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Take it away, Alexandrea! Eastern California is a side of the state that is rarely known to many people. Tucked away in the Sierra Nevada mountains and the high desert plains, this area provides an array of vast terrains, environments and entertainment. Spring time brings out the fishermen to the Owens River , and summer gives all the climbers a chance to take on the rock face of their dreams. California does indeed get snow — quite a lot of it, in fact — and Mammoth Lakes fills up with skiers and snowboarders and snow bunnies alike all winter long.

Or you can try your luck with endless places to camp in between and all around the area. What a great excuse to be out doing what you love! Photo by Alexendrea Silver-Helms, used with permission. The trail is beautiful and covers a wide terrain of rocky switchbacks, brightly colored aspen groves, waterfalls and shimmering ice blue lakes, with a variety of colors everywhere you look. The classic horror film actor had a stone cabin built several miles up the trail, before the lakes. Altogether, the full trail distance is 14 miles — perfect for an overnight backpacking trip.

Sierra South: Backcountry Trips in California's Sierra Nevada

But if you prefer a day hike, it will only take you just over 5 miles each way to get to the first, second and third lakes. During the spring, the entire area of South Lake near Bishop, California is blooming with vibrant floral life. And during the fall foliage season in early October, it turns to a scenery of red and golden hues. Even the drive to South Lake is stunning! There are a variety of hikes to choose from, and you can hop from one lake to another in this area, trekking through a forest wilderness that could take your breath away.

From the day use parking lot , you have access to several different trails that end with various lakes. It is quite the excursion and climbs up to nearly 12, feet of elevation. More quaking aspens to make you gape in awe at their startling beauty. Last, but certainly not least, is the Tyee Lakes trail , just before the Willow Campground, several miles before South Lake. This is an almost 6 miles round trip trail, leading you past several bodies of water on your way to the fourth and main attraction, Tyee Lake.

Just southwest of the southern shore is a smaller, fifth lake, that may provide more privacy as you explore. Choosing between any of these trails is a tough decision. I make my choice by how many people are around.

Best Hikes in California

McGee Creek Canyon is a lesser known, secret not so secret, tucked a little out of the way trail that is my first stop on my own personal fall foliage tour. On the Northern end of Crowley Lake territory across Highway , you can take the road that curves back into the canyon and turns to dirt before you hit the McGee Canyon Pack Station and then finally arriving to the small parking lot and trail head.

Once you hit the pack station, you want to park there if there are as many people as there are trees, because you can bet the lot is full. With a steady incline and your destination — McGee Lake — a few miles up ahead, this hike can last you all day with plenty to look at. Make sure you pack a lunch and an extra camera battery. The brightness of the scenery never stops following you the entire way up the trail. There are some creek crossings that may be tricker in spring and summer but should be fine in the fall — be sure to pack waterproof socks just in case.

Sunrise above Convict Lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Convict Lake has been one of my favorite places since I was a child. Just under 3 miles of moderately flat terrain, you can enjoy a leisurely, easy walk under the falling leaves. Be sure to enjoy a meal at Convict Lake Resort afterwards. Wondering how the lake got its name?

In , a group of convicts escaped from prison in Carson City, Nevada. A group of furious men led by Sheriff Robert Morrison chased after the convicts and an altercation occurred near the head of what is now Convict Creek. Morrison was killed in the encounter, and Mount Morrison — the dramatic mountain towering over Convict Lake — was named after him. There is a sign to park for the trail just before the lodge in a lot all to its own. Stay to your left and keep to the loop for the easy stroll that will take you a little over an hour.

This is a day use only parking lot, where I usually access the pathway making the same loop. Enjoy the shady dips and secret coves all along the way. During the summer, you can take a horseback ride around the lake or rent a kayak for a clear morning paddle. The fishing is great — I recommend the North side of the lake as my favored place to be.

Cast out right past the drop off point and wait for those 5 pounders to take your line for a ride. This is a great place to bring the whole family and dogs and enjoy a day of relaxation and activity on the lake. Little offshoots down to the shore have picnic tables for you to enjoy while you teach the kiddos to skip rocks. Bring a portable easel and let your inner Rembrandt out on the rocky shore as you face Mount Morrison and all its glory.

You can even stay at the Convict Lake Resort to round out a wonderful weekend getaway! I highly recommend staying in June Lake for a few days and enjoying the area! June Lake is one of the most stunning spots to see fall foliage in the Eastern Sierra Nevadas. Base yourself in the cozy town while exploring the surrounding areas! Depending on the mood of Mother Nature and the weather that day, you may be able to take advantage of the small beach that makes up part of its shore.

Bring a book, grab a seat with your feet in the water and relax. There are multiple spots to stop and enjoy beautiful, vast views of the whole valley containing Silver Lake below. This is the perfect spot to try and capture the beauty of the fall season. Get your stair climbing practice in beforehand — this trail is a bit steep. Because of its location within the heart of the June Lake Loop, this trail may be well traveled during the fall foliage season.

Pack a lunch and make your way through the fellow gawkers so you can stake your claim at the edge of that crystal blue water.

Sierra South: Backcountry Trips in California's Sierra Nevada

Additionally, you can access the trail to Yost Lake and add an additional 6 miles to your hike from this same hike. This is a less steep but longer hike. Either way, be aware: both trails are considered to be fairly strenuous. Be sure to stop a Silver Lake Resort to refuel afterwards. Another stop for your June Lake Loop journey. Let the scenic views of Silver Lake and everything around it blow you away.


Agnew Lake is two miles up the trail, with pieces of the Rush Creek hydroelectric plant still left for people to look at. For all of you thru-hikers or wannabe thru-hikers you can keep heading West to Waugh Lake and meet up with the Pacific Crest Trail, or hike this as a 3-day 21 mile loop. This trail is also popular with ice hikers in the winter time, when Route the loop is closed for the season.

By the way, the breakfast at Silver Lake Resort is amazing, so do yourself a favor and stop there first to fuel up. Half the fun of hiking in the Sierra Nevadas is the drive! This is the entrance to June Lake Loop, a stunning area in the eastern Sierra Nevadas with fantastic hiking. Find an inn and stay in the cozy town of June Lake during your trip! You may have made your way down to Silver Lake, meandered around the crowds of people posing in front of the aspens. You probably posed yourself. We all do it. You had an awesome lunch at Silver Lake Resort , stuffing one of their famous burgers into your face to quench your dire need for protein.

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