The Flipside of the Sierra Nevada Mountains

The Sierra Nevada Mountains in West Nevada and California, act as backdrop to Kings Canyon, Lassen Volcanic, Sequoia, and Yosemite National Parks. Few visitors climb them, even fewer stop to wonder what lies on the far side of their oft-snow-capped peaks. If they did, they might discover something as different as the far side of the moon.

Sierra Nevada, meaning ‘Snowy Range’ in Spanish traverses 600 kilometres from south to north, with a footprint 100 kilometres wide. At Mount Whitney, it reaches a 4,400-meter altitude, making it the highest spot on the U.S. mainland. Mighty glaciers carved the Yosemite Valley out of granite far below.

Sierra Nevada Mount Whitney in September

sierra nevada,Mount Whitney in September
Mount Whitney in September: Cullen 328 / CC BY 3.0

The geothermal activity that erupted the Sierra Mountain chain to life continues unabated on the eastern side in places like Hot Creek. This flows out from snow melt where it is seldom warmer than 50 °F (10 °C). As it continues on its journey it merges with warmer water up to 68 °F (20 °C).

When it reaches Hot Creek Gorge, numerous hot springs raise it to a comfortable swimming temperature. Some of these erupt suddenly as very hot spurts two meters high. You may know it from Steve McQueen’s movie Nevada Smith. Seek advice from the Inyo National Forest authorities before visiting.

Sierra Nevada Hot Creek in Summer

sierra nevada, Mammoth Hot Creek in the Summer
Mammoth Hot Creek in the Summer: Photographer’s Nature / CC BY-SA 3.0

Bodie Litter from the Past

Some 20 miles away abandoned Bodie has a cooler take on life in Bodie State Historic Park. There were once 8,500 people living here in wooden shacks and hoping to get rich on gold and silver in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Ten years later, in 1886, the industry collapsed. People drifted off in search of other fortunes. By 1900 the last had left leaving their meagre possessions behind them.

The wooden shacks and rusting mine heads survived due to the rarefied atmosphere far away from the corrosive oceans. Conservation efforts are best described as ‘arrested decay’ while California agencies squabble over scarce resources. Perhaps it is better that way. To be able to wander freely, peer through open doorways, and hear murmurings from the past. Speak to us about local accommodation.

sierra nevada, Bodie Detritus from the Past
Bodie Detritus from the Past. Flickr: Mingo Hagen / CC BY 2.0

About Richard Farrell

Richard FarrellI tripped over a shrinking bank balance and fell into the writing gig unintentionally. This was after I escaped the corporate world and searched in vain for ways to become rich on the internet by doing nothing. Despite the fact that writing is no recipe for wealth, I rather enjoy it. I will deny I am obsessed with it when I have the time.My base is Umtentweni in South Africa on the Kwazulu-Natal South Coast (30.7167° S, 30.4667° E). I work from home where I ponder on the future of the planet, and what lies beyond in the great hereafter. Sometimes I step out of my computer into the silent riverine forests, and empty golden beaches for which the area is renowned.

Other posts by the Author

3 Responses

  1. Amazing Walk Around Albaicín in Granada, Spain | Go 4 Travel Blog

    […] point of the Albaicín and provide travelers with some of the best views of the Alhambra and the nearby Sierra Nevada mountains. Time your visit to these two spots close to sunset for an even more spectacular […]

  2. Best Andalusia Road Trip: A Trio of Moorish Capitals | Go 4 Travel Blog

    […] your rental car and drive towards Granada. This stunningly beautiful city sits at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and at the confluence of four rivers. All throughout the city, Islamic influences are apparent, […]

  3. Less-Known USA National Parks - Go 4 Travel Blog

    […] where the Great Basin, Cascade Range and Sierra Nevada meet, Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California is one of the world’s most active […]


Leave a Reply