Rebecca Miller guest blogs today, giving us the scoop on the best places for day hikes near Fresno. Rebecca is a Fresno Transplant and outdoor enthusiast. She writes about her adventures on her blog, Three Hours from Everything.
When I moved to Fresno five years ago, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this city – or its smells. It was a place I had never really heard of, but when I googled “Fresno, CA” and saw that it was close to some mountains, I decided to move 2,500 miles to settle in the “Best Little City” that nobody had ever really heard of.
Now I reek of Fresno pride. I could gush for a while about this place and it’s half-a-million people, but perhaps I’ll limit my lustful drawling to my most favoritest part of this city – its proximity to 10,000+ feet.
I’m a bit of an outdoors fanatic – understatement of the century. With Fresno a mere 1-3 hours away from some of the most spectacular scenery/rocks/trees/mountain lions, I had a hard time accepting the fact that Fresno does not really have a nature-y culture. I’ve met so many Fresno lifers who have never seen the enormity of El Capitan, who have never tried to wrap their arms around a giant sequoia, who have never had to choose between itchy-legs and 100-proof deet. How is this possible?
Fresno was recently named a top city for people who like to be outside, which I think came as a surprise to many people. But it shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s time we embraced our proximity to big ol’ pieces of granite. Proximity is one of our greatest assets. And when you have many many miles of free entertainment in the backyard, there is no excuse not to #optoutside.
Distance: 1 hour to the park entrance; 2 hours to Yosemite Valley
Cost: $30 entrance fee (valid for a week)
Yosemite is pretty amazing. It’s one of America’s most popular parks, and I guarantee you’ve heard of Half Dome, El Capitan, or Glacier Point at some moment in your life. And guess what? It’s a two-hour drive! People fly over the giant oceans to see these giant rocks, but Fresnans can be on top of one of ‘em by lunch time.
Distance: 30 minutes – 2 hours
Sierra’s awesome. It has foothills and then some medium mountains and then some really, really, really tall peaks; big lakes and small lakes; dirt roads and hidden trails. It’s a national forest, so it’s free and much more inviting to all different kinds of recreation (off-roading, hunting, fishing, camping in weird spots…). It’s basically a do-whatever-you-want-with-a-great-view plot of land.
Distance 1.5-2 hours
Cost: $20 entrance fee (valid for a week)
Kings Canyon NP gets overlooked in my opinion. It is home to (you guessed it) Kings Canyon, the deepest canyon in North America. Yes, it IS actually the deepest canyon in North America (Wikipedia confirms it). The further up the canyon you go, the further down your mouth drops. Then you get to the end of the road and have to start using your feet. From there, it’s only a short distance to some very tall mountains and a serious absence of civilization.
Distance 2-3 hours
Cost: $20 entrance fee (valid for a week)
It’s run through the same system as Kings Canyon NP. (They’re actually known as SEKI by park aficionados and also the National Park Service.) It is my favorite park, not for the giant ginormous humongous gargantuan sequoia trees, which are really really really impressive, but for the super tall mountains, several of which are pretty accessible to the general public – read: day hike. Have you ever been to 12,000 feet? It’s pretty breathtaking, in more ways than one.
Distance: 2-3 hours
Cost: $15 entrance fee (valid for a week)
It’s a small one – only three miles across! But you can spend an entire day exploring caves, hiking through wildflowers, and watching rock climbers clamber up some weird-looking rocks. Pinnacles is the newest national park in the country (thank you Obama) and a great place to go during the winter, if you’re not a huge fan of driving in snow but still need a break from your Facebook feed.
Now, don’t even get me started on the other stuff a little less nearby – the various wilderness areas, national forests, lakes, random secret trails through private and semi-private property. The coolest part about spending time outside is that it’s pretty much free…pack your car full of friends to split the gas, throw in a pb&j for lunch, and put your phone on airplane mode, and you’ll be surprised at how easy and carefree life suddenly is. And because you live in Fresno, you’ll be home by dinner to post your awesome summit/waterfall/sweaty-trail selfies to Instagram.