Sierra Nevada
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Sierra Nevada

Sierra Nevada:
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Introduction
Sierra Nevada is hands down the most georgeous place in entire California, and very few places on earth can
compete with the exceptional beauty of Yosemite National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Wildlife is very rich, with bears, deers, marmots, coyotes, bighorn sheep and a huge variety of birds. And
in terms of geology all three of the parks are unique in the world. Yosemite is a Mecca of rock climbing.
And probably no place on earth have som many incredible waterfalls. And although it can be quite crowdy in
the summers, particularly in Yosemite, you only have to go a few hundred yards from the road to escape 95%
of the visitors. And the parks are huge, really huge, which means that you hike trails that requires several
days if you´re into that. The only minor challange is, at least in Yosemite in peak season, accomodation,
which mostly requires planning and reservations.


Attractions:

1. Sequoia National Park
Sequoia NP is primarely best known for the huge Sequoia trees, which are the largest in the world. But the park offers
so much more: Lots of wildlife, and as the park attracts less visitors then Yosemite, it´s usually easier to see them.

1.1 Giant Forest
Watching the giant Sequoia trees is the main reason why most people visit the park. There are several trails that meet
that purpose, but the grandest trail, with the largest trees, are the General Sherman and Congress Trail (an easy 2,1
mile loop). Park at the large parking lot and walk the steep paved walk to the trailhead.
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General Sherman, largest in the world!

1.2 Moro Rock
Moro Rock offers unsurpassed view over the park! It´s just an 0,6 hike to the top of the granite rock, and it´s very
popular, especially at sunsets. Sunsets are best, but sunrises are fairly good as well, although the sun rises over the
mountains well after the official sunrise, which means that the colours aren´t that great. And be careful up at the
top since it´s extremely steep: Last time i was there in May 2007 there were a group of youngsters sitting on a cliff
drinking plenty of beer dangling with their legs with maybe 1 000 feet of air under them. Not recommended. And
while at Moro Rock, you can take a small detour to the beautiful Crescent Meadow, which the famous John Muir
called "the gem of the Sierra". And halfway to the meadow you´ll drive right through Tunnel Log; a fallen
Sequoia tree.


Moro Rock sunset

Moro Rock sunrise


1.3 Tokopah Falls
Tokopah Falls is the best looking waterfall in the park. It´s an easy 3.4 mile round-trip hike from Lodgepole Visitor
Center. Just park at the huge parking lot and follow the Kaweah River to the left, over the river on the bridge in the
middle of the campground and take an immidiate right after the bridge, where the trailhead is. The trail follows the
Keweah River all the way to the falls.


Tokopah Falls

And watch out for wildlife: Bears, deers and not least plenty of marmots at the falls.


Black bear, halfway to Tokopah Falls

Deer at Lodgpole


1.4 Mineral King
The area around Mineral King is georeous, a valley surrounded by 12 000 feet peaks. The altitude is higher which
means that the area opens later in the season. An easy 2 mile hike is the Farewell Gap Trail to Aspen Flat. The
trailhead is at the Mineral King pack station and you´ll have to leave your car at the Eagle/Mosquito parking
lot. Walk back on the road, cross the East Fork Kaweah River and turn right on the dirt road to the pack
station and continue past the corall. Soon you´ll see the sign for the Farewell Gap Trail.

Yellow-bellied marmot


2. Kings Canyon National Park
Kings Canyon is often neglected by tourists, which is a pity since the park is very attractive: A huge deep canyon, and
unusually diverse in terms of climate, plants and wildlife.

2.1 Panoramic Point
The first thing you should do is to stop at Grant Grove, and drive past the resturants, turn left around the meadow, and
turn right at the crossroad just before the lodge. Drive about 2 miles and park, and walk 300 yards to the Panoramic Point,
which offers sensentional view of Kings Canyon! Surpringingly many visitors miss this view.


Hume Lake and canyon

Kings Canyon


2.2 Grizzly Falls
Halfway to Roads End is Grizzly Falls, which is a very nice falls just above some picnic tables. Stop by and have lunch, and
enjoy the fall and it´s cool mist.
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Grizzly Falls


2.3 Zumwalt Meadow
Zumwalt Meadow is the most popular trail in Kings Canyon. It´s an easy 1,5 mile loop around a georgeous meadow, which
almost always has deers and several species of songbirds. The meadow is paradise for birdwatchers. But don´t expect to get
access to the meadow itself: It´s protected so the trail goes around the meadow. As always chanses to see wildlife is best
in morning or late afternoon.

Zumwalt Meadow

Songbird at Zumwalt Meadow




3. Yosemite National Park
Yosemite is often callad the most beautiful place on earth. And it´s hard to argue with that assumption: The grand valley
surrounded by spellbounding granite rocks, is intoxicatingly gerogeous! You don´t have to be particularly interseted in
nature to realise that Yosemite is the highlight of a visit in California.

3.1 Glacier Point
Few visitors miss a visit at Glacier Point, which has a sensentional view of the valley and the Half Dome rock. But an advise
is to go there late in the afternoon and stay until after sunset since the view is even better then.


View from Glacier Point


3.2 Taft Point and Sentinel Dome
Two great complements of Glacier Point are the short hikes to Taft Point (2.2 mile round-trip) and Sentinel Dome (2.4 mile
round-trip). Whereas Glaciers Point offers an awesome view, Sentinel Dome has a panorama view the Glacier Point doesn´t
have. Taft Point, on the other hand, has a amazing overlook: Look down and you have 3 000 feet under you! And both
places have considerable less visitors then Glaciers Point. It´s best late in the afternoon and sunset, but make sure to
bring a flashlight if staying after sunset. The two trailheads are 13.2 miles west of the Glacier Point Road turnoff, at a
rather large parking lot on the left side of the road.


Sentinel Dome


3.3 Inspiration Point
The famous Tunnel View offers a fabuluos view of Yosemite Valley. There´s always lot of tourists there. But an even better
view (no trees that obstructs the view) of the valley is seen from Inspiration Point. The trailhead is right at the Tunnel View
parking lot. It´s a 2.6 long round-trip trail that requires some precaution: When you reach the Inspiration Point you´re likely
to be somewhat disappointed as you havn´t seen any great view. But do not dispair: Walk back down on the trail (about
100 yards) and look carefully for a small trail to the right. After only 20 yards you´ll be rewarded with a grand view indeed!


Inspiration Point


3.2 Yosemite Valley
Yosemite Valley is obviously the centerpiece of the national park. And it isn´t larger than you can see most of the valley in
just a day. It take longer if you take a few hikes though, which is highly recommended. Perhaps the best from the valley is the
Mist and John Muir Loop to Nevada Falls (a 6.8 mile round-trip). The trailhead is at Happy Isles. It´s best to park at the day-
use parking lot at Curry Village and to take free shuttle to Happy Isles.


Perhaps my favourite activity in the valley is to observe the mighty El Capitan rock from the valley floor after sunset, when the
climbers on the vertical rock lit their lights and shout to each other in the dark. To see the massive El Capitan from a close up
perspective, with a starlit sky around, and the lights from the climbers is pure magic!


El Capitan at night

Sentinel Bridge

Other close to mandatory activitites are to see the classic and beautiful Ahwanee Hotel and see the Sentinel Bridge over Merced
River. Apart from that, just go with the flow. An advise though, is to explore the valley very early in the morning and late
afternoons/evenings to excape the crowd, and have the best scenery and opportunities to see wildlife.


3.3 Upper Yosemite Falls
Almost all visitors only walk the trail at Lower Yosmite Falls. Nice indeed, but the upper fall is greater still. The whole trail is a
steep 7.2 mile round-trip hike, but you don´t have to take the whole: After only 1.2 miles you´ll be rewarded by the view from
Columbia Rock. And efter only 0.2 miles more (1.6 in total) you´ll see a fabulous view of the Upper Yosmite Falls! And if yo´re
still fit, you can continue to the top. A little secret is just before the 1.4 mile view of the Upper Falls: Maybe 200 yards from the
view, the trail turns right (when you walk down) and increases in elevation. Right there, there is a barely visible trail to the left.
Follow it only 15 yards and you´ll be able to see all three falls at the same time! A fascinating view! But it´s somewhat tricky to
take great pictures there as no wide-agle lens can cover all three falls, and it´s frighteningly steep there (ther´s an iron bar for
protection there though). The best time to shoot the falls is probably in fairy early afternoon (the falls are in shadow later).


Upper Yosemite Falls

A woodpecker in Yosemite



3.4 Tuolumne
You hav´t really done Yosemite unless you´ve spent some time in Tuolumne, north in the park. The elevation is significantly
higher than the valley, and there are fewer visitors and more bears. Tuolumne has several first class hikes: The 7.4 mile
(round-trip) trail to Catherdral Lake is ane of the absolute best. As with all trails in Tuolumne, it starts with a steep
climp before you´re rewarded with grand views. The trailhead is half a mile west of the visitor center. Another great hike
is the 2.6 mile round-trip up to Lembert Dome. The trailhead has a large parking. Or you can hike the 4.0 mile round-trip
hike to Middle and Upper Gaylor Lakes, which has a great alpine landscape. The trail starts at 9 960 feet a hundred yards
west of the Tioga Pass entrance into the park.


Tuolumne sunrise

Gaylor Lakes in May
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