth Mountain. These courses, led by experienced guides, provide a taste of rock climbing with climbing aids like iron rungs and footholds. If you’re eager to try your hands and feet literally on rock climbing, Donner Summit offers guided rock courses suitable for families, friends, and groups alike.


Strap In And Try Backpacking

backpacking mono county california
Image appears courtesy: Mono County Economic Development, Tourism and Film Commission

If you’re ready to take camping to the next level, consider backpacking. Instead of driving right up to your campsite, you need to carry all the gear to setup your camp. This experience will deepen your appreciation for every item you pack and encourage you to travel lighter. Backpacking requires a different skill set than traditional camping or hiking. Start with a beginner-friendly trip like Barney Lakes, just outside of Twin Lakes. Besides offering sweeping views of snow-capped peaks, the Robinson Creek Trail itself is ranked as one of the top 10 hiking trails in Mono County.

Take The Plunge With Whitewater Rafting

whitewater rafting the Tuolumne River
Image appears courtesy: Visit Tuolumne – Sierra Mac River Trips

With a mountain range soaring to heights over 14,000 feet and receiving hundreds of inches of snow, the rivers swell in late spring and early summer from snowmelt. Guided whitewater tours are plentiful throughout the region, including the Truckee River, the only outlet from Lake Tahoe. The most popular guided tours begin at Boca Reservoir, featuring 5.5 miles of class II rapids before reaching the challenging class III rapids near Bronco Creek. It’s a perfect summer addition to all the season’s fun surrounding Truckee.

Alternatively, you can head further south to tackle the Tuolumne River, affectionately known as “the T.” This designated Wild and Scenic section of river is renowned for some of the best whitewater in California. It boasts over 40 named rapids in an 18-mile stretch. This is just one of the many exciting activities you can enjoy in and around the charming town of Groveland, a gateway to Yosemite National Park.

Ride In A Hot Air Balloon

hot air balloon lake tahoe
Image appears courtesy: Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority

If you’re going to do it, might as well do it with style. Picture this. As the sun paints the sky over Lake Tahoe, you ascend nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, treating yourself to a bird’s-eye view of the majestic lake. It’s a unique experience, often hailed as one of the world’s most extraordinary hot air balloon rides. For more on this and dozens of other bucket list-worthy ideas, explore Visit Lake Tahoe’s “24 Bucket List Must-Do’s in 2024.”

Author: Alex Silgalis

Alex founded Local Freshies® in 2014 to be the #1 website providing the “local scoop” on where to eat, drink & play in mountain towns throughout North America. When he’s not writing and executing marketing strategies for small businesses & agencies, he’s in search of the deepest snow in the winter and tackiest dirt in the summer.

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