Travelers come from all over the world to visit Yosemite National Park , but other parks in the area beckon to those who prefer lighter crowds and a more unusual experience.
Mono Lake  greets visitors with a serene stillness that seems almost eerie. No trees grow around this alkaline, salt-filled lake. Surrounded only by tough desert scrub, the still waters of Mono Lake have fallen and risen again amid endless state controversy. Throughout the lake and on the shore, odd calcite formations, called tufa, stand above the waterline, mute testament to the mineral content of the water. The rough High Sierra climate attracts few residents to the small towns nearby, though at one point the historic mining town of Bodie  sheltered 10,000 gold-hungry residents.
The quiet, upscale town of Mammoth Lakes  acts as the main access to the Mammoth Mountain ski area . Indeed, winter tourism to the mountain plays a big part in sustaining the local economy. But there’s much more to do and see in and around Mammoth than just ski and snowboard. Hiking , biking , fishing, backpacking, and sightseeing are great in this part of the Eastern Sierra, and you can find bargains on lodgings  in the summertime “off-season.”
South of Yosemite, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks  boast gorgeous rugged mountain scenery, immense redwood trees, and far smaller crowds than their more famous neighbor. The traveled part of this area actually encompasses two distinct parks and a forest: Sequoia National Park to the south, Kings Canyon National Park to the north, and Sequoia National Forest between the two in the west.