Spring in the Sierras

Sierras overlook, California

Every season  in the Sierra Nevada Mountains is full of wonder and beauty, and right now the glories of spring are everywhere.


This mountain range reaches north-south, spanning 400 miles (640 km) on the eastern side of California. See map below. The Giant Sequoias, the largest trees in the world; Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous U.S.; and Yosemite National Park, are a few remarkable features of the Sierra Nevadas.


Two weekends ago we visited the northern section of the Sierras, near Lake Tahoe and Gold Country.


Bear River Falls, Discovery Trail, CA (Bernese Mountain Dog, named Storm, soaking in one of his favorite places, friends’ dog)

In the upper alpine elevations there was reportedly still snow on the ground. Lower, in the montane forests where these photos were taken, the last snow fell two months ago and is gone now…and the woodlands are waking up.

Ponderosa Pine

The rivers and waterfalls boisterously cascaded with frigid, clear, mountain water — snow melt from the peaks. Most of California’s water supply depends on this snow melt, so it’s always great to see the spring waters running strong.


We hiked through mixed conifer forests where redwood, oak, pine, and fir trees towered overhead. Bigleaf maple trees had begun their seed production.


The understory was coming alive with wild dogwoods in different stages of leafing out, opening their tender white flowers, technically leaves. The yellow button flower in the center attracts insects, for pollination.


Wild Pacific Dogwood tree, Cornus nuttallii aka Mountain Dogwood


Pacific Dogwood flower


Bigleaf Maple


Deer Creek, CA


On the forest floor wildflowers were bursting through the needle duff. Wild trillium were a special find, and clumps of bleeding hearts, abundant. The gooseberries, a type of currant, will be a tasty treat for forest mammals and birds.

Wild Trillium

Wild Bleeding Hearts, Dicentra formosa

Wild Gooseberry, Ribes


Caterpillars, birds and reptiles were emerging, vibrating with life. They have much to do to prepare for the new season.

Belted Kingfisher


Springtime doesn’t last too long in the Sierras, but when it’s here, life is vibrant.


Written by Jet Eliot

Photo credit: Athena Alexander


Sierra Nevada map.png

California and the Sierra Nevadas. Graphic courtesy Wikipedia.



75 thoughts on “Spring in the Sierras

    • Glad to have you along for a Sierra adventure today, Kelly, thank you. I really like that belted kingfisher photo too; Athena had to do some real acrobatics to get that one.

  1. Wonderful! A mountain spring is so delightful – your words, and Athena’s photos really captured the unfurling beauty up there. And taking a big dog to romp and splash through the dogwoods must have been fun!
    Thanks, Jet, and have a great weekend!

    • Always a pleasure to hear from you, pc, thanks for your lovely message. Great to have you join us on this visit to the Sierras. Although I have been to many parts of the Sierras for several decades now, I realized this time just how much I love the Sierras. The dogs (there were two) were happy. Happy weekend and smiles to you too.

  2. What glorious captures plus you have answered a burning question I’ve had ever since a tree at the bottom of our garden began flowering a few weeks ago. What is it? Oh my gosh, I have a Dogwood Tree – thank you!

    • What a delight to have helped you work through the burning question of a flowering tree in your garden, Joanne. This gave me a big smile, my friend. Dogwoods are such stunning trees, how fortunate to have one in your yard. Cheers!

  3. Dear Jet, I LOVED this post and what beautiful photos Athena took. We will be paying another visit to the Sierras in a week or so, hopefully some of the dogwoods and wildflowers will still be blooming. Thank you for this beautiful memory!

    • We so enjoyed our lovely time in the Sierras with you both, Ria, I’m happy we could capture the glories of spring to share here today. There is no place on earth like the Sierras, and spring is absolutely stunning. I hope to hear if the dogwoods and wildflowers are still blooming on your future visit.

  4. Thank you for taking us to the Sierras, Jet! What a beautiful place to hike and enjoy wildflowers, mountains, trees, and birds. 🙂

  5. Your spring appears to be better than our this year, Jet. We’ve had high humidity, tropical downpours and dew points pushing 80%. Thanks for sharing your gorgeous photos and weather!

  6. After a long winter, spring really bursts out everywhere when it arrives. You’ve caught a real sense of urgency here in how nature is trying to make up for those dormant months. Beautiful photos and lovely description of what’s going on.

    • Spring expresses itself in so many different ways, depending on the climate, and you’re right, Anneli, once it arrives, it is powerful. Thanks very much for your kind words and visit, I’m glad you enjoyed the Sierra visit.

    • Yes, spring can be elusive in the mountains…but there’s nothing like spotting the pure white flowers of the dogwoods everywhere you look, to remind us. Glad you liked the dogwoods, Jan, it was truly the highlight of the weekend. Many thanks.

    • Thanks so much, Walt, for your warm words and visit. I hope you do get to revisit sometime in spring. The water in the rivers is super cold, but sparkling clear. Cheers, my friend–

    • I love finding trillium and am always on the look-out for them, because they are so beautiful; but never knew about the connection to morels. So just now, upon reading your comment Craig, I found a Mother Earth article that confirms this, and a few other wildflower species that can be triggers for morels, too. These trillium were the biggest I have ever seen in my life, I think they were actually giant trillium. Thanks for the tip.

  7. These parts of California I’m familiar with especially the Sequoia Park. My father had a tremendous admiration for the tallest trees. All the area that you mention (Sierra Nevada), is extraordinarily beautiful. Thank you for your great post my friend… 🙂

    • The Sierras really are, as you say HJ, extraordinarily beautiful. I’ve been visiting the Sierras for over 30 years and even though I’ve been all over, it feels like I have barely seen any of it. It’s such a huge area — 400 miles of mountains. I’m glad you’ve had the pleasure of seeing the Sierras, my friend. Thanks so much, HJ, always a pleasure.

    • I’m glad you liked the springtime Sierras, Jo, it was great fun to share this part of the world. Our home is still without electricity, water or any utilities, and we continue to live temporarily in a rental apt. in the next door county. There is much devastation and turmoil in our community. We are now hoping for early fall to return home. Thanks for asking and for your concern.

    • I found the spring Sierras refreshing and powerful, to use your words, and I’m glad to see this was conveyed. Thanks so much, Val, always a pleasure to “see” you.

  8. Thanks, Jet, for taking me to the Sierras through your post. It’s like hearing about an old friend that I didn’t get to see often enough. I’m fond of our past visit to Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks, Lake Tahoe Area, and the Eastern Sierra. What a wonderful area!

    • Your many visits to the Sierras confirms how expansive this mountain range is, Keng. And I, too, feel like I’m visiting an old friend when I go there. Enjoyed your comment and recollection, thanks so much.

  9. You definitely brought to life through your words and Athena’s photos the vibrant spring beauty from your trip. Loved seeing the bleeding hearts, belted kingfisher and the overlook shot, but my favorite has to be Storm in the river. Thanks for sharing spring in the Sierras.

    • Thanks so much for visiting the Sierras with us, ACI, I’m really happy you enjoyed the post. Storm loves that trail so much that he knows when we’re getting nearer in the car, barking with anticipation. He stays in the water so long, out of sheer joy, that on the next day he is stiff. Always a treat when you visit, thank you.

  10. Your post reminded me of the years I explored the Sierras. Having lived in big cities for much of my life, moving to these same foothills, watching life emerge from the melting snow and the merry waterfalls trickling down from the hills are some of my sweetest memories to this day.
    Lovely shot of the kingfisher by Athena.

    • Wonderful to “see” you, Helen, thanks for dropping by. It was fortunate to see the kingfisher at a Sierra pond, because it is rare to capture them in trees with pine needles. More often they’re on bare waterside or leafy branches.

  11. Beautiful photos and narration. Esp. loved seeing the wildflowers that I remember from Wisconsin. So glad you had the opportunity to relax and refresh yourselves in this beautiful place.

  12. Thank You for these wonderful pictures, Jet!!! I love it up there SOOOO much. Someday my sweet man has to see California. He would absolutely flip!!! Sending hugs from the South! 🙂

  13. What a fabulous hike! The thing that always hits me first when I visit the Sierras is the smell. I know as soon as I get out of the car and inhale that I am in one of the most amazing places in the world. Thanks for bringing us along here on your Sierra spring hike.

    • Great to have you along for the Sierra hikes, Pamela. Yes, I agree, the pine-fresh fragrance is characteristic of these forests, and how wonderful that you have this memory within you. Thanks for joining me in the Sierras, much appreciated.

  14. Sharing a part of your heart with us complete with beautiful photos and descriptions,
    was kind of you indeed. I am grateful to have had an opportunity to visit these incredible
    forests and see these amazing Redwoods and Sequoias. It is truly a forest to remember.
    Thank you Jet, celebrate a peaceful day

    • I was enamored of the dogwoods, we caught them in their peak days. Great to share them with you, Teagan — thanks so much for stopping by. I imagine your dogwoods in GA are lovely.

  15. It’s a paradisical forested region bursting with life over springtime!Splendid my journey through the verdant pathways and along the refreshing creeks.I felt awe under the lofty Ponderosa pine and the flawless blue skies!And how beautifully the land was punctuated with the charming faces of the wildflowers!Thank you for giving me the chance to rest my eyes on beautiful blues and greens,dear Jet.
    Happy Friday,my friend 🙂

    • And what a joy to have you visit the Sierras with me, Doda. Such an extraordinary place in the world, the Sierras, and a perfect delight to share them with you, Doda. I always enjoy your observations and loving words, about the flawless blue skies, awe under the Ponderosa, wildflowers and their charming faces. Thank you for these lovely visits today, my friend. I hope you are enjoying a wonderful weekend.

      • The joy is mine,dear Jet;I am so happy when I find some quiet moment to visit your blog and read your nature posts with Athena’s magnificent photos.Can’t thank you enough for being appreciative and kind.Happy weekend,dearest friend 🙂

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