California High Sierras
The High Sierra is a beautiful and unspoiled paradise that is a total contrast to the beaches and heat of Southern California. Yosemite National Park one of the prime attractions of High Sierra, rivals other more famous mountain parks in North America for sheer beauty. For that adrenaline rush take a white-water rafting trip on one of the many rivers in the park. Lake Tahoe is the famous year round resort of the High Sierra - fishing and water sports in the summer and excellent snow sports in winter. The High Sierra is particularly suitable for visitors who are lovers of the outdoors.
Sunshine: 80 percent in summer; 75 percent in winter, spring and fall; temps vary widely depending on season and elevation.
The Sierra Nevada cordillera splits California in half lengthwise, offering visitors two distinctive perspectives on the state. Along the western slopes are bejeweled national parks, whitewater rivers, and charming gateway towns like Mariposa and Groveland. To the east are deep blue-eyed lakes, challenging ski resorts, and Western towns-like Bishop-that are famous for their fairs and wild-west rodeos.
But whatever side you choose, the High Sierra is a recreational playground. In the north is Lake Tahoe, with its clear, blue waters that are perfect for cruising in an antique wooden speedboat, as well as its miles of ski trails, which welcome mountain bikers in the summer. In the southern Sierra the Kern River is frothy and turbulent, just screaming for a little whitewater rafting. In between is Yosemite, a place that's spectacular yearround and an uncrowded treasure from September through December, when oaks and sycamores reveal their fall colors before losing their leaves completely as the park's quiet valley meadows are dusted with snow. Just south of Yosemite, near Oakhurst, are Bass and Huntington Lakes, which lure fishermen, waterskiers, and campers alike throughout the summer months.
Two other national parks, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, hug the Sierra's western slopes. Sequoia is home to impressive stands of some of the largest trees in the world, including the General Sherman Tree, the world's largest living plant. Adjacent Kings Canyon is a backpacker's haven of jagged peaks and rugged canyons, the latter carved by the incomparable and turbulent Kings River.
Much of the eastern side of the Sierra is in a rain shadow, which means it's drier, though you'd never guess that by looking at Mammoth Mountain. In fact, Mammoth gets such prodigious amounts of snow every winter that skiing frequently continues into July.
Farther south is Bishop, a typical Western town with numerous tackle stores to service anglers looking to catch trophy trout in the dozens of streams and lakes nearby. And ranching towns such as Independence and Lone Pine have long been popular film locations for western movies; today the area celebrates its rich Hollywood heritage every fall with a film festival.
Getting Around The High Sierra
703 Airport Rd., Bishop 93514; 760/872-2971 ; ground transport, car rental agencies.
Fresno Yosemite International (FAT)
5175 E. Clinton Way, Fresno 93727;
559/498-4095 ; served by American, American Eagle, Delta/Skywest, US Airways, United Express, Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, Canadian Air, Continental Airlines, Hawaiian Air, Horizon Air, Northwest Airlines; airport transport, major car rental agencies.
Lake Tahoe (TVL)
1901 Airport Rd., South Lake Tahoe 96150; 530/542-6180 ; Allegiant Air; Enterprise car rental agency.
Merced Municipal (MCE)
12 Macready Dr., Merced 95340-6404; 209/385-6873 ; served by United Express/Skywest; Enterprise, Hertz Aide rental car agencies; closest airport to Yosemite with scheduled service.
Reno/Tahoe International (RNO)
2001 E. Plumb Ln., Reno, NV 89502; 775/328-6400 ; served by national, commuter airlines; airport transport, major car rental agencies.
Amtrak (800) 872-7245 ; there are no staffed Amtrak stations/ticket offices in the area.