Cherry Creek
Cameron Lawson/Getty Images

Cherry Creek

Cherry Creek
Tackle the Upper Tuolumne River near Yosemite for ultimate whitewater

Cherry Creek is often called the most difficult commercial rafting trip in California—and some say in the entire U.S. This is California’s gnarliest whitewater, rated Class V+ all the way, with fast-flowing rapids, whitewater plunges, and waterfalls galore. Technically the upper stretch of the Tuolumne River, Cherry Creek’s waters are so wild that the rafting season may not start until July, when booming snowmelt slows, and water flows drop to a safe enough level. Even then, it’s still at the upper end of the thrill threshold—and for very experienced paddlers only.

Cherry Creek’s geology creates its mighty whitewater fervor. This granite-walled canyon funnels the river so it’s fast and steep, dropping more than 100 vertical feet per mile. Paddlers must navigate their way through narrow, boulder-choked passageways and more than a dozen churning rapids. Expect a serious upper body workout as you paddle, paddle, paddle to stay on course. Unexpected swims in icy water are the norm. Only two outfitters run trips on Cherry Creek, All-Outdoors Rafting and Sierra Mac River Trips—making this one of the most exclusive whitewater experiences in the state. Put-in is near Groveland and State Highway 120, so you could easily combine your day on the river with a visit to Yosemite National Park, just east of your put-in site. Depending on the outfitter and conditions, trips run from June to mid-September.

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Thomas H. Story/ Sunset Publishing

Northern California

Discover the High Sierra

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11
June
Average (°C)
June - Aug
22°
High
5°
Low
Sept - Nov
18°
High
-4°
Low
June - Aug
22°
High
5°
Low
Mar - May
12°
High
-5°
Low

Snow-covered peaks in winter, gushing waterfalls in spring, wildflower meadows and glistening lakes in summer, vibrant colours in fall—this is a land of dramatic and wild beauty. World-class mountain resorts circling turquoise-blue Lake Tahoe, and at Mammoth Lakes cater to all, with scenic ski trails in winter and trails and vistas in summer.

Yosemite Valley…is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and gold and wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.”  - photographer Ansel Adams

Yosemite National Park - a World Heritage Site, is found roughly 3½ hours east of San Francisco. Whether you hike a mountain, ski the steeps, or lounge in a hot tub beneath a canopy of stars, you’ll find your perfect getaway. 

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At 14,505 ft. above sea level, Mt. Whitney is the highest point in the contiguous United States.
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Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.
Ansel Adams
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Trip 6-7 days 10 stops

Sierra Adventure

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Spotlight: Lake Tahoe

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Spotlight: Mammoth Lakes

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There are few places in California—and maybe on the planet—that can make you think you might just be on Mars. This is one of them. At this high-...

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Bodie

Tour the eerie remnants of a former boomtown

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Bishop

Explore an outdoorsy adventure town with an artistic side

Bishop brims with outdoor activities. Situated at the north end of the Owens Valley, with close access to some...

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Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Look up at (and learn about) amazing giant sequoias

Established in 1931 to preserve a stunning stand of giant sequoias, this park offers one of the easiest places to see these towering trees. Head...

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The General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park is the largest (by volume) tree in the world.
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Gold Rush history, epic high-country landscapes, hidden wine country, and charming country towns

Granite monoliths, waterfalls, alpine meadows—it’s no secret that Yosemite delivery some seriously big wow moments. But what is a secret is the bounty of awesome things you can see and do on your...

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Learn about a sobering time in U.S. history

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Grover Hot Springs State Park

Soak in naturally heated mineral pools

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Lone Pine

Discover the natural beauty and another side of California in a historic Owens Valley small town

Head to Lone Pine to see a different side of California, one that is less connected...