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Gold and silver run deep in the veins of California. This resource helped fuel the economy in the 1800’s, but as a consequence, this natural bounty of ore mined and lumber felled at an alarming rate cleared entire mountainsides. Many thought these resources would never end, but a few saw differently. This is when the idea of setting aside land for its natural value was born and thus the creation of the first state parks. Here’s 3 California State Parks in the High Sierra that represent a fine sampling to some of the most diverse natural landscape in the country.

D.L. Bliss State Park

The Rubicon Trail | Photo by Joan Wharton via Flickr appears courtesy: Tahoe South

Located on the western shores of Lake Tahoe and a few miles north of Emerald Bay, the park encompasses some of the most beautiful beaches in the Tahoe basin. This park contains fantastic hiking opportunities as well as the iconic Rubicon Point Light, the highest elevation lighthouse in the United States. From its scenic overlook, you get a brilliant panorama of Emerald Bay, Fannette Island, Lake Tahoe and the distant Nevada shore. Rubicon Point also gives you a close look at one of the lake’s deepest spots. You’ll see just how clear the waters truly are!

Columbia State Historic Park


Stagecoach Columbia State Historic Park High Sierra State Parks
Image appears courtesy: Visit Tuolumne

Feel like moseying your way back in time and experiencing the California Gold Rush Era? Then head three miles north of Sonora to the bustling historic town of Columbia. More than a century and a half ago, gold was discovered here and thousands flocked to get their share of it. The park system has restored and continued to preserve the brick buildings along Main Street that were built during its mining heyday. And that’s not all. You can catch a ride on an authentic stagecoach, pan for gold just like the original “49ers”, order a locally made sarsaparilla soda in a Western-style saloon or even feel the heat in a working blacksmith’s forge. With no cars allowed, the only sounds you’ll hear are the clippety-clop of horses through the streets.

Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve

Image appears courtesy: Mono County Economic Development, Tourism & Film Commission

Ancient… in fact, one of the oldest out there at over a million years old! Mono Lake is what you would imagine a body of water would look like on another planet. With no outlet, the salts and minerals from the Eastern Sierra streams have made its water 2 ½ times saltier and 80 times more alkaline than the oceans. It also has created spectacular “tufa towers,” which are calcium-carbonate spires and knobs formed by interaction of freshwater springs and alkaline lake water. While you might imagine a place like this would be inhospitable, think again. It’s home to millions and millions of the bizarre and hairy alkali fly. These insects help feed over a MILLION sea birds as they pick them up from the surface and swirl overhead as part of their annual pilgrimage to their southern habitats.

The beauty and grandeur of Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove captivated the world and helped create the first state park. This land grant from 1864 sparked what was to become the largest state park system in the United States. Come celebrate and help preserve California’s multitude of natural wonders and cultural heritage by visiting one of these three state parks in the High Sierra.


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

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