Summer is here, and it’s an opportune time to go sightseeing. If you’re staying in or around California, you’ll want to drive along the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway. The name says it all: the little traveled sideroad has lots of picturesque views you can enjoy.
Here are some of the sites along this road that are definitely worth a detour.
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Jesse Ross Cabin
Believe it or not, there’s a little wood cabin on this route that dates way back to 1860. It was the brainchild of one Jesse Blakey Ross. History has it that this man moved to the Sierra Vista area from Missouri, which was then suffering from the aftermath of the Civil War. His other intention was to prospect for gold.
The frame and walls of the tiny house are of hand-hewn logs. On the interior, old newspapers clad the walls. It was a form of insulation back in those days. You can even read some of the stories in them as the print is still legible. When you make a stop, check out the fireplace, which has been remodeled and rebuilt with rocks to add a draft and log mantle.
If you’re after cheap travel ideas, one of the things you need to consider is where you’ll have your meals. Ideally, you should dine at budget-friendly local food stores. Fortunately, the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway has just that. Look for the Jones Store. It sits at the heart of the Beasore Meadow, which you’ll learn about in a bit.
You’ll surely love the out-of-this-world hospitality of the owners. The store’s hamburgers and pies are a crowd favorite. Reviews from previous visitors will probably tell you how mouthwatering they are. If you love history, this is the best place to chat. The store has stood for nearly a century, and it still operates just like it did back then: without electricity. So go ahead and engage the owners in talks about the past.
Around the Jones Store is a lush green landscape. Herds of cattle used to graze here hundreds of years ago. The locals still let their free-range cattle roam this meadow. You’d want to bask in the beauty of nature here and take amazing photos to flaunt on social media. If you’re lucky enough and you time your visit in springtime, you’ll spot acres of breathtaking wildflowers.
At this particular spot, former US president Teddy Roosevelt posed for a photo. That was over 100 years ago during one of his many hunting trips. The main attraction is a several-hundred-ton spherical rock precariously balanced on another smaller rock. You might assume that an ancient giant placed it there, but it’s the weathering forces of nature that washed away all loose material in the surroundings and left it perched that way.
The Sierra Vista Scenic Byway presents nature at its best. In this area, you’ll see hundreds of giant sequoias. Remember: these are the most massive trees on earth. They grow to an unbelievable height of 50–85 meters on average. As for the trunk diameters, expect six to eight meters, which is absolutely massive. One of the largest in this site is the Bull Buck Tree, rising to 75 meters high and measuring 30 meters in diameter at ground level.
Unfortunately, dozens of them were razed in a forest fire. But still, young ones are sprouting here and there, thanks to the never-ending cycle of life.
Is nature really complete without water? Certainly not. The Sierra Vista Scenic Byway is home to the Mammoth Pool Reservoir. By the pool, you’ll find a resort and campground operated by one Wagner family since the 1950s. You can pitch camp here for days and enjoy fishing rainbow trout.
However, you may want to postpone your visit to this place until 2023. You probably are aware of the creek fire that broke out in the area in September 2020. It scorched at least 36,000 acres of forest land. Hundreds of campers found themselves in the middle of the inferno, but luckily, Fresno County helicopters airlifted them to safety. As of now, the area is under renovation. But the authorities have vowed to restore it to its former glory. Give it a year or two and you’ll enjoy what other campers have been going there for.
The Sierra Nevada
By stopping at the Mile High Vista, you’ll get epic views of the sprawling Sierra Nevada. See if you can count 15 peaks as most visitors do. The most famous peaks include the Half Dome Summit, Moro Rock, Taft Point, Mount Whitney, Sentinel Dome, Eagle Peak, and Clouds Rest.
This mountain range sits between the Great Basin and the Central Valley of California. The run is approximately 640 km long, at a width of about 110 km. It’s home to General Sherman, the world’s largest tree. Also, Lake Tahoe, the biggest alpine lake in North America, sits here. And in addition, it hosts the Yosemite Valley, three national parks, and several high waterfalls. While on the Sierra Vista Byway, you may not spot all these. But it’s worthwhile to have an idea of your surroundings.
Do you remember the iconic 1988 movie ‘The Great Outdoors’ with Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, and Stephanie Faracy as the stars? Well, they filmed it at Bass Lake. The same lake also hosts popular annual events, including Bass Lake Fishing Derby, Yosemite Half Marathon, Bass Lake Yosemite Triathlon, Boat, Hot Rod, and Motorcycle Show, Hot Summer Nights, Boat Parade, Smokey Bear Run, and Jingle Bash, among others.
This is just a testament to its popularity. You don’t want to miss what the rest of the people are enjoying. You’ll surely love the spectacular sunsets and splendid views of the surrounding hills with interspersed tree clusters. And if you wish to spend a night or two there, you have options like Miller’s Landing Resort, The Forks Resort, and Pines Resort. And if that’s not enough, here are 13 other things you can do at Bass Lake:
- Hire a horse from Yosemite Trails Saddle and Sleigh Company and explore the area around the Lake.
- Go for a photoshoot with native photographers who know the area in and out.
- Hike with guides from Lasting Adventures, Inc.
- Play golf at river Creek Golf Course.
- Fly with Airborrn Aviation and get breathtaking aerial views of the Historic Yosemite and Sierra Nevada Mountains.
- Hire mountain bikes from Yosemite Bicycle and Sport and tour the surroundings on two wheels.
- Enjoy a special dinner at the Big Trees Lodge Yosemite restaurant. As it’s housed in a Victorian building, you can take your time to learn more about Victorian Architecture.
- Gamble at the Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino for a chance to win millions of dollars.
- Visit Brian Allan Chainsaw Carving to see or even buy spectacular art pieces hewn from wood.
- Get a massage at the Pines Spa. And if you wish to, get a manicure and pedicure too.
- Purchase live baits and fish at the lake with a fishing line.
- Rent a boat and spend the afternoon kayaking.
- Try water skiing.
There’s so much you can do around Bass Lake a day won’t probably be enough. Also, the communities that live around the lake are very welcoming. Freely interact with them and make the best of your stay there. You’ll surely appreciate your detour to Bass Lake.
This is a small curve by the roadside overlooking Redinger Lake, hence the name. While here, you can take your good time to soak in the exquisite panorama. The Redinger lake sits at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where the San Joaquin River flows.
The lake is named after David H. Redinger, who was the superintendent of Edison’s Big Creek Hydroelectric Project. The project comprises a series of 25 dams, nine power plants, plus tunnels along the San Joaquin River. The Redinger Dam is one of them. Behind this dam, water accumulated to form the reservoir you now call Redinger Lake. So, as you probably guessed, the lake is man-made.
While at this overlook, you can enjoy people-watching, if you’re a fan of it. Down below, you may be lucky enough to spot people fishing, picnicking, swimming, boating, or camping. You may want to carry a pair of outdoor binoculars to magnify the views to life-size. And as there are no shops here, make sure to carry a drink or two you can sip on as you relax in the gentle breezes.
The Arch Rock is one of the few natural rock arches in the Central Sierra. It’s a granite arch that was formed from wind and rain erosion. Luckily, you can have a close-up view of it. And you’d surely want to take a few snaps with this unique formation as a backdrop. And if you’re the daring kind, you can try climbing it if you wish to.
Similar to the Beasore Meadow, the Jackass Meadow is a great place to see and pick wildflowers, when you visit at the right time of the year. The bloom period is usually from June through September. From the parking area, there’s a well-kept boardwalk that leads to a viewing platform where you can see the meadow in its entirety. You’re likely to come across locals grazing cattle in this area. That’s something to enjoy too, especially if you’re from the cities, where farm life is almost non-existent.
This is yet another natural rock dome within the Sierra. It sits at an incredible elevation of 2,300 meters. It’s very popular among Sierra Vista travelers since it offers a 360 degrees view of the surrounding landscape. So, don’t be surprised if you find a couple or two soaking in the California sun up there. Join them and share hiking stories as you pass time.
Cold Springs Summit
Cold Spring Summit is the most-elevated point along the road. It stands at a staggering height of 7300 feet. You’ll love the stunning display of towering pines jutting out of the nature-mowed grasses. Behind the trees is Madera Mountain, towering to a whopping 10,000 feet.
photo by Guywelch2000
You can never be bored with numerous overlooks along the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway. After all, that’s the very point of traveling along this byway—to see the picturesque landscapes. At this point, you can see the Shuteye and Little Shuteye Peaks of the Sierra. It’s in this location that a native Indian allegedly hurt his eye while climbing the rocks, hence the name.
Shuteye Peak is home to one of the fire lookouts of the US Forest Service. With powerful binoculars, you’ll be able to see it for yourself. During summer, the USFS ensures they have a staff on duty to watch the surrounding areas for hints of wildfires so that they can take action right away. The fire outlook is open to the public for tours, and the view you’ll get can be like a sneak peek for your next visit.
As the name suggests, these are peaks with rocks naturally shaped to resemble beaks of eagles. Looking at it, you might feel as if some supernatural being tasked the eagles to watch over and protect the scenic byway. But science tells you it’s the power of erosion. Whatever the interpretation you put to it, the scene is dramatic enough to capture your attention for a long while.
There are lots of exciting things to see and do along the 100-mile Sierra Vista Scenic Byway. With so many marvels of nature packed along this magnificent stretch of road, you’ll likely need at least a few days to enjoy even just half of what it has to offer. The 15-point list above is in no way exhaustive. If you have more time, you’ll probably find new ones worth adding to this list!