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High Sierra Region Profile

Nicknamed 'California’s backbone,' this region of towering granite peaks defines much of the state’s eastern boundary. Visit Yosemite Valley, Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Lakes and the giant trees of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks — all within a day’s drive of either San Francisco or Los Angeles. In winter, enjoy snow sports; in summer, go hiking, mountain biking, fishing or boating.


MAJOR TAKEAWAYS

  • Nestled in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, Lake Tahoe is known for its crystal blue waters and is home to the beautiful Emerald Bay, the historic Vikingsholm mansion and endless water sports offerings.
  • Yosemite National Park, famous for its plunging waterfalls and massive granite peaks, was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984 and attracts 4 million visitors each year.
  • Rock climbing and bouldering are popular draws to the High Sierra, with Buttermilk Country in Bishop featuring free-standing boulders soaring more than 20 feet into the air.
  • Situated on the edge of an ancient volcanic caldera, Mono County is home to a network of natural hot springs between Bridgeport and Mammoth Lakes, including Benton Hot Springs, Travertine Hot Springs and Keough Hot Springs.

Counties

There are seven counties in the High Sierra region of California:
  • Alpine County
  • El Dorado County
  • Inyo County
  • Madera County
  • Mariposa County
  • Mono County
  • Placer County

Major cities

California’s High Sierra region is home to three national parks and large, iconic lakes with relatively small to moderate cities in between. Madera, the county seat of Madera County, is the largest city in this region.
  • Bishop
  • Madera
  • Mammoth Lakes
  • Mariposa
  • Oakhurst
  • South Lake Tahoe
  • Tahoe City
  • Truckee

Major attractions

Snow-covered peaks in winter, gushing waterfalls in spring, wildflower meadows and glistening lakes in summer, and vibrant colours in autumn create a land of dramatic and wild beauty.

  • Alabama Hills: Known for amazing rock formations and the beautiful Mobius Arch framing Mt Whitney, these hills in Inyo County are perfect for outdoor adventure and photography
  • Bodie State Historic Park: Once a thriving gold-mining community, Bodie is now a ghost town offering a glimpse into the past through daily tours, a stamp mill and a museum
  • Calaveras Big Trees State Park: The groves of towering giant sequoias in Calaveras County are ideal for walking, hiking or camping
  • Lone Pine: Countless Westerns were filmed in this quaint Eastern Sierra town and visitors can still explore old Hollywood sets while driving on the Movie Road Loop
  • Mammoth Mountain: Perfect for skiing or snowboarding in the winter and mountain biking or hiking in the summer, Mammoth Mountain is an ideal spot for outdoor recreation
  • Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve: This terminal lake is saltier than the sea and is known for the otherworldly tufa spires rising out of the water and beckoning photographers from around the world
  • Mt Whitney: Both the highest point in California and the tallest summit in the contiguous United States, this mountain soars 14,505 feet high and is ideal for hiking, climbing and mountaineering
  • Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks: Explore vast sequoia groves in these two national parks, which are also known for their soaring mountains, deep canyons and roaring rivers

Weather

The High Sierra region features a snowy highland climate with winters that are chilly, especially at night and summers that feature warm to hot days and cool nights with very low humidity. During the winter, the High Sierra region is known for the significant snowfall there.

DEC-FEB

4°C
High
-6°C
Low

MAR-MAY

13°C
High
-5°C
Low

JUN-AUG

22°C
High
5°C

Low

SEP-NOV

19°C
High
-3°C
Low

California Welcome Centers

The High Sierra region has two California Welcome Centers:

Related High Sierra Images & Video