There are a few options once the summer temps begin 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… head up high into the mountains. Here are six 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: Palisades Tahoe

A little more than ten miles from the historic downtown of Truckee is Palisades Tahoe, a walkable village with a variety of attractions. Enjoy a selection of restaurants, explore diverse shops, and don’t miss the highlight: the Aerial Tram. This tram provides access to High Camp situated at 8200′ above sea level. Here you can roller skate, visit museums, take in scenic vistas, and hike, including the popular Shirley Canyon trail. This trail offers everything from a waterfall to a bubbling stream filled with boulders. And it all finishes off with breathtaking views of Palisades Tahoe. Typically, most people end with the aerial tram so that they don’t have to hike back down.

Everyone Is Invited Too!

Truckee’s community understands how therapeutic time in the great outdoors is and that everyone should have access to it. They’ve embarked on an initiative called Trails for EveryBODY™. As part of this, they’ve supported trail development of two cutting-edge dirt trails designed to accommodate ALL users: the Compass Skills Loop and Ridgeline Nature Trail. These trails complement Truckee’s extensive network of paved trails with over 26 miles of scenic paths in the mountain town.

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. On your way up don’t miss the scenic Sierra View overlook located 2 miles below the Schulman Grove Visitor Center. This vista offers a breathtaking view of the Eastern Sierra and the town of Bishop below. It’s definitely worth the stop.

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 what to see or do? The options are 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. And how could we forget Tokopah Falls trail which takes you to the tallest waterfalls in the park a whopping 1,200 feet in height. 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. 

Lower Kinney Lake

Distance: 2.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 324 feet

Kinney lake ebbetts pass
Kinney Reservoir with Ebbetts Peak in view (right off the road & a few miles away from Lower Kinney Lake)

The old saying “the journey is the reward” couldn’t ring truer for this Alpine county hike. First, you’ll set off on one of California’s most scenic roads – Ebbetts Pass Highway. As you wind your way through miles of designated wilderness, you’ll reach the High Sierra Crest. This is where the legendary 2,500-mile PCT crosses. Not to be mistaken for Kinney Reservoir, which is right off the road, this body of water is a few miles in. The short distance, outside the initial climb, has a gentle elevation gain, making it a perfect family outing.

If you want to add a bit more mileage, you can also take in one of the High Sierra’s most scenic bodies of water – Upper Kinney Lake, which makes it a 4-mile loop with a 621-foot elevation gain. After you’re done, either go for a soak in a hot spring at Grover State Park or stop in Markleeville to enjoy a cold, refreshing pint at Cutthroat Brewing.

Eagle Meadow

Distance: 4.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 531 feet

stanislaus national forest
Stanislaus National Forest

The national parks and designated wilderness areas may get all the attention, but the Sierra’s National Forests are filled with just as much beauty and with a bit more elbow room. A good example is the Stanislaus National Forest and the Eagle Meadow hike off of Highway 108.

On this hour and a half stroll, you’ll be greeted by green meadows filled with wildflowers. The sound and sights of flowing creeks. And all this framed with hulking peaks still holding onto some of the winter’s snow. For more hiking opportunities in the area, check out Visit Tuolumne’s trails page, or better yet explore all the fun that exists in this part of the High Sierra.

If you’re looking to beat the summer heat, these six hikes in the High Sierra will do that and so much more. 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 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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