Like sand in an hour glass, so are disappearing the days of summer weather. With most kids already back to school, time is fleeting to get in one last “summer” trip. Here’s seven family vacation ideas in the High Sierra that you shouldn’t pass up before fall hits!

Why Be Normal When You Can Visit The Upside Down House

Lee Vining

Upside Down House Lee Vining Family Vacation Ideas in the High Sierra
Image appears courtesy: Mono County Tourism & Film Commission

Road trips are as American as apple pie. And there’s nothing that goes better with a car ride than checking out a world-renowned roadside attraction like the Upside Down House. Conjured up by entrepreneur, visionary, and long-time resident Nellie O’Bryan in 1956, the idea came from two children’s stories “Upside Down Land” and “The Upsidedownians”. Everything inside the structure is upside down including the plaque on the front. This marvel will surely spark your children’s imaginations as well as yours. Want to see even more? Here’s 10 family trip ideas in and around Mono County to kick start your road trip.

Choo, Choo Your Way To Fun Via The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad

Fish Camp

Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad Railroading Family Vacation Ideas in the High Sierra
Image appears courtesy – Visit Yosemite | Madera County

There’s something magical about the sights and sounds of a steam powered locomotive. And to see them live and in action, the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad is THE place to go. A revived railroad that once carried timber out of the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range, it will make adults feel young again and fill kids with a sense of wonder. The staff’s passion of railroading will keep the kids entertained while the trip is short and gentle enough for it to leave lasting memories for all involved.

Become A Junior Ranger


truckee donner lake memorial park
Photo by Local Freshies®; Courtesy of High Sierra Visitor’s Council

Do your kid love animals and the great outdoors? Inspire them to take the next big step and become a Junior Ranger! Both National Parks and California State Parks systems offer a junior ranger program. All you have to do is check in at a visitor center such as the one at the Donner Memorial State Park to receive a Junior Ranger activity book. Inside you’ll find a series of fun, educational tasks for your little one to complete. Once completed, it will be checked by a Park Ranger, who will then ceremonially swear them in as a Junior Ranger. Visit Truckee-Tahoe’s Family Trip Ideas article for more fun and interactive ideas.

Saddle On Up Your Cowpokes


Another way your kids can embrace their love of animals is by getting them on a horse. And for horseback riding, Bishop’s big backyard couldn’t be more ideal. Certain pack outfits cater specifically to parent/kid outings from short 15-minute walk-n-lead rides to a weekend adventure deep in the Sierra. Visit Bishop’s horseback riding page and reach out to the pack stations directly to get the scoop on what they offer. Even summer closes out, the pack outfits offer fall foliage rides too. This is but one of many things you can do with kids in Bishop.

Take In The Stars On A Backpacking Trip

Carson Pass

a field of wildflowers near Lake Tahoe
A field of mule ears behind an Indian Paintbrush flower at sunset near Carson Pass, California – Photo by: Rachid Dahnoun – Image appears courtesy: Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority

They say for your kids to be receptive to the idea of backpacking, you should start ‘em young – as early as age 3. Even so, a beginner backpacking trip shouldn’t be a full day slog up a mountain. The focus should be on making it a fun experience. Alpine County is an ideal destination for your 1st outing since it’s the least populated county in the state but has plenty of campsites up high in the Sierra with relatively easy access from Trailheads such as Lake Winnemucca. The most challenging part to this hike might be obtaining a camping permit.

Learn Where That Juicy Orange Comes From


tulare county museum at mooney grove
Image appears courtesy: Visit Visalia

The fertile land that sits at the foothills of the mighty Sierra is home to some of the greatest agriculture in the world. And the southern section near Visalia is nicknamed the “world’s fruit basket” because it produces so much of the world’s stone and citrus fruits. Have your kiddos learn about the county’s rich history of farm labor and agriculture at the Tulare County Museum of Farm Labor and Agriculture. Then finish off your family road trip by seeing the world’s largest trees by volume at Sequoia National Park.

There’s No Putts About It – Tahoe South’s Mini-Golf Scene Is Blistering

South Lake Tahoe

Image appears courtesy: Tahoe South

Summer and miniature golf are the perfect pair. For those looking to tee up some fun of the astro-turf variety, South Tahoe offers a few different options. Magic Carpet Mini Golf is the king of the south shore offering not just one but THREE courses of varying difficulty. The three different courses have holes characterized by favorites such as dragons, dinosaurs, and pirates. There’s also another great mini golf location in the Heavenly Village called Heavenly Village Mini Golf. Right in the center of the shops during the summer, they convert the ice-skating rink into a course accented with hanging lights and dazzling music. For more adventures by land, water and sky, check out Tahoe South’s post.

Your kids are only going to be this age once, so enjoy every moment you have together. Don’t let the last glimmer of summer’s weather pass you up without one more family trip to the High Sierra. We guarantee you won’t regret it. And if you’re looking for other adventures, be sure to check out even more family vacation ideas in the High Sierra found here.

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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