World → North AmericaSierra Nevada

One of the best hiking regions in the world is the

The Sierra Nevada mountains of California runs 400mi (640km) north-to-south, and is approximately 70 miles (110 km) across east-to-west. Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon. Hiking paradise.

200px-Sierra_Nevada_mapAT A GLANCE

  •  Sierra Nevada is Spanish for “Snowy Range”
  • John Muir dubbed it the Range of Light
  • 400mi (650km) north to south
  • it extends into and overlooks Nevada in places
  • Yosemite Valley is the most famous attraction, but that is just the beginning. There are dozens of must-see places in this region.
  • Lake Tahoe is on our to hike list for 2008
  • every hiker dreams of walking the John Muir Trail 223mi (360km) from Yosemite to Mt Whitney, highest peak in the contiguous USA
  • best weather on the high passes Aug-Sept
  • though you can walk at lower elevations year round, the only highway crossing from Yosemite is closed to vehicles in winter


  • great weather — that’s the main highlight for us. Summers are dry with low humidity. Temperature averages 42 to 60F (5.5 to 15.5C), very comfortable for hiking. Nights can drop below zero with strong wind. Highs up to 86F+ (30C) are not uncommon.
  • the history of John Muir and other early adventurers
  • Yosemite, Ansel Adams and John Muir wilderness, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks
  • Half Dome
  • public transport to the trailheads is available to Yosemite, Reds, Bishop, Lone Pine and other trailheads. You can hike here without having a personal vehicle.
  • Whitney is the highest mountain in the lower 48, and the most climbed.
  • San Francisco is the biggest airport with easy access. Getting from LAX to Whitney is possible, but challenging.
  • California has reasonably good train and bus service
  • it’s a photographers paradise
  • granite walls make this one of the most important rock climbing areas of the world
  • Giant Sequoias, the most massive trees in the world
  • in fact, all the trees in this region are fascinating. Some of our favourite photos are of trees.


  • by far the biggest downside of this region is lack of water
  • the smartest bears in the world live here. Keeping your food out of their grubby paws is essential. Most hikers carry bear vaults.
  • there’s a real risk of getting lost
  • getting a hiking permit to start in Yosemite can be difficult. Starting from other trailheads, easier.
  • in this climate you can suffer heat stroke in the day, hypothermia at night
  • many hikers come without enough warm clothes
  • wildlife is quite scarce and elusive — if you don’t count the bears near car campgrounds
  • very basic backcountry campgrounds. Few huts or cook houses. Tenting essential
  • backcountry permits are required on most major hikes
  • mobile phones do not work reliably. You need “line of sight” to a tower.
  • biting insects are rare — but spoiled California hikers still complain about them

See ALL Sierra Nevada BEST HIKES on our North America page.  

3 Replies to “SIERRA NEVADA”

  1. mobile phones don’t work AT ALL on most of the John Muir trail! It’s a true wilderness experience – you have to meet a ranger with a radio or satellite phone to get outside help.

  2. Great wilderness hike. you can resupply at certain points and stay in luxury at Muir Trail Ranch. Avoid main hiking season, and beware of creek crossing in early season as well as mosquitoes. Late August early September is a good time, quieter, even if the nights can get colder.

  3. There’s little risk of getting lost, the trail is well marked and intersections are well marked too. We had a map but didn’t use it much. Getting a permit from Yosemite wasn’t too difficult as long as you apply long enough in advance and supply two or three different start dates. Carrying a bear vault is essential and part of the regulations. We saw a group being thrown off the trail for not having one nor a permit!

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