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    Towering above a verdant valley, the gleaming granite of natural landmark, Half Dome, might be Yosemite National Park's most recognizable feature but venture into the surrounding wilderness and you'll find this photo-worthy park has plenty more to offer.

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Sierra Nevada, California - Scenic Drives

Byways, Backways, Historic Routes,...

Many roads wind up and through the Sierra Nevada, a number of them very scenic (though not all have been officially so designated). Weave around Lake Tahoe, follow the Feather River or surge up and over high wind-swept passes as you explore some of the region's loveliest byways. Lakes are often close to the road (good for a range of water-based activities) no matter what part of the mountains you explore, and national forests are everywhere throughout (think hiking, mountain biking, camping and more), from the Sierra National Forest to the Stanislaus National Forest with frothing rivers, ski slopes and national parks for filler.

Be sure to check weather conditions before starting out, and keep your gas tank full - storms can move in quickly even late spring, and gas stations are surprisingly far apart through certain stretches.

Byways to consider in the Sierra Nevada are listed below.

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15 scenic drive Results

  • Paved and maintained gravel
  • 2 hours
  • 34 miles (54 km)

The Ancient Bristlecone Scenic Byway winds past ancient Bristlecone Pine as it ranges from 11,000 feet above sea level across an alpine desert.The Ancient Bristlecone Scenic Byway begins on the outskirts of Bishop and follows HWY 168 southwest from Camp Sabrina to Brockman Lane at Paiute Shoshone In...

  • Sierra Nevadas - Sierra Nevada North

Following the old Fernley and Lassen Branch Line of the Southern Pacific railroad, the trail winds 25.4 miles from Susanville to Mason Station. For the first dozen miles, the trail follows the Susan River. As it winds through the rugged Susan River Canyon, the trail crosses the river 12 times on bri...

  • Paved
  • About 1.5 hours
  • 58 miles (93 km)

The Carson Pass Scenic Highway is a dramatic escape into the high reaches and climes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains that runs from peaks and valleys to lakes and forest. The Carson Pass Scenic Highway starts at Dew Drop on Highway 88, 55 miles north from Sacramento. Follow Highway 88 east to Woodfor...

  • Paved
  • 2 hours to drive or 5 hours to explore the Byway
  • 61 miles (98 km)

Ebbetts Pass Scenic Byway may have scenery to its credit but it also provides access to a range of outdoor activities. Sparkling Sierra lakes, giant sequoia redwoods, and panoramic alpine vistas greet the adventurous traveler at every turn and summit.Ebbetts Pass Scenic Byway begins along HWY 4 in A...

  • Paved
  • Three hours
  • 130 miles (209 km)

The Feather River Scenic Byway follows the beautiful Feather River as it passes through the Sierra Nevada Mountains and gives life to the serene woodland ecosystems through which it passes. Follow the waters along Feather River Canyon, a gorge carved by the river through the layers of granite travel...

  • Paved
  • At least one hour
  • 50 miles (80 km)

The Kings Canyon Scenic Byway winds through Sequoia National Forest, Giant Sequoia National Monument, and Kings Canyon National Park. Though giant trees are the gnarly old stars in these parts the area's natural caves, cascades and hiking trails also deserve honorary mention.The Kings Canyon Scenic ...

  • Paved
  • Allow at least 30 minutes.
  • 12 miles (19 km)

Lee Vining Scenic Byway drifts between two of nature's most primal creative forces. Formed by glaciers and volcanoes, this route takes in America's newest mountain range, volcanic craters, alkaline and freshwater lakes, and forest scenery sure to be as memorable as it is exciting and otherworldly.Le...

  • Paved
  • 1 hour
  • 27 miles (43 km)

Route 140—Mariposa County Scenic Byway travels through a world of natural beauty, laced with mariposa wildflowers, waterfalls, and giant granite domes.Route 140—Mariposa County Scenic Byway begins near Mariposa on HWY 140. Follow HWY 140 northeast past El Portal, to Yosemite Village and the end of t...

  • 20 minutes
  • 20 miles (32 km)

This State Scenic Highway cuts through the beautiful high-country of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. From the byway one can see some of California's highest mountain peaks, such as Red Slate Mountain at 13,163 feet. The highway follows the Owens River to Crowley Lake and beyond. The whole byway...

  • 2 hours
  • 58 miles (93 km)

This scenic route runs from the suburban foothills of the Sierra Nevada through the American River Canyon, over the granite peaks of Echo Summit and descends into the Tahoe Basin with spectacular views of Lake Tahoe.

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Sierra Nevada, California - Scenic Drives

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