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State parks might be a bit less known than their national park cousins, but they’re definitely worth a visit. Offering up mountain bike trails to campsites & even dipping into local history, here’s three California State Parks in the High Sierra you should consider visiting this year.

Van Sickle Bi-State Park

Van Sickle Bi-State Park
Photo by: 1st Tracks Productions – Image appears courtesy: Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority

Being close to the casino core while straddling the California/Nevada state line, you’d think this park would be packed. Think again! A true hidden gem right under your nose in South Lake Tahoe, it features hiking, biking, horseback riding, and world class views of Lake Tahoe. While Central Park may provide a bit of respite from NYC’s concrete jungle, the Van Sickle Bi-State Park trails offer you a chance to walk right from the gambling floor to a true natural setting in only a few minutes. From easily accessing the Tahoe Rim Trail to enjoying a pleasant waterfall after a short 1.3 mile hike, there’s something for everyone from the adventurous beginner to the seasoned veteran.

Donner Memorial State Park

Donner Memorial State Park Truckee
Image appears courtesy: Truckee Chamber of Commerce

The fabled Donner Party’s journey to the West Coast is one of the darkest moments in American pioneering. Consisting of 90 emigrants, the Donner Party fell victim to the harsh Sierra Nevada winter of 1846-47. The Donner Memorial State Park offers a glimpse into this story via the Emigrant Trail Museum. In front of the museum is a stone marker standing 22 feet tall, showcasing the amount of snow on the ground that winter. The park is also home to numerous outdoor adventures. You’ll find fantastic hiking, snowshoeing & cross country skiing trails (more than 8 miles), a place to take a dip in Donner Lake, enjoy a boat ride and even go fishing. For more information, visit the Truckee website.

California State Mining & Mineral Museum

California State Mining Museum
Image appears courtesy: Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau

Only a year after the Donner Party tragedy, even bigger news shocked the United States… gold fever! In 1848, gold was discovered in California and a rush of fortune seekers descended upon the state. Nearly a century later, historians and individuals alike are still fascinated by the legends of this era. The California State Mining & Mineral Museum houses a collection of over 13,000 minerals, rocks, gems, fossils, and historic artifacts including the Fricot Nugget. Returned in 2000 to the museum, it’s the largest crystalline gold nugget found during the Gold Rush. For more information about the newest California State Park property, visit the Yosemite | Mariposa website.

As you can see, California state parks in the High Sierra have lots of adventure to offer. With a rich assortment of natural treasures, fascinating historic sites, & one-of-a kind destinations, it’s a great year to visit. Want even more ideas? Venture over to our other article highlighting several more state parks.

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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