Best Hikes in Sierra National Forest (CA)

Overview

The Sierra National Forest, located on the western slope of the central Sierra Nevada, is known for its spectacular mountain scenery and abundant natural resources. Yosemite National Park is located just north of the forest and Kings Canyon National Park is to the south; Inyo National Forest borders the forest to the east. The Sierra National Forest has a wide range of elevation, from 900 feet to 13,986 feet.

Sierra National Forest is divided into 2 Ranger Districts: Bass Lake and High Sierra The Sierra National Forest represents experiences through five wilderness areas; two nationally designated wild and scenic rivers; three nationally designated trails, and two national scenic byways. There are plenty of hiking trails to explore, the best of which are outlined below. Official Website

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StateCalifornia
Nearest Metro AreaFresno, CA
Area1,300,000 acres
EstablishedFebruary 14, 1893
Hiking Trails1,300 miles

Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Hikes in Sierra National Forest

  • Dinkey Lakes Trail – 6.7 mile loop
    • The road leading to the trailhead is in bad condition and needs a high clearance vehicle to access but the trail and secluded lakes make it worth the journey. This is a beautiful area of Sierra National Forest and isn’t too crowded. The lakes are all gorgeous and serene!
  • Kaiser Peak Trail – 10.8 miles out and back
    • Challenging but rewarding trail to the summit of Kaiser Peak with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and Huntington Lake once you break the treeline. The incline is fairly steady as you climb and only truly difficult in a few areas. 
  • Lewis Creek National Scenic Trail*** – 5.8 miles out and back
    • Beautiful hike right off of Highway 41 that is easy enough for the whole family. The trail follows along the east side of Lewis Creek and has several lovely waterfalls along the way. 
  • Lillian Lake Loop – 12.5 mile loop
    • This is a somewhat longer hike but the elevation changes are minimal. Hikers will pass numerous lakes along the loop as they pass through the beautiful Sierra alpine forest. In addition to Lillian Lake, other lakes include: Rutherford and Ann Lakes Trail, Rainbow and Ruth Lakes Trail, Chittenden Lake Trail, and the Lady Lake Trail.
  • Rancheria Falls Trail*** – 1.7 miles out and back
    • Short and easy hike with a great payoff at the end with Rancheria Falls! Note: The road to the trailhead closes in the winter but you can still do the hike from the campground making it closer to 4 miles roundtrip. 
  • Twin Lakes Trail – 8.7 miles out and back
    • Very close by Kaiser Peak and Rancheria Falls (above) in Kaiser Wilderness. The trail is mostly shaded and easy to navigate on its way to the beautiful Lower and Upper Twin Lakes. This is a great option for most families unless you have some really young ones! 
  • Willow Creek Trail – 4.0 miles out and back
    • The trail can be a little challenging to follow but eventually you will get yourself to Angel’s Falls. Be careful around the water as the rock is quite slick.

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