NORTH FORK – The Sierra Vista Scenic Byway, a 100-mile journey through the Sierra National Forest adjacent to Yosemite National Park, has opened for the season.
While not as well-known as its National Park neighbor, the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway offers sweeping vistas that many feel rival those in Yosemite.Many examples of the Sierra’s most distinctive granite domes, meadows and glacial valleys can be seen along the route.
“The Byway is often referred to as a ‘secret Yosemite’ because there are a lot of similar views,” said Jarrod Lyman with the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau. “The Byway gives visitors the chance to take in some truly amazing scenery without the crowds and traffic they would find in Yosemite,” he said.
The Sierra Vista Scenic Byway starts in North Fork, the exact geographic center of California, and winds up into the mountains on the western slopes of the Sierra, with elevation changes from 3,000 feet to points above 7,000 feet.
There are historical points of interest, such as the Jesse Ross Cabin which was built in the 1860s, and donated to the Forest Service by the McClurg family so that it could be preserved and enjoyed by the public.
The cabin was towed 1/2 mile south to its new location near Clearwater Station. The new site was selected to give access to the public and keep it in the same environmental setting as the original location. Also, placement in sight of the Station provides protection from vandalism.
Globe Rock, a large granite sphere resting atop a small granite perch, is an unusual geological feature. It once served as a gathering place of the Mono Indians as seen by the many acorn grinding mortars in the surrounding granite. Teddy Roosevelt was once photographed at the location.
A favorite of travelers on the route is the Jones Store in Beasore Meadow. This old-time country store has been serving the cattle ranchers and travelers in the Sierra for over 100 years. It’s always a treat to stop in for a slice of their famous home-made pie, or enjoy a burger or a sandwich.
A visit to Jones Store is truly like stepping back in time, as you may encounter cattle being driven up to summer pastures, and you’ll definitely notice the fact that there is no electricity and no phone or cell service.
“The store has an amazing history, and the owner, Vern Black, who was a bomber pilot in World War II and has run the store for over 50 years, can tell some amazing stories of life in the region many years ago,” said Lyman.
The Byway is maintained by the National Forest Service, and maps, sights and activities along the route can be found at the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway Association website, at http://www.fs.usda.gov. and at www.byways.org.
While the warm spring season and less-than-average snowfall this winter mean an early opening, travelers are still encouraged to call the U.S. Forest Service in North Fork at 559-877-2218 for road conditions.