Is it possible to find solitude in one of California's mountainous national parks? It certainly is, but like anything worth having, it takes a little work.
Here are a few of our favorite backpacking trips in the Sierra Nevada, from the south to the north.
Glacier Pass to Sawtooth Pass, Sequoia National Park (27-mile loop)
The Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park provides access to some of the most spectacular high country in the southern Sierra. Over the course of the trail and the 3,819 feet of elevation gain you'll cross open meadows, countless alpine lakes and red fir forests while taking in unbelievable view after unbelievable view. Pack your fishing rod as many of the lakes are home to small California golden and rainbow trout. If you're looking for something shorter, there are many single-day and multi-day backpacking options that start from the Mineral King Valley. Learn more.
Rae Lakes Loop, Kings Canyon National Park (42 miles)
This loop has everything an ideal backpacking trip should have: stunning lake basins, rushing waterfalls, and splendidly carved canyons. Although hikable in either direction, starting at Road's End and looping north to south affords a more gradual elevation change. Over the course of the trail you'll have a net elevation gain of about 6,943 feet. Seeing as this is one of the more popular trails in Kings Canyon, plan your three- to six-day adventure in the fall when the summer rush is over. Learn more.
Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley (28 miles)
There is no other national park quite like Yosemite, and there is no better way to really see its spectacular scenery than by trekking your way into the valley. This trail starts at Tuolumne Meadows along a section of the Pacific Crest Trail and weaves through a number of trails in the park with a net elevation gain of 6,620 feet. You won't be short on alpine lakes, mountain streams, and a plethora of wildlife.
Remember that permits and bear canisters are required for all these backpacking trips in the national parks. Visit each individual adventure for additional details on the routes. Check out Clever Hiker's 12 Tips for Planning Backpacking Adventures for additional resources. Learn more.