The Sierra National Forest, located northeast of Fresno, CA, borders the Yosemite National Park on the south, Kings Canyon National Park on the west, and Giant Sequoia National Monument (Northern Unit) on the north. It is comprised of 1,309,013 acres. There are 59 developed campgrounds of which 36 meet the selection criteria.
One definition for "sierra" is snowy mountain range, another is sawtooth mountain. Both are good monikers for the Sierra National Forest but, in the summer, "verda" better describes this Forest for it contains every shade of green one can imagine. And, there is a wide range of blue. Where the blues and greens meet, there is breathtaking beauty, limitless recreational opportunities, and many outstanding camping locations. It all makes up the Sierra National Forest.
For beauty and outstanding power boating opportunities, the 1,160-acre Bass Lake attracts thousands car, tent, recreational vehicle (RV) and motorhome camping enthusiasts every year. To help control the number of users and insure quality of water play, boat owners are required to register their water crafts. Along with great boating opportunities, the fishing is pretty good. Several locations around the lake's shoreline are set aside as swim areas. Some of these areas, such as Spring Cove near Spring Cove campground, are great places to introduce young children and toddlers to the memorable event of lake swimming. Several lakeside, privately owned resorts, round out the Lake Bass experience offering limited supplies, water craft rentals, and dining facilities.
Smaller but no less attractive, Shaver Lake also great for a family camping vacation. Waterskiing, fishing, houseboating, swimming and camping are just some of the activities found here. Dora Belle, the Forest Service's only campground on this Lake, is nestled among cedar, pine, and fir trees with some camp sites overlooking a small bay offering a great way to enjoy Shaver Lake.
Northeast of Shaver Lake, up State Route 168, is the best location for sailing in the Sierra National Forest - Huntington Lake. An alpine lake, it begins most mornings with a mirror surface. Around 10 AM a breeze begins to ruffles the water. Soon, a variety of boats glide by with sails filled with a steady wind. Boats skim across the lake until late afternoon when the wind dies down to a whisper. Soon, campfires glow from shoreline campgrounds, such as Deer Creek and Lower Billy Creek. And a good day comes to an end. Huntington Lake, also, has privately owned resorts offering boat rentals, limited groceries, and dining. A very special place, adjacent to Upper and Lower Billy Creek campgrounds, is the Billy Creek Museum. The museum, formerly a Forest Ranger's residence, includes displays of Native People's culture and history, the Forest Service's contributions to the area, and the story of a WWII aircraft's ending in Huntington Lake.
Five Wilderness are located within the Sierra National Forest's boundaries. Monarch Wilderness, at the Forest's southern end, is the most remote. On the other hand, the Kaiser Wilderness, adjacent to Huntington, is the most accessible. Ansel Adams, John Muir, and Dinkey Lakes Wildernesses, east of Huntington Lake, are magnificent and easy to reach (if you don't mind driving a white-knuckle caliber road). The beauty of these Wildernesses is beyond description. One feature of the Adams and Muir Wildernesses are several adjacent man-made lakes used in a very intricate hydro-electric production network.
Because of the awe-inspiring beauty of the nearby Wilderness areas and the boating opportunities, some of the area's campgrounds have been mentioned in several publications. Finding a campsite can be a challenge atMono Hot Springs campground.
Further north, Mono Creek and Vermilion campgrounds may not be as crowded but, like Mono Hot Springs, reservations would probably be a good idea.
People interested in exploring deep into the Adams and Muir Wildernesses will find the privately owned and operated ferries across Lake Thomas A Edison and Florence Lake are an excellent way to access these pristine areas. Vermilion and Jackass Meadow campgrounds, located near Edison and Florence lakes respectively, provide a good point of return or departure.
A magnificent sight along Kaiser Pass, on the way to Adams and Muir Wildernesses, are the Western junipers growing among the gleaming white, car-size boulders. The juniper's massive trunks lean in the direction of prevailing winds and support evergreen tufted branches twisted by years of snowfall and fierce winds. Miles away, southeast of Dinkey Creek campground, is a grove of another awe-inspiring tree - Giant Sequoia. Here, McKinley Grove Botanical Area, located near the Gigantea campground, contains a stand of virgin Giant Sequoia. To the north, near Bass Lake, is Nelder Grove with 106 mature Giant Sequoias intermingled with second growth pine, fir, and cedar. These areas offer some great hiking, too.
There are some very "special" campgrounds in the Sierra National Forest. So what makes them "special"? Well, different things. Jackass Meadow campground is located in a gloriously beautiful area and the resident Douglas squirrel, a.k.a. Sierra Chickeree, entertains campers all day long with its antics. The eye-popping beauty and variety of the wildflowers found atRancheria and
Upper Billy Creek campgrounds make them special. The quiet, tranquil atmosphere of little Ward Lake and its campground, the sight of a canoe gliding by, makes it special. Soda Springs campground, a long drive from almost everything, has fabulous vistas and a delightful creek full of rainbow trout. Summerdale campground is just south of Yosemite National Park's southern entrance. If that wasn't enough for a "special" rating, how about an active beaver community in the creek that parallels the campground. Several of the Sierra's campgrounds feature natural water slides but the one found at the north end of Dinkey Creek campground has to be the best.
While green is the color of Sierra National Forest, the memories made here will come in a rainbow of colors. Camping, hiking, boating, swimming, wildlife viewing, taking pictures, sliding down a natural water slide, roasting marshmallow, and the list goes on and on, as will the fun. Be warned one visit will probably lead to another, then another, then another. Sierra National Forest awaits.
1600 Tollhouse Road
Clovis, California 93611
RANGER DISTRICT OFFICES
29688 Auberry Road
PO Box 559
Prather, CA 93651-0559
57003 Road 225
PO Box 10
North Fork, California 93643