There are plenty of outdoor activities that require hours and hours of practice or athleticism to enjoy like skiing or mountain biking. There’s also plenty of other fun things that allow you to sample what the mountains have to offer that don’t require skill or equipment. To help spark your wanderlust, here’s some fun unique adventures to make the most of your time in the California High Sierra.
Enjoy Gravity Via A Mountain Coaster
Accessed via the Heavenly Gondola, the gravity-fed mountain coaster on top of Heavenly is the perfect activity for the entire family to get a dose of adrenaline fun and at the same time take in all the views. There’s a reason why it’s on Visit Lake Tahoe’s Bucket List of items you must do when visiting Tahoe. Sweeping around natural rock formations and descending 300 vertical feet while racing down a 3,400’ track, you’ll come back with memories AND a grin.
Conquer Your Fear Of Heights
As the snow melts away, Mammoth Lakes becomes a destination for rock climbing on California granite. Throughout summer, Mammoth Lakes offer easy access to a variety of routes from family-friendly routes to experts alike. For those that want to dip their toes into the experience but nervous about trying rock climbing, we recommend Mammoth Via Ferrata. A combination of ladder rungs, steel cables, and suspension bridges that help you navigate the iconic cliffs at Mammoth Mountain. All the while a guide leads you through it, you are ALWAYS connected to the rock.
Ride More, Worry Less With An E-Bike Tour
If you can ride a bike, you will enjoy an E-Bike tour of High Camp at Palisades Tahoe. While you still have to pedal, think of it as a helping hand so it’s not as strenuous. The guided adventure tour begins with a ten-minute ride via the legendary aerial trams which transports you to 8,200 feet above sea level. From there, you’ll head off with a guide through alpine scenic terrain featuring mountain vistas, wildflowers, and of course views of Lake Tahoe. Then after a scrumptious meal in Truckee, slow yer roll by going forest bathing on the Ridgeline Nature Loop.
Kids 12 & under ride the Aerial Tram for FREE this summer with the purchase of an adult Aerial Tram ticket. Tickets must be purchased online in advance.
Mosey Into The Wilderness Via A Horseback Pack Trip
There’s nothing more authentically Western than a Pack Trip. In its simplest terms, it’s a multi-day excursion where you set off via horse as well as pack animals (hence ‘pack trip’) like horses and donkeys to carry your baggage. A century old tradition that will put you as close to the rugged, pristine High Sierra as you possibly wish. With knowledgeable guides, you’ll ford creeks full of rushing water. Breathe clean mountain air. Maybe even catch a few trout from alpine lakes. It will be one of the most unique adventures you won’t soon forget.
If you don’t have the time for a long backpacking trip, these pack stations also offer day trips on horseback as well.
Motor Touring The Paths Less Traveled
Up and down the Sierra you’ll find some of the most iconic scenic byways in the country. If you’ve done these beautiful drives or just looking to go a bit deeper into the wilderness, it’s time to go off highway motor touring. Just beyond the paved main artery of Highway 395 you’ll find miles upon miles of unpaved backroads. These jeep track tours provide you a glimpse of the past be it human, geological, or a bit of both. Unless you have a vehicle designed for traveling on less than perfect ground, it’s a good idea to stop by GSC Off Road Adventures in Bishop to get geared up with a proper Recreational off-highway vehicle.
Splish, Splash Your Way To Fun
Every year the rivers of the Sierra are fueled from the snowmelt, creating a summer tradition that we like to call – whitewater rafting season. And in California, one of the best spots to go is of course in the High Sierra – the Tuolumne River. Specifically, the Wild and Scenic 18-mile stretch just outside of Yosemite in the Stanislaus National Forest. On this section, Class IV rapids are the rule not the exception. Depending on how much time you have, outfitters provide you the opportunity to pick from one-, two-, or three-day unique adventures.
Row, Row Your Kayak
If the idea of dropping down a bunch of rapids is a bit too much, shove off via a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard on the crystal-clear waters of Lake Alpine. At an elevation of 7,350 feet above sea level, this pleasant body of water is the perfect getaway from the summer heat. Due to its location in the high country of Alpine County, it’s an often-overlooked water oasis that provides great fishing and jaw dropping vistas without the crowds. Don’t own your gear? No problem. You can rent a kayak or standup paddle board from Bear Valley Adventure Company. Then finish off the day with one of the most scenic drives in California – Ebbetts Pass Scenic Byway.
Beat The Heat… And Go Underground
While most think of getting out on open water to cool down, another option that most don’t consider is visiting a cave. Think of it as Mother Nature’s basement… but way cooler.
There are over 275 caverns in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks alone including one just outside of the park boundaries called Boyden Cavern. The classic 45-minute tour is a good sample, but if you want to REALLY experience it in depth, we suggest reserving a spot for one of their private extended tours. Typically departing in the early morning, it gives you the chance to experience the stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, pendants, and shields at your own pace. This is a great opportunity for budding photographers that want a bit more time to get the right shot or those that just want to see this underground environment with not a soul around. Regardless of the tour you pick, before you even venture below ground the hike to the entrance rewards you with a unique views of the steepest part of Kings Canyon.
Yosemite… By Air
You’ve seen the mighty granite walls of Yosemite Valley from the ground. You may have even scaled them via a rope, but have you ever taken the true scale and wander from a birds-eye view? See Yosemite National Park by air! Taking off from the historic town of Mariposa, your pilot will narrate the natural history across the 1.5-hour aerial tour. They’ll point out familiar landmarks such as the majestic El Capitan and Yosemite Falls. Float over Clouds Rest, Cathedral Peak, and on to Tuolumne Meadows. And once you’re done, you can check off another bucket-list item — Go Skydiving! Operating out of the same airport, Skydive Yosemite is a family run business that gives you a chance to jump out of a plane and get some of the best views on Planet Earth. So Be Brave… and Skydive Yosemite.
From driving the dirt less-traveled to jumping out of a plane, these unique adventures will definitely be something to write home about.
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.