An epic journey of mapping the High Sierras

(Last Updated On: May 18, 2015)

The Sierra Nevadas, also known as the Sierras or Sierra Nevada, is a massive mountain range that encompasses a large portion of the eastern edge of California. This mountain range spans nearly 400 miles north to south and varies from 50 to 80 miles in width. It’s picturesque landscapes, breathtaking mountain top views and iconic National Parks make the Sierras a spectacular region.

Exploring the Sierras can be difficult once you get higher up in elevation. The trails are not as well maintained as the trails in the lower elevations and most trail resources have outdated or inaccurate information.

These trail issues have motivated one avid hiker to take charge and create an accurate resource of the High Sierras for everyone to enjoy. Sara Fry, from Clovis, Ca, recognized these problems one night while trying to plan a backpacking adventure in the High Sierras. She became frustrated over the lack of accurate information for trail conditions, water sources, mileage details and other important attributes. Thus, the Sierra Mapping Project (SMP) was born.

The SMP’s objective is to provide detailed and accurate information of every trail in California’s High Sierras. And the best part, the information will be free to the public. A task of this magnitude will take Sara roughly 5 years to complete. She expects to log between 4,000 to 6,000 miles since there will be a lot of backtracking as many of the High Sierra trails have spur trails and feeder trails that are often undocumented in current resources.

In addition to mapping the High Sierras, the SMP is going to be a leading voice in the preservation and conservation of this amazing region. After the initial mapping work has been completed, SMP will continue to maintain an updated inventory and work closely with various Sierra Trail crews to keep these beautiful trails in pristine condition.

When speaking with Sara, her passion for backpacking and the High Sierras is evident. This passion and love for the outdoors was instilled in her by her parents:

“My love for the outdoors was fostered by my parents. Our family was raised outside. We were always boating, camping, hiking, skiing, and fishing,” said Sara as she fondly recalled her childhood. “My father used to be a rock climber and mountaineer back in the day and would share his tales with me the older I became. My mother always cherished nature and made sure that she took her children on family outing trips. Every summer my mother, sister, and I would pick a different location in California (usually somewhere coastal) and we’d go camping for the week. I was taught from a very early age to respect and help preserve the wild land which we so often vacationed to. My parents definitely helped instill my love for the outdoors, however I don’t think they’d ever have thought I would take to it as strongly as I have – spending months on end alone in the backcountry.”

Sara’s passion for the High Sierras also encompasses California as a whole. In fact, she and I share a love for this great state:

“California as a whole has so many incredible places that evoke a jaw-dropping experience. It’s incredibly difficult to name just one. I’m partial to the desert. The dry arid nature of the air swirls around low-lying plants lined with thorns and it’s entirely different experience than what the high mountain passes hold. California has such a vast array of ecosystems which in part make this state one of the most geographically incredible locations in the US if not the world.”

California has a way of captivating the soul. And, once you are hooked, there’s nothing else like it in the world. When out hiking in the breathtaking landscapes, it’s as if California is speaking to you. A union of peace and harmony that most people can’t find in their daily lives. Now, imagine finding this kind of harmony at 10,000 to 14,000 feet in elevation.

The highest point in the Continental United States is found in the Sierras at Mt. Whitney, which is over 14,500 feet. Sara proclaims that these high elevations aren’t for “the faint of heart.” But, she also believes the High Sierras will speak to you in a way that you have never experienced before:

“I can assure you that your heart will be touched and soothed in a way that no city experience will ever come close to replicating. The High Sierra has a mind of her own and she’s willing to share her secrets if you respect the wild land which you’ve immersed yourself in. The Sierra is arguably one of the most inspiring geographical landscapes I’ve ever encountered.”

If you love the Sierra Nevadas, or want to be a part of this epic undertaking, you can support the Sierra Mapping Project by giving to their Kickstarter Campaign or making a tax deductable donation through the non-profit’s website.

Also, follow the SMP and Sara’s mapping adventures via the following Social Media sources:

CalExplornia proudly supports the Sierra Mapping Project and wishes Sara a safe and amazing journey.