I’m a mountain girlie. I grew up in the foothills of South Lake Tahoe, which meant I spent a lot of time at the lake and in the mountains growing up. There’s definitely something nostalgic about coming home to Tahoe every summer. And it’s not just because I get to see my family. It’s the smells, the sights, and the pure majesty of the place. Ugh, it’s unparalleled, really.
Honestly, regardless of if you’re from Tahoe or not, there’s something magnetic about the Sierra Nevadas. And Tahoe in particular. Which is why millions- yes, millions– of people visit this region every year.
Being somewhat of a local to the mountain way of living, I think I’m pretty dang qualified to give you a few reminders about what to pack on your trip to the Sierra Nevadas. Keep in mind, this is assuming you’re planning on spending a lot of time outside, hiking, and also care about your skincare, okay? That’s the real vibe of this post.
What To Pack When You Visit The Sierra Nevada Mountains In Summer
Where are the Sierra Nevada Mountains
First things first, let’s define where the heck the Sierra Nevada Mountains are, because they aren’t only in Tahoe. In fact, the Sierra Nevada Mountains span across the Eastern edge of California for 430 miles.
Now, because this mountain range spans for 430 miles, I can’t possibly assume that every town is the same. They’re all unique, with their own charms, and hassles signature to the area. However, this post will touch on the universal needs when you’re traveling to the Sierra Nevadas, regardless of the exact place where you enter.
When is the best time to visit the Sierra Nevada Mountain
You might notice that the title of this post emphasizes that we’re packing for summer. That’s because, although I grew up here, I am not a snow person. Like, at all.
That being said, the Sierra Nevada Mountains are incredibly popular in winter for all my skiing and snowboarding peeps out there. Winter months (November – April) draw a huge crowd for snow sports. But it’s important to note that it’s not a light dusting of snow in these particular mountains. It’s more like a dumping. Make sure you’re prepared with your clothes and your car.
Springtime is a bit hit or miss, as there tends to be a lot of snow still, which makes certain hikes still inaccessible without the right snow gear. If you like the snow, this won’t bother you. But if you’re expecting wild flowers, and warm weather, better to wait for summertime. Spring is mostly the month of May, and a bit into June.
Summer really starts no earlier than mid June in the mountains. Before then, you could still be getting a few rouge snowfalls. Summer is my favorite time to be in the mountains, because it’s warm in the day, but still cozy and cool in the mornings and nighttime. Plus, the wildflowers come out to play once the snow fully melts, and all the hikes are open and ready to be explored sans snow shoes. Although summer “officially ends” after Labor Day, usually temperatures don’t really start dropping until the end of October.
Fall is similar to Spring in that it’s hit or miss. Sometimes we get snow as early as October, and other times it doesn’t snow until January. Autumn provides the beautiful turning of the leaves, and everything quiets down in that period from Labor Day to the first snow. Less people mean quieter trails, and an overall really peaceful time to be here.
What to pack when your visit the Sierra Nevadas Mountains in the summertime
So you’re ready to pack for your next mountain trip? I’m pretty stoked on reminding you of these 8 key items to ensure you have the best trip. Let’s not forget, this post is assuming that you’re going to the mountains to hike, spend time outside, and get a little dirty.
This post is also assuming that although you love nature and getting a little dusty outside, you still want to clean up nicely and take care of your skin. Expect a list that blends function with beauty.
If you’re going to be hiking, you need to get Free Fly Apparel. l. Period, end of sentence. My wife actually showed me this brand a few months ago, and I bought a few shirts from them, and fell in love. Genuinely in love.
The material is bamboo, super soft, and also super breathable. My go-to items are any of the long sleeve shirts, the Pull on Breeze Shorts, and the Pull on Breeze Jogger. Trust me when I say that now my wife, my mom, and I are all matching when we hike because I got them just as obsessed as I am.
Now, if for some silly reason you choose not to use my affiliate link to get a discount on this line, then just make sure you bring breathable, easy to layer clothing. Bring long sleeves to keep the sun off. And make sure that your legs are comfy in your pants or short choice, because you’re going to get dusty and crusty.
The reason you’ll want to get trail shoes as opposed to just any old tennis shoes is that the dry, dusty surface can get really slippery. And, trail shoes are designed for this kind of terrain, keeping your ankles a little safer.
My go-to brands are La Sportiva and Altra. I’ve used both brands for several years, and can’t say enough good things about them. There’s tons of different styles to choose from if you don’t like the tags in my storefront. My top tip here is to try on in person, and then buy online for the best deal!
For an even better deal, you can always shop secondhand on Poshmark. Check out my post on how to score with second hand online shopping to get the best deal.
Please don’t be that person that doesn’t bring water with you on a hike. Not only does it get hot in the mountains, but the sun is also super strong the higher up you are. So you need to be hydrated. And while you’re at it, make sure to pack LMNT electrolyte to ensure you’re actually hydrating properly.
Camelback backpacks are probably one of my favorite inventions, because let me tell you how freaking annoying it is to carry a heavy ass Yeti water bottle around. The Camelback allows you to carry 2 liters of water comfortably, without taking up a ton of extra space, or making you use your hands to lug around a bottle.
Even for shorter hikes, this is worth it. Trust me on this one.
You don’t necessarily need to pack hiking snacks with you, unless you’re entering some remote part of a long, backpacking trail. If you’re coming to Tahoe, then rest assured you can buy plenty of hiking snacks here.
The point is, don’t forget to bring nutrient rich, and still delicious, snacks that can travel easily with you in your Camelback when you’re out on the trails. I love GoMacro bars for longer hikes. If you’re not a huge bar person, check out their mini option, instead.
Otherwise, make your own trail mix, or just straight up bring your favorite nuts and seeds. Add a splash of sweetness with a bit of dried fruit. Mostly, just think about dry food that’s easy to transport and still yummy.
Even if it’s cool, you’re still up high when you’re in the mountains. This altitude will change depending on exactly where you are in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but it will be higher than you’re used to regardless. That means the sun is strong.
I’m not kidding when I say that people get burned to a crisp here in the summer and winter, because of how strong the sun is. Don’t let the temperature fool you, wear sunscreen no matter what. It’s pretty much always blue skies here, even if it’s cold. And then the sky is blue, the sun is out.
You know I’m an EltaMD girlie. I’ve tried so many other brands at this point, and I’m just like why? Why would I change it up when this has been tried and true to me for two years now?! I’m telling you, your face will love you if you get some EltaMD in your life, even if you’re not going to the mountains anytime soon.
Okay, I get it, a facial steamer is a little extra if you’re just having a quick weekend getaway. Maybe it’s not the best way to make use of your carry on, but it’s definitely worth it if you’re coming for more than just a few days.
Being at altitude means the air is drier. And when the air is drier, it sucks the moisture right out of your face until you look like a cute little raisin. My facial steamer is my best friend when I’m at altitude, as it gives me that dewy look even though it’s dry as hell.
Did I mention that it’s dry in the mountains? Because it is. If you’re not on board for a full on facial steamer, then make sure you’re set with some heavy duty moisturizer. I’m talking about packing something heavier than you wear in your day to day life. Coconut oil on your legs after the shower isn’t going to cut it.
My go-to for body skincare is raw unrefined shea butter. This is a godsend, I swear. Even if you run super duper dry (like me), this is will plump you right up. And then for the face, I’m a Sente dermal repair lover, plus some good ‘ole fashion under eye pads.
You’re going to have the best time ever in the mountains this summer. Make sure you have your iPhone ready, because you’re going to take five million photos once you see the beauty of this place.
Safe travels, my friends!