Yosemite National Park
Cascades of melting waters, natural alpine gardens and groves of Giant Sequoias make Yosemite a wonder to enjoy any season of the year. Yosemite is a work of nature formed by massive glaciers thousands of years ago.
The Tunnel View turnout at the eastern end of the Wawona Tunnel of Highway 41 is one of the most photographed vistas on Earth. It provides a classic view of Yosemite Valley, including El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, Cathedral Rocks and Bridalveil Falls.
Although Bridalveil Falls appears to be small when seen in comparison to the surrounding canyon walls, it is the height of a 62-story building. Yosemite Falls drop 2,425 feet, making them the highest in all North America.
El Capitan is the largest single granite rock in the world, standing nearly 4,000 feet from base to summit. Tuolumne Meadows is the largest sub-alpine meadow in the Sierra Nevada. California bighorn sheep may be seen grazing along the road beyond the eastern boundary of the park.
Badger Pass opened to skiers in 1935. It is the oldest established ski area in California and offers both Nordic and alpine skiing, plus snowboarding.
Since 1927, the world renowned Ahwahnee Hotel has played host to American presidents, foreign dignitaries and thousands of park visitors. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Wawona Hotel, located near the south entrance to the park, offers turn-of-the-century charm and has a challenging 9-hole golf course. In the heart of Yosemite Valley is Curry Village, which this year celebrates a century of providing family fun and hospitality.
Located on Highway 41, 92 miles north of Fresno, Yosemite is open year-round and offers a wide range of activities: snow skiing, ice skating, swimming, hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, rock climbing, golf, picnicking and sightseeing. For more information, call (209) 372-0200.
Kings Canyon National Park
The entrance to Kings Canyon National Park is 55 miles east of downtown Fresno on Highway 180.
Kings Canyon National Park is a region of giant canyons with towering rock walls, countless lakes, waterfalls and mountain meadows. There are many scenic highlights: Roaring River Falls, Zumwalt Meadow, Panoramic Point, Grant Grove trail with historic Gamlin Cabin, Fallen Monarch Tree and the sheer granite cliffs of the North Dome and Grand Sentinel.
Kings Canyon National Park is home to the General Grant tree, also called “The Nation’s Christmas Tree.” Annual nondenominational services are held every year on the second Sunday in December.
“A rival to the Yosemite,” wrote John Muir, describing one of the canyons of the mighty Kings River, the white water of this wild river as it rushes between the granite canyon walls is an awesome sight to behold.
The 36 mile-drive along Hwy. 180 from the entrance to Kings Canyon National Park to Cedar Grove Village is known as the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway. This is a beautiful drive, which zigzags down into the canyon passing many wonderful sights on the way. Deep in the heart of Kings Canyon Cedar Grove is a lush place of tumbling waterfalls, meadows and miles of quiet hiking trails.
At Grant Grove Village, you can take a 2.3 mile road to Panoramic Point. A short trail will take you to the 7,520-foot-high ridge, with a magnificent view of the high Sierra, including Hume Lake and the Kings Canyon. (559) 565-3341
The cavern is located on Highway 180 in the spectacular 8,000-foot-deep Kings River Canyon between Grant Grove and Cedar Grove. Daily 45-minute tours available May through October take visitors on a lighted handrail-equipped trail past beautiful crystalline stalactites and stalagmites. 74101 E. Kings Canyon Road. (209) 736-2708
Sequoia National Park & Forest
Sequoia is the park of superlatives, with the largest living thing – the General Sherman tree, and the highest point in the contiguous United States – Mount Whitney. Add to that Wuksachi Village, and you have all the ingredients for a year-round destination.
The lodge forms the center of the village and features guest registration, a dining room and lounge, a themed gift shop, and conference facilities. Three detached buildings house 102 guest rooms with telephones and data ports. Furnishings are deluxe and distinctive and feature park-themed appointments and décor. Accommodations are in three priced categories. The twin peaks of Mt. Silliman and Silver Peak are viewed from this spectacular location. Call (888) 252-5757 for reservations regarding lodging and accommodations.
Sequoia National Forest is located at the southernmost end of the Sierra Nevadas. It is the 10th largest national forest in California. There are nearly 2,000 camping sites in Sequoia National Forest, as well as group campgrounds at Hume Lake, Tule River and Cannell Meadow. Call the Sequoia National Forest Supervisor’s Office at (559) 784-1500 or the Hume Lake Ranger District at (559) 338-2251.
Giant Sequoia National Monument
This 328,000-acre preserve protects 33 groves of the world’s largest trees, the giant sequoias. The monument is located in Sequoia National Forest. It consists of two parcels, one north and the other south of the Sequoia National Park. Giant sequoias can survive more than 3,000 years. Their native habitat is found between 4,000 and 7,000 feet above sea level on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. Call Sequoia National Forest for information: (559) 338-2251
Sierra National Forest
The Sierra National Forest is located on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada between Yosemite and Kings Canyon national parks. Elevations soar from 1,000 feet to more than 13,000 feet.
The Dinkey Lakes Wilderness lies southeast of Huntington Lake, northwest of Courtright Reservoir. Most of it is above 8,000 feet. Sixteen lakes are clustered in the west-central region of the wilderness.
The John Muir Wilderness covers 584,000 acres in the Sierra and Inyo national forests. Elevations range from 4,000 feet to 14,496 feet at Mt. Whitney, and many peaks are above 13,000 feet.
The Kaiser Wilderness is located immediately north of Huntington Lake, about 70 miles northeast of Fresno. The southern half of the wilderness area is characterized by dense Red Fir and Jeffery Pine forests that extend up the gradual south slope of Kaiser Ridge. The top of the ridge is in the alpine zone. This northern region contains 18 small lakes.
The Monarch Wilderness area extends across the Sierra and Sequoia national forests. The Sierra National Forest portion of the Wilderness is extremely rugged and difficult to traverse. Steep slopes extend up from the middle and main forks of the Kings River. Elevations range from 2,400 feet to more than 10,000 feet.
Reservations are available for Huntington Lake campgrounds (Rancheria, College, Upper and Lower Bill Creek, Catavee, Deer Creek, and Kinnikinnick) High Sierra campgrounds (Mono Creek, Jackass Meadow, Mono Hot Springs, Vermillion), Shaver Lake (Dorabelle) and Dinkey Creek campground.
Forest Service campgrounds provide vault or flush toilets, picnic tables, fire pits and some have barbecue grills. Non-reservation (first come, first served) campgrounds that have running water have fees that vary. Those without drinking water are free.
Campers are required to camp at least 100 feet from streams, lakes and trails, and to pack out all trash. Campfires, portable stoves and barbecues outside campgrounds are prohibited in most areas below 7,000 feet during high-fire danger. In higher elevations, fires are allowed with a valid campfire permit. Permits, current fire danger levels and maps of restricted fire danger areas are available at all ranger stations. Sierra National Forest Supervisor’s Office: 1600 Tollhouse Rd. Clovis, CA 93611 (559) 855-5360