Daily life can be stressful. From tight deadlines to dealing with traffic and unruly co-workers, by the end of a week you can feel drained. Luckily, there is hiking. It gives us a chance to clear our minds and get close to the sheer beauty that exists in nature. Here are seven great hiking Sierra Nevada trails for all abilities that you may want to check out.
Druid Stones Trail Hike
Length: 5.1 miles
Located 2,000 feet above the town of Bishop, this trail offers a birds-eye view of the town and surrounding Owens Valley below. It’s a great sunset hike in the summer, especially on a full moon night. Things really turn magical after the sun sets and you find your way down by the light of the moon. Talk about an uplifting experience! This area is also a “hotbed” for those looking to get in some bouldering as well. Here you’ll find a highly concentrated “grove” of boulders with an abundance of classics surrounding the dominant and centralized Druid Stone.
Mist Falls Trails
Length: 8.2 Miles
Out of all the national parks you’ll visit, Kings Canyon is the epitome of John Muir’s words, “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” Standing at Road’s End, your soul will pull you to follow those words. Following the mighty Kings River, you’ll gradually ascend (only 800+ foot gain across four miles) to the base of Mist Falls. Standing there, you’ll realize you’ve only scratched the surface. Most of this park is roadless, meaning to really see it, you must go backpacking.
Floating Island And Cathedral Lakes Trail
Length: 5.5 Miles
Many have heard the old saying from Desmond Tutu, “There’s only one way to eat an elephant; one bite at a time.” For most of us, the idea of climbing Mt. Tallac might seem impossible. A little over ten miles and over 3,300 feet of elevation gain. Instead, set a smaller goal and visit Cathedral and Floating Island lakes. The trail starts off by climbing gradually along a ridgeline. Over the course of the ascent, you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views of Fallen Leaf Lake. With 1,200 feet of elevation gain and a full distance just shy of 6 miles, you’ll know if you’re ready to conquer the last 2,000+ feet of climbing to the summit on another day.
West Side Railroad Trail
Length: 10 Miles
Difficulty: Easy / Moderate
This relatively flat trail is a perfect outing for all abilities. The graded walkway ever so slowly climbs the side of a gulch providing glimpses of the surrounding forests. Originally a narrow-gauge railroad, you’ll come upon ruins of the lines and placards giving you a glimpse into its history. Be sure to make it to Torment Gulch and read the story of why it’s called that. Afterwards, you’ll realize why Tuolumne County considers this one of their best hiking Sierra Nevada trails in the region. Also a great option in the spring due to the abundance of wildflowers. And if you do visit in summer, skip the heat, and go early.
Martis Peak Summit
Length: 9.3 Miles
Vistas, lakes and wildflowers… what else could you want on a hike? This popular hike starts just south of Brockway Summit off Hwy 267 to the left if you’re coming from Truckee. Featuring a 4-mile steady climb through dense forest, the peace de resistance is the fire lookout just shy of the summit. The 100-year-old structure has been restored and gives you a panoramic view of the Tahoe Basin and the surrounding peaks. For more about this hike and others check out North Lake Tahoe’s hiking page.
Calaveras South Grove Trail
Length: 4.9 miles
Choose your own prehistoric adventure at Calaveras Big Trees State Park, the first place in the world that giant sequoias were discovered. Easily accessible for people of all ages, just east of Arnold, CA, these massive beauties are some of the largest and oldest living things on earth. As you first enter the park, keep straight to bypass the popular North Grove in order to find the hidden treasure known as the South Grove—accessible only outside of the winter season. With ten times more giant sequoias then the rest of the park, the tranquil and majestic South Grove is home to not only the largest sequoia in the region (the Agassiz tree) but also a secret swimming hole at Beaver Creek, perfect for the whole family. On your way out of the park, make sure to swing by the museum and gift shop, free with admission to the park.
Tip: Get the most out of your trip and support spectacular wildlife such as black bears, ring-tailed cats and more when you learn how to Hop Lightly, leaving our scenic places wild and beautiful for generations to come.
Little Lakes Valley
Length: 7.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate / Easy
Tucked away in Rock Creek Canyon, at the end of Rock Creek Road is the Little Lakes Valley trail head. This 10,300-foot-high starting point is home to one of the most beloved trails in the Eastern Sierra. You’ll quickly see why families, anglers, day hikers, and backpackers return year after year. The relatively easy trek accesses gorgeous alpine lakes, full of wild brookies, and stunning scenery which is often speckled with wildflowers. Arrive early to find a parking spot and please store extra food and other scented items in the bear boxes provided.
Temperatures can change quickly in the High Sierra so be sure to wear layers for hot and cold conditions. To make it more comfortable bring sunscreen, insect repellent, plenty of water, and be sure to pace yourself. The higher elevation may make the hike a bit more strenuous for some. As a day hike, this trail is anywhere from four to ten miles round-trip, depending on where you turn around. Or for a change, experience Little Lakes Valley on horseback with nearby Rock Creek Pack Station. There are also several Inyo National Forest campgrounds along Rock Creek Road, or for overnight lodging and dining options, check out Rock Creek Lodge, Tom’s Place or Rock Creek Lakes Resort.
TIP: Although we’re in love with the luminescent greens of springtime, the Rock Creek area lights up with brilliant displays of gold, orange and crimson fall color in late September, early October. Contact Mono County to get a free Eastern Sierra Fall Color Guide.
There’s something special about being on the trail, feeling the cool mountain air against your skin and the warmth of the sun hitting your face as you trek onward. It’s these moments in the outdoors that help re-energize your soul for the following week. So, instead of sitting at home wasting away on your couch, try one of these amazing hiking Sierra Nevada trails.
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 https://localfreshies.com
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