California’s High Sierra has become the great escape for many residents. In fact, 8.1 million more Americans went hiking in 2020 compared to 2019, according to a report from Outdoor Participation with many of them in the Sierra. While it’s exciting to see so many more individuals enjoying nature, there is a flip side. This outdoor boom also set records for search and rescues as well as trash amounts left in the forests. To help plan your trip and keep the High Sierra beautiful for generations to enjoy, we’ve put together some recommendations for your travels. We all can do our part by recreating responsibly in California’s High Sierra.

What Is Recreating Responsibly?

More and more people realize how cathartic spending time in nature is. It’s becoming essential that we all take care of outdoor spaces so they stay safe and healthy. The foundation is simple. We are asking you to leave California’s High Sierra better than you found it. Check out some tips and helpful hints from our regional partners throughout the High Sierra.

Take The Pledge

Since protecting our public spaces isn’t just one region’s goal but rather everyone’s, all three tourism bureaus in the Lake Tahoe basin have joined forces to create the Tahoe Traveler Responsibility Pledge. With the unified goal of having both visitors and residents alike pledge that we will be mindful and respectful of the magical landscape of Lake Tahoe. If you do plan on visiting Tahoe or any part of the High Sierra, we ask that you take the pledge and we have put together some helpful hints on how to put the pledge into action during your stay.

Drink Tahoe Tap

person drinking from drink Tahoe Tap water bottle on shores of Lake Tahoe
Photo by: Ming Poon – Image appears courtesy: North Lake Tahoe

Tahoe Tap is so good it has won awards, so while traveling there is no need to buy bottled water when you can experience the greatness of Tahoe Tap. This is just one of the many cool tips you’ll find in Tahoe South’s Take Care Travel Pledge homepage.

Book Green Lodging

drink Tahoe Tap sunset at Lake Tahoe
Image appears courtesy: Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority

Interested in taking the pledge one step further.  Green lodging is becoming more available throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin.  It’s not an easy designation to get either. For example, Granlibakken Tahoe was the first to get certified in the Lake Tahoe basin. They went through an extensive checklist evaluating such things as energy, solid waste, and wastewater to become a true Green Lodging destination. For more ideas on how you can protect Lake Tahoe, be sure to read North Lake Tahoe’s sustainability article.

Plan An Offseason Trip

You might be hankering for a trip to the mountains this summer, but maybe consider visiting during the shoulder seasons. You’ll have a bit more elbow room, lodging prices will be lower, and you can either take in the colorful display of fall foliage or the roaring falls of late spring. Whether your heading out on the trails or taking in the scenery from a lake, take a close look at Visit Truckee-Tahoe’s recreate responsibly page.

Bring A Friend, Tell A Friend

nature rules logo recreate responsibly
Image appears courtesy: Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau

One of the golden rules when going for a hike, a backcountry skiing excursion, or a mountain biking adventure is to always travel with a friend and notify someone at home what your exact route will be along with entry/exit times. While you might think it’s fun or more relaxing to go alone, things happen in the wilderness so traveling together can save your life. This is but a taste of the amazing information you can find within the Yosemite County Tourism Bureau’s 5 Pillars of Nature Rules.

Teach, Don’t Preach

shadows on granite rock
Image appears courtesy: Bishop Visitor Center

It’s so easy to scold and chastise those that aren’t respecting nature. But, there’s a good chance these individuals were never taught to respect the value of nature. Take it upon yourself to start teaching kids and friends about good outdoor habits. You don’t have to wait until you’re in nature either. It can be done at home by doing things such as pitching a tent and playing games that encourage ‘leave no trace’ habits. Or, you can go for a walk in your local park and learn to tread lightly. To learn more, read Bishop Visitor Center’s article: Protect, Preserve, Participate, Perpetuate.

Bring Your Mountain Manners

fly fishing at Silver Lake in the fall
Image appears courtesy: Mono County Tourism

Just because you’re in the outdoors doesn’t mean you should leave your manners at home. Mother Nature’s house might be bigger, but she still needs our respect. Mono County reminds us to be good guests and bring our best Mountain Manners when visiting her home. For example, if you’ve fished for the day in one of the many lakes, streams, or rivers, make sure you take all fishing line and hooks home with you. These are dangerous to wild animals, birds, fish, pets, and kids.

One Less Spark, One Less Fire

fire safety
Image appears courtesy: North Lake Tahoe

Did you know that nearly 85% of forest fires are started by people? To help reduce these types of wildfires, California requires you to obtain a free fire permit for any open flames outside of a developed campground. This system is designed to help encourage, teach, and refresh residents on fire safety and awareness to quell the risks of more accidental fires. Even IF you have a permit, be sure to check fire restrictions regularly as certain locations may ban fires altogether due to weather conditions. To learn more about fire safety and being a good steward, be sure to read Tuolumne County’s how to love the county like a local and make sure you educate yourself on the fire guidelines in the areas you’re visiting.

Leave Boondocking To The Saints In Troy Duffy’s Film

Tuolumne Grove
Image appears courtesy: Visit Tuolumne

Did you know that it only takes as little as ten nights of a tent being pitched in the same location for a thriving meadow to be destroyed? Impact occurs quickly. And unfortunately, it can take a year or more for it to restore back to its natural beauty. We’re not saying don’t go camping, but pitch a tent or park your RV at one of the hundreds of campgrounds operated by the Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, National Park Service, local counties, and private resort owners. You’ll get the immersive experiences in nature without the negative consequences of overuse. On top of it, you’ll have access to restrooms, fire rings or BBQs, and even dumpsters.

Check Out Your Backyard

Image appears courtesy: Visit Yosemite | Madera County

Speaking of local… let’s not forget about our own backyards. Although many of us want to hit those mega destinations like Venice, Italy, this is a perfect time to take a deep dive into exploring destinations that are within road-trip distance. And to recreate responsibly, instead of heading to the big attractions, explore the lesser beaten paths. For example, in the Yosemite region consider the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway.  

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.

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors

Stay Up to Date

for updates on hidden gems, events, and more from California's High Sierra.

More Trip Ideas

More Trip Ideas

Keep Discovering

Need more reasons to visit the Sierra Nevada High Country?

Get a glimpse of the stunning scenery to see and activities to do in the Sierra Nevada.

View Gallery Brochure

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors