Between Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Parks; includes the Ansel Adams and John Muir wildernesses
HIGHLIGHTS: Situated between Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Parks, the Sierra National Forest is perhaps best known for its expansive wilderness areas, including the Ansel Adams and John Muir Wildernesses. But the 1.3 million-acre forest also supports two significant giant sequoia groves: Nelder Grove and McKinley Grove. Nelder is by far the bigger grove, but both are well worth investigation.
ACTIVITIES: The wilderness areas of the Sierra National Forest draw backpackers from around the world. The forest also has numerous day hike trails that traverse a variety of ecosystems: mature woodlands, riparian corridors, and alpine meadows among them. Equestrians share all trails with hikers. Angling is a popular pursuit on both lakes and streams, and mountain biking is allowed on all designated trails outside the wilderness areas.
VISITOR CENTER: Information may be obtained at ranger stations in Clovis, Prather and North Fork.
CAMPGROUNDS: The forest supports 30 campgrounds. No showers. Some site-specific length restrictions for RVs: 20 to 35 feet.
TRAILS: The forest has 1,100 miles of trails — including 30 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail – making it a favored destination for backpackers and strong and competent day hikers. Less strenuous options also are available. A 1.2-mile trail meanders through Nelder Grove, affording close communion with the resident trees and a chance of spotting mule deer, black bear, flying squirrels and a variety of migratory songbirds.
MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: For those with the stamina and requisite experience, a backpacking trip to the incomparable Ansel Adams or John Muir Wildernesses is a must. Easier wilderness access is available at the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness and the Kaiser Wilderness. Less demanding still is the trail to Rancheria Falls, a lovely 150-foot waterfall near Shaver Lake that is accessible by an easy 4.2-mile in-and-out hike.
HIDDEN GEM: Dinkey Creek Historic Bridge is a charming relic from the Depression era, built by U.S. Forest Service and Civilian Conservation Corps crews. It is constructed on a bowstring arch truss design, fabricated from whole timbers, and may be crossed only on foot. Nearby is McKinley Grove, the smaller of the forest’s two giant sequoia groves.
FEATURES ACCESSIBLE TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: Some campsites, picnic areas and restrooms are accessible. Free passes for disabled U.S. citizens and permanent residents are available.
DOGS: Permitted on leash or under voice control on trails. Allowed in developed areas on leash.
ENTRANCE FEE: None.
INFORMATION: Visit the forest’s website or call headquarters at 559-297-0706.
PLACES TO EAT AND STAY: Restaurants and lodging are available at Fresno, Oakhurst and Shaver Lake. Cabin rentals are available at Shaver Lake.
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