Hikes in Sierra National Forest

The five wilderness areas in the Sierra National Forest—Ansel Adams, John Muir, Dinkey Lakes, Kaiser, and Monarch—overflow with epic hiking routes. Abundant with relaxing forestland meanders and lakeside hikes, there is also a fair share of technical summit hikes to please spirited adventurers. Immerse yourself in nature amongst the area’s native flora and fauna and marvel at the beauty of the High Sierra in the Sierra National Forest.

10 Awesome Hiking Routes in the Sierra National Forest

Hiking routes are our forte, so we took it upon ourselves to curate a list of our favorite trails in the Sierra National Forest. We have included easy-going nature walks, strenuous summit hikes, and everything in between to satisfy adventurers of all skill levels and ages. Check it out:

  1. Angel Falls via Willow Creek Trail - Who doesn’t love a waterfall hike, right? The Angel Falls via Willow Creek Trail is a revered trail through enchanting forestlands that offers not one but two incredible cascades. Pack a swimsuit and cool off in one of the refreshing pools along Willow Creek.
  2. Mono Hot Springs Hike - Indulge yourself and relax in a natural hot spring along the San Joaquin River. The Mono Hot Springs Hike is less of a hike and more of a quick walk to the hot springs. Family-friendly and wonderfully scenic, you can spend the whole day enjoying the springs.
  3. Lewis Creek National Recreation Trail - The Lewis Creek National Recreational Trail packs a punch—woodlands, wildflowers, gorgeous vistas, and waterfalls; what more could you ask for? This scenic day hike is a must-add to your Sierra NF itinerary.
  4. Shaver Lake Trail - Explore the picturesque alpine reservoir along the Shaver Lake Trail. Shaver Lake boasts a postcard-perfect scene replete with dense pine forestlands and foothills. This secluded hike is a fun family adventure.
  5. Ya-Gub-Weh-Tuh Trail - The Ya-Gub-Weh-Tuh Trail is a scenic footpath along the San Joaquin River. Offering beautiful views of the boulder teeming with the river, the mossy forestlands, and surrounding mountains—the panoramas along this route are unparalleled.
  6. Bald Mountain Trail - Hike up through the coniferous forest to the summit of Bald Mountain—an exposed granite outcrop that boasts panoramic views of the High Sierra. Though demanding, the jaw-dropping vistas are well worth the sweat.
  7. George Lake Trail - Explore the alpine terrain along the George Lake Trail. This high-country hike travels over Potter Pass into a mountain basin adorned with shimmering pools flanked by craggy granite summits.
  8. Chain Lakes Trail - Put your stamina to the test as you tackle the Chain Lakes Trail. Adventure into the alpine tundra and marvel at the grandeur of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada summits. If you enjoy lakes, then this trek is an excellent option.
  9. Ely Mountain Hike - The Ely Mountain Trail is an awesome adventure in the Sierra NF that offers incredible scenery and a good workout. Travel past the Balsam Forebay, abundant with visitors enjoying the waters before summiting the granite peak.
  10. Mount Tom Fire Lookout Trail - Seeking epic vistas of the High Sierra? The Mount Tim Fire Lookout Trail boasts breathtaking views of the Sierra Nevada summits that flank the verdant woodlands below. If you are lucky, you may even be invited up to the top of the fire tower!

When is the Best Time to Visit the Sierra National Forest?

Like many of the wilderness areas in California, the Sierra National Forest can be enjoyed year-round. Both the summer and winter boast countless adventure opportunities, but the warmer months are undoubtedly the most popular time of year to visit. In the summer season, the vegetation is lush, wildflowers are abundant, high-altitude trails are free of snow, and the lakes are refreshing. Ideal for hiking and water adventures, the warmer weather makes for a busier, more crowded experience in the Sierra National Forest.

Contrastingly, the winter months boast a more tranquil excursion as the high-altitude hiking routes are often snow-cloaked and some roads impassable. Equally as scenic, many hiking trails are transformed into cross-country skiing or snowshoeing paths for intrepid explorers to enjoy. In the winter months, adventuring into the High Sierra presents inherent challenges and dangers, including avalanche threats—so exercise caution.

Our favorite times of the year to visit are what we like to refer to as the ‘sweet spots’—in the early fall and late spring. Spring and autumn adventures offer a more sequestered experience, and weather conditions are more ideal than winter journeys. However, it is important to remember that campgrounds and roads may be closed, so your choice of accommodations and access to certain routes may be limited.

Other Outdoor Activities in the Sierra National Forest

Offering numerous trails, the Sierra National Forest is undoubtedly a hiker’s paradise, but it is not limited to just hiking. A landscape characterized by its mountain scenery and alpine lakes, the adventure opportunities are boundless. So whether you seek a relaxing nature walk or boating excursion—the Sierra National Forest delivers.

Adorned with countless alpine lakes, water adventures are a popular recreational activity here. Try wind sailing in Huntington Lake, kayaking or canoeing in Shaver Lake, or relaxing in the Mono Hot Springs on the San Joaquin River. Bikers will be drawn to the backcountry, and off-roaders can drive up to the summit of Mount Tom.

After the snow falls, intrepid explorers can strap on a pair of microspikes or snowshoes and venture the same beloved hiking trails, enjoying a different perspective of the now snow-cloaked landscape. Snowmobiles can explore the wilderness, and alpine skiers can enjoy the uncrowded slopes of China Peak. The Sierra National Park is abundant with outdoor pursuits no matter the season.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Sierra National Forest

What is the Sierra National Forest known for?

The Sierra National Forest is most famously known for its mountain scenery—from the dramatic High Sierra summits to the forested foothills, this area is postcard-perfect.

Is Yosemite in the Sierra National Forest?

No, Yosemite National Park is not in the Sierra National Forest. The Sierra National Forest is located on the southern edge of Yosemite.

How much does it cost to enter the Sierra National Forest?

Day entry into the Sierra National Forest is free, but all overnight expeditions require a wilderness permit.

Is Shaver Lake in the Sierra National Forest?

Yes, Shaver Lake is located in the Sierra National Forest and is a popular recreation area.

Are there bears in the Sierra National Forest?

Yes, there are black bears in the Sierra National Forest. Wildlife also includes mule deer, coyotes, bobcats, marmots, foxes, porcupines, and more.

Epic Adventure Tours in the Sierra National Forest

Unfortunately, we have yet to curate a specific Sierra National Forest adventure package but keep an eye out as we are always working on adding more exciting tours to the collection! Until then, we urge you to check out our Sierra Nevada Tours, which include some epic excursions in the High Sierra.

Find Other Amazing Hiking Regions in California

The Sierra National Forest is unparalleled in its beauty—from the Sierra Nevada summits to oak-covered foothills and everything in between, there is no shortage of wilderness to indulge in. So famously characterized by its mountain scenery and countless alpine lakes, the Sierra National Forest covers over 1.3 million acres (5,300 km2) of land– an epic natural playground just waiting for you to explore.

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Best Hikes in Sierra National Forest

Open details for Angel Falls via Willow Creek Trail

Angel Falls via Willow Creek Trail

Easy
5.0 km
185 m
1.5-2h

The Angel Falls via Willow Creek Trail is an amazing adventure in the Sierra National Forest that boasts incredible views of the cascades. Hike through mixed woodlands adorned with granite outcrops and along the surging waters of Willow Creek up to Angel Falls and the Devil’s Slide.

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Open details for Mono Hot Springs Hike

Mono Hot Springs Hike

Easy
1.4 km
25 m
0.5h

There is nothing better than relaxing in a natural hot spring, aren’t we right? Especially when you are surrounded by stunning scenery! The Mono Hot Springs Hike is a wonderful walk through the campground to the San Joaquin River and thermal pools. If you need to relax, head out to the Mono Hot Springs.

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Open details for Lewis Creek National Recreation Trail

Lewis Creek National Recreation Trail

Easy
6.3 km
162 m
1.5-2h

The Lewis Creek National Recreation Trail checks all the boxes: waterfalls, woodlands, wildflowers, and wonderful views—what more could you ask for? Wander through the mixed forestland adorned with granite outcrops along the running waters of Lewis Fork to not one but two surging cascades.

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Open details for Shaver Lake Trail

Shaver Lake Trail

Very Easy
3.5 km
92 m
1h

Hiking the Shaver Lake Trail makes for an incredible day-hike in the Sierra National Forest. Boasting awe-inspiring scenery, countless outdoor adventure pursuits, and the possibility of seeing wildlife—this trek packs a punch. So the next time you find yourself in Fresno County, a trip to Shaver Lake is well worth the detour.

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Open details for Ya-Gub-Weh-Tuh Trail

Ya-Gub-Weh-Tuh Trail

Easy
8.5 km
207 m
2-3h

Reconnect with nature and escape the stressors of the real world along the Ya-Gub-Weh-Tuh Trail. Offering impressive views of the boulder bounded river, the mossy forestlands, and surrounding mountains—the stunning scenery along this route is limitless. Open and airy, this scenic day-hike is a must-add to your adventure itinerary.

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Open details for Bald Mountain Trail

Bald Mountain Trail

Moderate
10.0 km
463 m
3-4.5h

The Bald Mountain Hike is an epic adventure in the Sierra National Forest that boasts incredible vistas of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Trek the primitive route over granite outcrops and up through pine and fir forestlands to a fire lookout. You’ll love this hike—trust us!

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Open details for George Lake Trail

George Lake Trail

Moderate
14.3 km
405 m
3.5-5h

Immerse yourself in the high country along the George Lake Trail. This epic excursion into the alpine terrain offers postcard-worthy views from both Potter Pass and Lake George. Though demanding, the wonderful panoramas prove well worth the sweat! What are you waiting for? Let’s go!

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Open details for Chain Lakes Trail

Chain Lakes Trail

Hard
23.0 km
742 m
6-8.5h

Immerse yourself in the High Sierra as you venture the Chain Lakes Trail. This awesome adventure, though taxing, boasts breathtaking scenery of snow-capped Sierra Nevada summits that bound the crystalline waters of the alpine lakes. If you are seeking a rewarding trek, then this hike is it!

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Open details for Ely Mountain Hike

Ely Mountain Hike

Easy
7.2 km
213 m
2-2.5h

The Ely Mountain Hike is a stunning excursion that boasts wonderful vistas of the High Sierra from the summit of the granite peak. Indulge yourself in the lush wilderness adorned with granite outcrops and past a shimmering lake as you hike up to the panoramic overlook.

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Open details for Dinkey Lakes Trail

Dinkey Lakes Trail

Easy
10.8 km
261 m
2.5-3.5h

The Dinkey Lakes Trail is a must-add to your Sierra National Forest adventure itinerary. Wander through lush forestlands to not one but four shimmering alpine lakes imposed by looming granite bluffs and towering pines. This scenic trek is sure to impress.

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