Got a free weekend? Escape to the Sierra Nevada


Stunning scenery, white-knuckle drives, and a little solitude and serenity are some of the things found on a Sierra vacation. Here are some suggestions on hidden mountain getaways, whether you prefer to bed down in an isolated campsite or want fresh linens every day.

Treasure hunters still scour the Sierra
Without breaking much of a sweat, my wife, two young sons and I visited a literary landmark, explored a historic Gold Rush town, tasted local wine, panned for gold and, of course, ventured into the belly of the Earth. One quick disappointment: Despite the name, Gold Country has no readily available gold lying around. I looked.

Quaking Aspen: Sequoia solitude, hold the hassles
The Quaking Aspen campground sits just above 7,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada, the nearest small town 28 miles of mountain road away. Pines and cedars towered overhead, shading the campsites all day long. A stream bubbled along its edge. And it was blissfully unpopulated.

Florence Lake a high-country sea of tranquility
Florence Lake is one of several high-country reservoirs for Southern California Edison’s massive hydroelectric power system in the western Sierra. The lake is almost entirely surrounded by the John Muir Wilderness, a 584,000-acre patch of land covered by mountains, forests and the kind of scenery worthy of the great conservationist’s name.

A bit of Aspen in the Sierra’s humble Truckee
Truckee, the mountain burg once dominated by a hard-knuckle sawmill, is today a veritable vacation suburb of Silicon Valley, a place of huge second homes, golf courses and a dolled-up downtown. Contemporary Truckee is a base for ski bums and Gucci gals. Paul McCartney, the ex-Beatle, flits into town many a March.