Rugged good looks aren’t just a Hollywood celebrity asset… it’s also a way to describe California’s High Sierra. Home to the deepest canyon in North America to the tallest peak in the lower 48, this region is a must see for anyone coming to California. Here’s a look at what we consider the 7 Wonders of the High Sierra.
See Emerald Bay up close on the MS Dixie II
Words don’t do it justice. Pictures just give you a hint. It’s not until your eyes feast upon the waters of Lake Tahoe themselves will you truly understand just how amazing it is. And when it comes to the cherry on top, Emerald Bay State Park is it. The most rugged peaks descend down into the cove itself. Within the bay is the only island in all of Lake Tahoe – Fannette Island. Like a pearl cupped by the Sierra Nevada, you’ll want to put in your pocket and take it home as a keepsake. Instead, take lots of pictures to remember your adventure and share with future generations as well.
Feeling the need to add a bit more luxury to the trip? Consider staying at Tahoe South’s only all-suite hotel – Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel.
Learn more about the Yosemite Valley & what to see there
Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t include Yosemite National Park. When Teddy Roosevelt visited in 1903, he was quoted as saying it was like “lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man.” To this day, it’s still true. Any first time visitor must see the Yosemite Valley in all its grandeur from the steep cliff face of El Capitan to the massive piece of granite known as Half Dome. And don’t forget the glorious myriad of waterfalls like the Yosemite Fall.
Looking for a place to stay just a few minutes from the southern gate? Consider the Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite.
The Giant Sequoias
Learn more about where to see Giant Sequoias in the High Sierra
Did you know that the Earth’s most massive trees reside in the High Sierra? Standing over 300 feet and nearly 50 feet in diameter, a Giant Sequoia is a sight to see in person. For those that want to see the largest, you’ll need to head down to Sequoia National Park and check out General Sherman. Or, explore the OLDEST tourist attraction in California – the Calaveras Big Trees State Park. This grove of Giant Sequoias was discovered by August T. Dowd in 1852, and tourists began arriving shortly after in 1853 to experience the giants themselves.
Just 25 miles west of Sequoia National Park is the San Joaquin Valley’s largest full-service hotel Wyndham Visalia. They’ll make sure you get a good night’s sleep before your day of exploring the wonders of the park.
Learn more about Kings Canyon National Park
While the Grand Canyon is “grand”, there’s a crevasse in the Earth’s crust that’s even deeper. And it’s within the least visited national park in the Sierra Nevada – Kings Canyon. The glaciated valley, carved out by the mighty Kings river, is the deepest in the U.S.! Reaching depths of up to 8,200 FEET, it’s no wonder John Muir stated this area is “a rival of the Yosemite.” Also, this national park is home to the LARGEST remaining grove of sequoia trees in the world, the Redwood Canyon.
At over 760,000 years old, it’s one of the oldest lakes in North America. Featuring a unique landscape with its tufa towers, it seems more sci-fi like than of this world. It is believed that before the L.A. aqueduct was created, nearly 85% of California Gulls started their life here. Although the salinity and alkalinity is too high for fish, it is home to a species of brine shrimp that exists nowhere else in the world. Every spring, 4-6 TRILLION of them rise to the surface making it a stop-over for millions of migrating birds.
Discovered by miners in 1851, the vertical chamber near Angels Camp is so massive that it’s the largest public cavern in California – big enough to hold the entire Statue of Liberty. Getting its name from the luring moaning sounds that echo out of the cave, you can either enjoy it via a 45-minute family-friendly walking tour or dive deep into exploring the catacombs by taking the 3-hour Wild Cavern Adventure trip.
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest
Learn more about the Bristlecone Pine Forest
Ancient doesn’t even describe the age of these wooly mammoth old trees. At a whopping 4,000 years of age, these pines aren’t just the oldest non-clonal living things in California or the U.S. but rather the OLDEST on planet Earth! They’re so old that they were born when humans began to develop the concept of writing. As you weave through the groves of Bristlecone pines, just imagine what these trees have seen.
Note: These forests grow at an elevation of 9,800 – 11,000 feet above sea level, so to visit them, the winter’s snows must be melted away.
We invite you to not just see the 7 Wonders of the High Sierra but also to experience them in all their splendor.
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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