You’re thinking California mountains are for skiing-and you’re right-but treat yourself to a summertime trip at one of these locations, and you’ll never wait for snow again. Mountain biking, hiking, fishing, camping, swimming, waterskiing…what more do you need for the perfect summer getaway? Here are a few fantastic spots to visit in the Sierra Nevada, the San Bernardino Mountains, the Cascade Range and the San Gabriel Mountains. Some offer many activities and adventures, some only offer a climb for the most adventurous. All are an epic way to check out California.
Visit these 6 California Mountains this Summer
1. Big Bear
High in the San Bernardino Mountains, about 100 miles north of Los Angeles, Big Bear offers adventures for all tastes. Hike, bike or zip-line hundreds of miles on Big Bear Mountain. Or, swim, water ski, fish and camp along beautiful Big Bear Lake. If the outdoor lifestyle doesn’t interest you, visit the boutiques and gift shops in Big Bear Village, and visit one of their restaurants. Relax and unwind with a spa treatment or take a yoga class. Summer temperatures hover around 80 during the day and drop to a cool 45 at night. Whether you prefer a cozy, rustic cabin or more luxurious lodgings, you’ll find what you want.
Tucked away in the Eastern Sierra, sits Mammoth Mountain, “California’s Mountain Home”. It’s hard to believe that this incredible mountain paradise is only a 5- 6 hour drive from the fast-moving pace of Los Angeles. Even better, the drive to Mammoth along Hwy 395 is a scenic delight in itself.
Mammoth gets 300 days of sunshine per year highlighting gorgeous spots like Mt. Whitney and Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. Plus, the geological features are incredible: granite domes, lava tubes, basalt columns and natural hot springs, to name a few. Visit the Mammoth Activity center to get information on hiking, gondola rides, mountain climbing, swimming, zip-lining and bungy jumping. Try fly fishing on the San Joaquin River. Or hike the Trail to Rainbow Falls to take in stunning views of the San Joaquin River as it plunges 100+ feet. Wherever you go in Mammoth, the scenery is breathtaking.
Yosemite National Park is located in western Sierra Nevada. An astounding 4 million visitors come to Yosemite each year in search of adventurous hiking trails or quaint spots to get cozy. 95% of the land is considered wilderness; home to 160 rare plants, plus rare geological formations.
Half Dome is a granite formation with 3 round sides and 1 sheer face, giving it the illusion of a dome cut in half. Thousands of hikers ascend Half Dome every year, with as many as 800 a day. The challenging 16 mile round-trip hike can be done in a single day. However, some hikers choose to break it into 2 or more days by camping overnight in Little Yosemite Valley. One of the most challenging parts of the hike is the 400 foot ascent using metal cables. It looks terrifying, but taking precautions can alleviate much of the danger. The hike typically takes 10 – 12 hours to complete.
4. Mount Shasta
Approximately 60 miles outside Redding, on the southern end of the Cascade Mountain Range lies Mount Shasta, a potentially active volcano and popular climbing spot. Climbers can choose between completing the climb in one day, or breaking it up into 2 or more. Camping is available at Horse Camp and Helen Lake, and camping at a higher altitude helps reduce the risk of altitude sickness. Non-climbers can enjoy fishing, golfing, canoeing and cycling. Visitors can partly drive up the mountain, which is approximately 14 miles and takes about an hour, round trip. There are enough area attractions and activities to keep even the pickiest crowd happy.
5. Mount Baldy
Mount Baldy sits at the highest point in the San Gabriel Mountains, surrounded by Angeles National Forest. This snow-capped mountain, located about 20 minutes outside of Los Angeles is a popular training location for those attempting to climb Mt. Whitney. Snow can stick around into late spring and sometimes summer, thanks to the high elevation. Descending the mountain by ridge-top Devil’s Backbone can render a serious adrenaline rush, if that’s what you’re into. But daredevils be warned – this path becomes dangerous with snow or wind and should only be attempted under clear conditions.
6. Mount Whitney
California is home to Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states. This popular hiking destination lies on the boundary of Sequoia National Park and Inyo National Forest. The high elevation makes Whitney an alpine climate, meaning that no monthly temperature gets above a mean of 50.
Hikers choose between making the 22 mile round trip in one day, or camping overnight to split the distance over 2 or more days. After choosing which option, every hiker must apply for a permit. The mountain is so frequently visited that a permit lottery system was implemented to help prevent crowding and overuse. Only 100 day hikers and 60 campers are permitted to hike per day. Once you obtain a permit, plan carefully. This is a risky climb, with potentially fatal outcomes. Preparation is your best friend when considering a climb of this height.
So, don’t wait for snow to enjoy these beautiful mountains. Summer adventures in these scenic parts of California are waiting for you. Try one soon!