Yosemite National Park Alternatives

Sep 13, 2023

With 3,882,642 annual visitors, Yosemite is the third most popular national park in America. The park is also expecting delays due to road construction projects throughout the summer. If crowds and road construction aren’t your thing we have a few suggestions on Yosemite Alternatives.

Top Yosemite National Park Alternatives

Devils Postpile National Monument – The geometric pile of tall basalt columns were formed in a hot volcanic eruption less than 100,000 years ago. The national monument is located west of Mammoth Mountain in the Reds Meadow Valley and is a popular day hiking and sightseeing destination close to town. Take the hiking trail to the Postpile and continue on to Rainbow Falls for a longer hike. Mono Lake Tufa State National Reserve – Located 30 minutes north of Mammoth Lakes, and 12 miles east of Yosemite national Park, the saline water Mono Lake is an ancient body of water, more than 1-million years old. The reserve was created to preserve the iconic tufa towers, calcium-carbonate spires and knobs formed when freshwater springs are combined with alkaline lake water. The Mono Lake Committee has great information on the area and offers naturalist tours and field seminars. Saddlebag Lake and the Twenty Lakes Basin Hike – Located just outside Yosemite National Park off of Tioga Pass Road, Saddlebag Lake and the Twenty Lakes Basin hiking loop rivals hike in Yosemite National Park scenery. The basin is tucked beneath the towering high alpine granite peaks on the Northern Yosemite border. One of the allures of this hike is starting and finishing with a boat taxi across the lake. Virginia Lakes and the Summit Lake Hike – If you don’t want to drive into Yosemite, but still want to see the national park you can hike there. There are a number of lakes along the Virginia Lakes Trail that make for a fantastic day hike at various distances. You’ll pass Cooney Lake and the popular Frog Lakes before you reach a high elevation mountain pass. The trail descends a short while before reaching Summit Lake and national park boundary. Bodie State Historic Park – In the late 1800s, Bodie was a thriving gold mining town with a population of 10,000 people. The boomtown was eventually abandoned and the ghost town was designated for preservation in 1962. Bring a camera and take the Stamp Mill Tour through one of the most intact stamp mills in California. Bristlecone Pines. Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest – The word’s oldest living trees, are 2,000 years or older, thrive in the White Mountains east of Mammoth Lakes. The Methuselah tree in Schulman Grove is estimated to be 4,773 years old. Stop by the U.S. Forest Service Visitor’s center at Schulman Grove for more information.

Road Trip Detour Routes to Mammoth Lakes

If you are planning a road trip in the golden state but want to avoid Yosemite, you have a few other options to travel across the Sierra Nevada to and from San Francisco and the coast. Just north of Highway 120 and Yosemite National Park, Highway 108 over Sonora Pass is a great option from the Bay Area. The route is longer and intersects with Highway 395 north of Mammoth Lakes near Bridgeport, but the extra miles on the road will be quicker with less traffic and stops. Farther north, Highway 4 over Ebbetts Pass is a windy scenic byway connecting Angels Camp to Markleeville. It may not be the quickest option, however, it will be the most scenic. Another option to cross the Sierra Nevada south of Mammoth Lakes is Highway 178 through Kernville, past Lake Isabella and connecting with highway 395 near Ridgecrest.

Monica Prelle

Monica Prelle is an outdoors, wine, and travel writer who would rather be running, climbing, or mountain biking. See more of Monica's posts here, read more of her work at monicaprelle.com and connect on twitter @monicaprelle

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