Best Hikes in Sierra National Forest (CA)

Sierra National Forest Overview

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. Sierra National Forest is divided into 2 Ranger Districts: Bass Lake and High Sierra. The 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 trails to explore, the best hikes in Sierra National Forest are outlined below.

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

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Sierra National Forest

(*** = best hikes in Sierra National Forest)

Dinkey Lakes Trail – 6.7 mile loop
Dinkey Lakes 10
Dinkey Lakes, Photo by Tom Hilton

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 that is not too crowded. The lakes are all gorgeous and serene!

Kaiser Peak Trail – 10.8 miles out and back
Huntington Lake from Kaiser Peak, Photo by Duanerh

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
Lewis Creek - Sierra National Forest - California
Lewis Creek, Photo by David Prasad

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
Lillian Lake 06
Lillian Lake, Photo by Tom Hilton

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
IMG_1070 Rancheria Creek Falls
Rancheria Creek Falls, Photo by David Prasad

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
Lower Twin Lake, Photo by The Great Southwestern Exploration Company

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
Willow Creek Watershed, Photo by the Department of Agriculture

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.

Featured Image: Lake of the Lone Indian JMW, Photo by Smack

Don’t forget to stock up on the essentials before you plan your next hiking or camping trip! We have recommendations on:

4 Responses

  1. The Disney World of National Parks – A Weekend in Yosemite – Site For Explore Eyes

    […] least one day to check out the surrounding areas and towns. There are some great hikes inside the Sierra National Forest that are less crowded than the park and offer incredible views of their […]

  2. Apollo21

    FYI – that picture is of Twin Lakes in Mammoth, not Sequoia.

    • Trailhead Traveler

      Good call! Thank you for pointing that out; I’ve updated the picture to the Twin Lakes in Kaiser Wilderness (Sierra National Forest)! The two sets of Twin Lakes are actually only 25 miles apart as the crow flies.

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    […] the Sierra National Forest and the Stanislaus National Forest surround Yosemite National Park and offer dispersed camping […]