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The Sierra Nevada packs a lot of fun across its 24,370 square miles. With THREE national parks, twenty wilderness areas, & two national monuments, you truly can become one with nature. In fact, the High Sierra is home to one of the LONGEST stretches of protected wilderness in the lower 48. While most gravitate towards the national parks, consider checking out these three wilderness areas in the High Sierra.

What Is A Wilderness Area

Although national forests can be utilized for logging and resource extraction, wilderness areas cannot. Typically, they’re a certain segment of national forest that’s set aside to be ‘wild’… hence the name wilderness area. No motor vehicles. No resource extraction. The intention is to leave these lands in their pristine natural environment. For those curious on what all the designations mean, be sure to check out the Department of the Interior’s America’s Public Lands explained.

Desolation Wilderness

Lake Aloha Desolation Wilderness In High Sierra California
Aerial view of Lake Aloha which is one of the many lakes in Desolation Wilderness Photo by: Brad Scott – Image appears courtesy: Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority

How could we talk about wilderness areas in California without mentioning one of THE most popular & arguably scenic in the country. Covering over 63,000 acres, this enchanted piece of nature sits adjacent to the southwestern shore of Lake Tahoe. A land filled with sub-alpine and alpine forests studded with granite peaks like Mt. Tallac, Desolation Wilderness is a vast assortment of falls like Eagle Falls with a big helping of gorgeous lakes.

Jennie Lakes Wilderness

Jennie Lakes Wilderness California High Sierra Summit
Photo by: Miguel Vieira – Image appears courtesy: Visit California

Neighboring the Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, this small piece of heaven could be considered the local’s secret spot to venture to when things get a bit too crowded. Formed in 1984 by the California Wilderness Act, elevations range from about 7,000 feet to a whopping 10,365 feet on the summit of Mt. Mitchell. The star of the show is the immense Boulder Canyon slicing through the center at a whopping 1,000 feet deep within the Jennie Lakes Wilderness.

John Muir Wilderness Area

John Muir Wilderness
Image appears courtesy: Visit Bishop

The Man. The Myth. The Legend. If it wasn’t for John Muir, affectionately known as the “father of the National Parks”, we wouldn’t even have the concept of wilderness areas. And the one named after him is a BEAST, located not far from Bishop. Extending over the Sierra Crest, it features 57 peaks over 13,000 feet including the highest peak in the continental United States (Mount Whitney) within its more than 650,000 acres. With over 589 miles of established trails including sections of the “PCT” and John Muir trails, you could spend a lifetime exploring this vast natural playground.

At over 149 wilderness areas covering more than 15 million acres across the state, there’s a lot to explore! If you want to have nature all to yourself, don’t skip these cool wilderness areas 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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