Sierra Vista Scenic Byway

Scenic driving loop through the Sierra National Forest with views of the Sierra Nevada crest, granite domes, mountain streams, fishing lakes and historic buildings.

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Latitude: 37.1931427 Longitude: -119.4694519 Elevation: 2623 ft
the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
Dan Carter

Length of Byway or Route

100 miles

Driving Directions

Fresno or Madera; exit State Highway 99 towards Yosemite National Park. From Fresno follow Southern Yosemite Highway 41 north. From Madera follow State Highway 145 east. Where both Highways intersect, follow Southern Yosemite Highway 41 north to Madera County Road 200. Watch for the directional billboard just south of Road 200. Follow Road 200 east through O'Neals (home to Westbrook Wine Farm) on to North Fork. North Fork is the "official" starting point for the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway although travel on Road 200 has its own scenic values.

Highlights and Key Points Along the Route

North Fork - This once thriving logging town is headquarters for the Bass Lake Ranger District of the Sierra National Forest. Stop at the Headquarters Administration/Information Center for maps, guide books and public restrooms. Check on the latest road and weather conditions. Fuel up and purchase food, drink and other needed supplies in town.

Exact Geographic Center of California - Down Italian Bar Road just before the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway start sign, is a monument designating the exact geographic center of the Golden State as determined by GPS.

Redinger Overlook - View the majestic San Joaquin River Gorge, home to "California's hardest working water." P.G.& E. along with S.C.E. re-circulates river water through a series of dams, lakes, penstocks (big pipes) and power houses generating thousands of megawatts in electricity before surrendering the water to the San Joaquin Water Authority for distribution by canal across California's Central Valley to farmers and ranchers.

Ross Cabin - This historic shaped log structure was taken apart piece by piece, labeled, moved from private property and reconstructed near a USFS Fire Station along the Byway for all to stop and enjoy. A restroom is available here.

Mile High Vista - A highlight of the Byway, this viewing area has engraved interpretive plaques fanned out with information on peaks, valleys, domes and sites along the Sierra Nevada crest. Picnic tables and restrooms are available.

Mammoth Pool/Wagners Store - Non-motorized boating, fishing and swimming at Mammoth Pool along with surrounding campgrounds make thia a weekend destination for San Joaquin Valley "flat landers." Wagners Store/Resort has camping and fishing supplies. Restrooms are located in the nearby campgrounds.

Arch Rock - Follow the rock lined path to a wooden viewing platform constructed as an Eagle Scout project to see one of a very few natural rock arches in the Central Sierra.

Clover Meadow Station - Take a short side trip, if so inclined, to a High Country Ranger Station. Back Country Rangers use Clover Meadow as a base camp during the summer months. Clover Meadow is an access trailhead for the John Muir Trail, the Pacfic Crest Trail, Ansel Adams and John Muir Wilderness areas.

Jackass Meadow - A board walk leads from the parking area to a viewing platform where one of the Sierra's largest meadows can be seen. Perches for predatory birds. grazing cattle and numerous wild flower species make this a "must stop photo op." along the Byway.

Portuguese Overlook - A wide spot in the road with paved parking area near a year-round creek of the same name offers Byway travelers a scenic view of Shuteye Peak and Little Shuteye Peak. A USFS Fire Lookout is situated on the main peak and can be seen with binoculars.

Globe Rock - One of the geological wonders on the Byway, Globe Rock rests on a pedestal and looks as if one could push it off. Good Luck!

Cold Springs Summit - A large parking area is used by cyclists, hikers, and meadow viewers. The trail to a meadow viewing platfrom is across the side road from the parking area. A few yards down the side road is a 4X4 trail to Chilcoot Lake. A restroom is available at this stop.

Fresno Dome Vista - Byway travelers can see one of the Sierra's most visited rock domes from the pad just a short walk from the parking area. Those interested in walking to the top can reverse direction on the Byway and take the designated road to the Fresno Dome trail-head.

Nelder Grove - This grove of Giant Sequoias is outside Yosemite and FREE to access. The featured tree is called the "Bull Buck" tree. There is a one mile self guided tour on the "Shadow of the Giants" trail as well as other trails through out the grove. A campground and restrooms are available.

Details on all these points and more are available in "Exploring the Sierra Vista National Scenic Byway" by Roger and Loris Mitchell through Track and Trail Publications.

Eco-Friendly Notes

Byway travelers are encouraged to use Tread Lightly and Leave No Trace practices while visiting the area. Trash "packed out" that is dropped in trash bins and containers in Madera County, is transported to the Fairmead Landfill where it is sorted and recyclables or hazardous items are removed before entering the landfill cell and buried. Reforestation and fire-fuel reduction projects are in process in summer months as current USFS personnel work to restore the Sierra National Forest to a healthy condition.


I've driven from Bass Lake up past Globe Rock, but it sounds like that's just the beginning! After reading this, I must do the rest!! Thank you...

Donn Hoyer, 11/13/2009

Hard to find a more scenic, accessible drive with lots of potential side trips. I especially like the day hike up to Jackass Lake. Great views of the central and southern Sierra, meadows, etc.

Doug Waltner, 11/14/2009

One of the most beautiful places you'll ever see. A wonderful option to Yosemite, without the crowds.

Debby Carter, 11/19/2009

Always check the road conditions and watch for signs for closure during winter months. There is no cell service if you get stuck. As always, let someone know your travel plans.

George Stillman, 3/31/2010

The upper reaches of the Scenic Byway are CLOSED when the snow starts falling, usually in October or November. So do stop in at the Bass Lake Ranger District (formerly the Minarets Ranger District) office in North Fork, California, and determine how far up the road you can drive. In the winter the ’Minarets Highway' road is usually open to the gate a few miles above Clearwater Fire Station, while the 'Beasore Road' is open only to the snowline, which rises and falls with the weather.

Michael Olwyler, 2/19/2011

World class views of the Sierras (Ritter Range/Minarets) from Mile High Vista are worth the drive alone. 40 minutes more of driving and you can have a delicious Mile High Burger at Wagner's store/cafe (summer only), and refill your gas tank too. Great camping at Wagner's campground, plus great fishing, boating, water skiing, hiking, etc. at Mammoth Pool Reservoir. The byway continues on up with tons of hiking and backpacking in the back country. Like others have commented, no crowds like Yosemite, but still beautiful scenery.

Noel Cross, 2/20/2011

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