Strung across a stretch of eastern California find the Sierra Nevada, a mountain range as likable for its delicate meadows as it is its dramatic peaks. Though perfectly accessible (provided snow hasn't blocked some of the higher passes), these mountains have retained their wild appeal, whether you're talking geology (think glaciers and volcanoes), fauna (look for marauding bears and the rare golden eagle), or flora - this is, after all where you'll find immense and ancient sequoia forests. Encompassing three national parks, six national forests, and many square miles of assorted protected areas, the Sierra Nevada is one of the largest islands of scenic wilderness remaining in the United States and as such, deserved the complete attention of both outdoor enthusiasts and those with an eye for majestic landscapes.
Any savvy visitor will appreciate the fact that the four seasons bring to these parts an ever-changing list of nature-friendly pursuits. The Sierra Nevada, a Spanish phrase meaning "snowy range," lives up to its name come winter storms, home to most of California's big-name ski resorts, miles of cross country trails and a handful of Sno-Parks. But the peaks call out to more than just snow bunnies. Hikers and climbers converge on Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the Lower 48, year-round, and during warmer months the West's main long-distance route, the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, sees a steady stream of backpackers. Rock-climbers congregate at famous faces like El Capitan to test their skills on serious granite, and on boulders around Lake Tahoe. Once the jewel-hued lakes and sinuous rivers lose their ice, this region also attracts the attentions of anglers, boaters, paddlers, whitewater rafters and overheated hikers.
From here, you can find general information about the Sierras as a whole. For more specific information, visit our separate coverage of Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, and Sequoia/King's Canyon National Park.
The Sierra Nevada roughly follow the east border of California, forming the eastern boundary of the central California valley. For more information, please choose an area of interest from the left.