Description - The Sierra National Forest encompasses 1.3 million acres of terrain which ranges from gently rolling, oak-covered foothills along the edge of the San Joaquin Valley, to the majestic snowcapped peaks of the Sierra Nevada crest. One of the many attractions of the Sierra National Forest is the abundance of recreation opportunities. The Sierra has 11 reservoirs, 528,000 acres of designated wilderness, over 60 campgrounds, two wild and scenic rivers and 1,100 miles of trails. The Forests five designated Wilderness Areas are: Ansel Adams, Dinkey Lake, John Muir, Kaiser and Monarch.
- The Sierra Vista Scenic Byway traverses many of the Forest's most dramatic regions. Paved for 76 of its 100 miles, the National Forest Scenic Byway begins at the Minarets Road near North Fork. From the Mile High Vista, you can see into the Kaiser Wilderness and Mammoth Pool Reservoir. At Mammoth Pool, located along the San Joaquin River, the recreationist will find camping, fishing, boating and swimming. The byway passes three geological features: Arch Rock, the Balls and Globe Rock. The byway passes near a stand of giant sequoia trees at Nelder Grove. An interpretive trail leads through the stand to Bull Buck, once considered the nations largest sequoia. Campgrounds can be found at various locations along the byway.
Bass Lake, located east of Oakhurst, is a popular destination that provides boating, fishing, swimming, water skiing and camping. The Lewis Creek National Recreation Trail, east of Highway 41 and south of Yosemite, makes a great day hike as it offers scenic views of Corlieu and Red Rock Falls. The main and South Forks of the Merced River are designated Wild and Scenic Rivers. The main fork is a popular destination for rafting and kayaking during good spring flows. Several commercial rafters provide trips down portions of the river.
The areas accessed by Highway 168 and Dinkey Creek Road offer a variety of recreation and more opportunities for solitude than Highway 41. Located on the Sierra foothills, Kerckhoff and Redinger Lakes offer year round picnicking, boating, swimming and water skiing. Off Highway 168, near the town of Shaver Lake, Dinkey Creek Road and McKinley Grove Road access Dinkey Creek, Courtright and Wishon Reservoirs, numerous campgrounds, and a giant sequoia stand. Shaver Lake itself offers water skiing, fishing, house boating, swimming, camping, and is a popular snow play area in the winter.
The Huntington Lake area offers excellent sailing as well as boating, fishing, camping and hiking. Popular hiking destinations of the area are Rancheria Falls and Black Point, both reached by National Recreation Trails. Along the one-lane Kaiser Pass Road above Huntington Lake are the remote, high country Florence and Edison Lakes. Each lake offers excellent fishing, boating, camping and scenery. Also in this area are trailheads accessing the Ansel Adams and John Muir Wilderness Areas. Off the Kaiser Pass Road is the Stump Springs Road, which encompasses the entire Kaiser Wilderness area and ends below Huntington Lake, with two campgrounds along the way.
Recreation - The Sierra National Forest offers recreation opportunities limited only by a person's desires, time allotment and physical condition. The miles of trails offer hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, and in some places mountain biking. The many developed campgrounds or dispersed areas provide the full range of camping experiences. The rivers, lakes and reservoirs offer boating, fishing, water-skiing, swimming, white water rafting, and kayaking. In the winter, the high elevations provide downhill skiing and snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.
Along Highway 168 above Shaver Lake is the Forests great winter sports area. Sierra Summit is a full service ski resort. There are other areas, many designated "Sno-Park" along Highway 168, for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.
Climate - Weather conditions in the Sierra National Forest vary locally with elevation and exposure. Weather changes more rapidly and severely in the Forest's higher elevations. In general, temperatures in the Sierras drop three degrees with each 1000' of elevation gain.
Precipitation falls mainly from October through April. At higher elevations, much of it comes in the form of snow. Winter snowfall above 8000' can total 25 feet. Winter temperatures well below freezing and summer temperatures above 100 degrees indicate the normal seasonal spread. Clouds can build up during the summer to produce thunderstorm activity. It is wise to pack for any season when venturing into the high country, with clothing that can be "layered", ready to peel off or add on as the thermometer dictates. Always include some kind of rain gear.
The Sierra National Forest lies in Central California, on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, south of the Merced River and north of the Kings River. The forest is located 50 miles northeast of the city of Fresno and borders the south end of Yosemite National Park. The two major access routes from Fresno are State Highway 41 accessing the north half of the Forest and Yosemite, and State Highway 168 for the south.