With Yosemite’s winding and scenic Tioga Pass now open, the Eastern Sierra just got a few hours closer. Grab your gear, set the out-of-office auto-reply, and make your way to the high country. Summer’s calling.
As you make your way through Yosemite National Park
, ensure extra time to explore famous Tuolumne Meadows. Surrounded by granite domes, craggy peaks, and miles of hiking trails, this High Sierra landscape spans wide. But for a truly grand view, you’ve got to get out of your car and go on a short hike to bold—and bald—Lembert Dome. The trail gets down to business immediately, with only one way to go: up! The good news is that the ascent is short. (You’ll climb 900 feet in just 1.5 miles.) The final push to the tip-top of the dome is a bit of a rock scramble (manageable with mindful footwork), and the payoff is one of the best panoramic views this side of Half Dome. This year's late winter means the meadows below are extra green and surrounding peaks are still capped with snow. Snap a photo, give it a fist pump (Lembert leaps aren’t advised), and try not to lose your hat on your way back down (winds can pick up suddenly). Been there, dome that.From Hwy. 120 in Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite, turn right at the sign for the Wilderness Center. Follow the road .25-mile back to the Dog Lake parking area (don’t park at the Lembert Dome parking/picnic area along Hwy. 120.) The trail starts at the north end of the parking lot and crosses Hwy. 120. Follow the signs up to the dome. No dogs.
Cresting over the conclusion of Tioga Pass into the Eastern Sierra, an ethereal glinting lake looms like a mirage. Mark Twain called it "one of the strangest freaks of nature in any land," but we prefer to call it a high-desert sea. Mysterious, tranquil, and ancient, Mono Lake is the second oldest lake in North America and a vital habitat for millions of migratory and nesting birds. It's famed for its bizarre, salt-white "tufa" towers, rising up from the lake like gnarled fingers pointing skyward. These once-submerged limestone formations began to appear in the 1940s after Southern California began tapping the lake for drinking water. Get up-close to the otherworldly "tufas" by paddling right to them. The Mono Lake Committee
leads one-hour guided canoe tours, elaborating on the lake's history, controversy, and peculiar mystique. And don't worry if you fall out of your kayak (a highly unlikely occurrence): the lake's vigorously salty water will help keep you afloat.BONUS:
Don’t miss what’s hailed as “The most unusual deli inside a gas station you will ever visit.” The Mobile gas station at the intersection of Highway 120 and Highway 395 boasts the Whoa Nellie Deli
, featuring a menu even the most discerning foodies will appreciate. Get a jumbo juicy burger or try a signature specialty like the Legendary Lobster Taquitos. Grab a seat at one of the outdoor picnic tables overlooking Mono Lake.The Mono Lake Committee (760-647-6595) offers one-hour canoe tours from the end of June through Labor Day on Saturdays and Sundays. The cost is $25 per person. Book online or call and reserve a spot.
Ingredients for a stellar backpacking trip: an idyllic destination, stupendous views along the way, few people, and excellent company. A trip to Thousand Island Lake in the Ansel Adams Wilderness
has the first three; you supply the company. This year snow will linger at the lake well into the summer (this photo was taken over the July 4th weekend), but don’t let that deter you. The High Trail (a section of the Pacific Crest Trail) is a 10-mile entrance into this beautiful slice of the Sierra, with a setting that’s—of course—straight out of an Ansel Adams photograph: a 9,500-foot-high glacier-fed lake in a granite bowl backed by iconic Banner Peak. Starting from the Agnew Meadows trailhead, The High Trail begins with a bang, zig-zagging up in a series of switchbacks that’ll get your blood pumping. Things level off after that as you traverse a balcony trail with superb views of the Ritter Range, the shark-tooth Minarets, and Shadow Lake. The final few miles is up and through a forest passing the shallow and grassy Badger Lakes before spilling out at Thousand Island Lake. Pick a campsite on the northern shore and celebrate with a feast fit for backpacking (you’ll be glad you hauled it in). Spend downtime fishing, lounging on the rounded boulders, or taking side trips to Clark Lakes or Island Pass. At night, try to stay awake for some high-altitude stargazing, where the Milky Way is extra milky. And don’t forget to snap some shots: a picture of Thousand Island Lake is worth a thousand memories.You’ll need a wilderness permit to camp at Thousand Island Lake. Pick one up, along with a required bear canister, at the Mammoth Welcome Center/Ranger Station (2520 Main St., Mammoth Lakes; 760-924-5500). Make a reservation ahead of time for your permit or pick it up the day before your trip on a first-come, first-served basis. (There is a quota and spaces can fill up.) To get to the Agnew Meadows trailhead, take the bus from Mammoth Mountain resort to Devil’s Postpile and get off at the first stop. Consider hiking in on the combined Shadow Lake Trail, River Trail, and John Muir Trail. At the time of publication, this route still had quite a bit of snow and the High Trail was the best route into the lake. Consult the Mammoth Welcome Center for current trail information and maps for the hike. No dogs.
Not all 5K runs are the same. Some include fire-leaping, mud-crawling, beer-drinking, and obstacles from hell. Warriors, get set for the craziest, most fun day of your life. Yes, that’s a bold statement, but this is a bold race! The Warrior Dash
is back in Northern California, October 29 and 30. Register today for the early bird rate
and save $10. Whether you’re a bona fide couch potato, a curious spectator, or a certified fitness fanatic, the Warrior Dash is an epic race and festival for all types. The 5K running event and obstacle course passes through rough ’n’ tumble terrain with zany surprises that’ll give you bragging rights for years to come. Don your best superhero, Smurf, or Game of Thrones
costume to conquer challenges like dashing over fire, crawling through a mud pit
under barbed wire, and climbing walls that’ll test your grit—and wits. Cross the finish line and be greeted by adoring fans, live music, beer, and the crowning glory: a furry warrior helmet to commemorate the achievement. Refuel with a giant turkey leg and watch or participate in crazy festivities like ax-throwing lessons and the “best beard” contest. Warrior Dash is the craziest frickin' day of your life. Register now, before it fills up. It’s a hell of a good time!TIP:
Are you a warrior? The NorCal Warrior Dash will sell out fast, so sign up today and save $10
.The NorCal Warrior Dash happens Oct. 29 & 30. Sign up now!