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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Best Hikes in Sierra National Forest
Kings River Trail
The Kings River Trail is a stunning adventure in the Sierra National Forest that the whole family can enjoy. Wander through the river valley meadows along the rushing waters of Kings River, whilst marveling in the views of the bounding Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Whiskey Falls Trail
Family-friendly adventures are abundant in the Sierra National Forest, and the Whiskey Falls Trail is one of our favorites. Wander along a snowmobile trail to the charming cascades that surge over a granite cliffside. This awesome adventure is a must add to your hiking bucket list.
Pa’san Ridge Trail
The Pa’san Ridge Trail is an excellent way to experience the San Joaquin River. Adventure through the meadow filled terrain and down into the valley of the boulder-lined river whilst admiring breathtaking views of the encompassing Sierra Nevada Mountains—what more could you ask for?
Cora Lakes Hike
The Cora Lakes Hike is a scenic high-country adventure that exhibits the diversity and grandeur of the Sierra National Forest. From granite gardens, wildflower meadows, and conifer forests, this trek reveals several picture-perfect scenes—so don’t forget to charge your camera!
Fresno Dome Hike
The Fresno Dome Hike is an awesome nature walk up to the summit of an immense granite outcrop overlooking the High Sierra. Stretch your legs and let the fresh alpine air fill your lungs as you venture this easy-going trail.
White Bark Vista Hike
Adventure the White Bark Vista Hike on your next trip to the Sierra National Forest. Though the dirt road itself is not the most scenic, the views from the overlook are unparalleled. Marvel in the expansive views of the Sierra Crest, lush forestlands, and alpine lakes.
Brewer Lake Trail
Reconnect with nature along the Brewer Lake Trail. This scenic hike travels through mixed-conifer forestlands adorned with granite outcrops to the glittering alpine lake. If you are seeking an immersive High Sierra experience, then this trek is an excellent adventure.
Balsam Forebay Hike
The Balsam Forebay Trail is a short, but scenic nature walks in the Sierra National Forest. Wander through a mixed conifer forest to the charming alpine reservoir that boasts wonderful views of the High Sierra from the south shore.
Indian Pools Trail
The Indian Pools Trail is an incredibly scenic adventure in the Sierra National Forest that can be enjoyed by hikers of all skill levels and ages. Wander the granite bounded valley to a set of refreshing alpine pools that are very refreshing in the summer months!
Big Creek Railroad Grade Trail
The Big Creek Railroad Grade Trail is an awesome adventure in the Sierra National Forest that offers a diverse repertoire of outdoor pursuits, including hiking, biking, and horse riding. Wander the forested route over several snow-melt streams.
Shuteye Peak Trail
The Shuteye Peak Trail is an epic excursion through the Sierra National Forest’s backcountry. A shared route with off-roaders and mountain bikers, this scenic trek attracts outdoor enthusiasts of all sorts. Wander through mixed conifer forest lands up to the scenic overlook that boasts breathtaking alpine views.
Stevenson Falls Trail
The Stevenson Falls Trail is an intermediate paved route along a cliffside featuring waterfalls, caves, and epic mountain views. The whole family can enjoy this scenic adventure which boasts breathtaking panoramas of the High Sierra and the San Joaquin River.
Shaver Lake Lakeview Trail
The Shaver Lake Lakeview Trail is, other than a mouthful to say, a wonderful day-hike in the Sierra National Forest. This stunning nature walk wanders the shoreline cliffs, through mixed forestlands, and over the granite outcrops that bound the shimmering lakes.
McKinley Grove of Giant Sequoias Trail
The McKinley Grove of Giant Sequoias Trail is an easy-going, accessible adventure in the Sierra National Forest. Unlike most sequoia groves, this route boasts a more secluded experience. Wander through the giant trees and revel in their beauty.
Hidden Homes Nature Trail
The Hidden Homes Nature Trail is a charming adventure near Colvis that the whole family can enjoy. Blow off some steam as you wander the perimeter of a grassy pond. This hike is ideal for those seeking a short but scenic adventure near the city.
Jackass Lakes via Norris Trailhead
Explore the Sierra National Forest and the alpine terrain along the Jackass Lakes via Norris Trailhead. With a name like that, how can you not be intrigued? This trek is one of the most scenic, and perhaps one of our favorite adventures in the High Sierra.
Jackass Lakes Hike
There is nothing better than an alpine adventure, right? Well, the Jackass Lakes Hike is a great way to explore the high country—boasting scenes of the mixed conifer forests, granite gardens, a crystalline lake, and distant views of the rolling mountains.
Goat Mountain Trail
The Goat Mountain Trail is perhaps the greatest of all time. This epic excursion boasts mesmerizing vistas of the High Sierra and Bass Lake below. Offering great views and a good workout, what more could you ask for?
Graveyard Lakes Trail
The Graveyard Lakes Trail is an epic expedition into the backcountry that demands stamina and dedication. This lovely adventure boasts breathtaking views of the High Sierra as you venture through diverse topographies up to a mountain cirque.
Blayney Meadow Hot Spring Hike
The Blayney Meadow Hot Spring Hike is an epic expedition through the backcountry that rewards adventurers with a natural hot spring. Indulge yourself with a soak in the warm waters before beginning your return along the footpath.
Essential Tools for Any Adventure
This page may include affiliate links. We may get a small commission for the purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you.
We only recommend tools we personally think are great.