The highest spots in the US also happens to be a mountain in the state of California; Mount Whitney. As you're coming up Highway 395 on the other side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, you can't tell that Mt. Whitney the highest mountain at 14,491 feet with the naked eye because there are so many high peaks in front of it that block the view.
In fact, if you're not very familiar with what Mount Whitney looks like, you might mistake another mountain for it. The town of Lone Pine has a good view of Mount Whitney from the center of town, and the Visitor Center has a viewing lens pointed right at Mt Whitney so you know for sure which one it is.
One of the most popular hikes in the United States is here in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The Mt. Whitney trail takes you through the scenic backcountry of the High Sierra to the highest point in the contiguous United States.
Often, visitors will forgo hiking up the entire way up Mt. Whitney and will instead drive up to the trailhead at 8,361 feet then hike the rest of the 11 miles. Although it's not a practical goal, many tourists will try to hike this round trip 22 miles route within 24 hours.
Mt Whitney is situated in the Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park, so you can also go see the Giant Forest while you're in the area. The Sierra redwoods are some of the biggest and oldest trees, and taking the scenic drive to see them is another interesting way to spend an afternoon in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Anyone used to be able to camp on Mt Whitney. Nowadays, you need to get a wilderness permit to hike on the Mount Whitney trail. You can reserve your wilderness permit up to six months ahead of time, so if you are traveling to Mt Whitney to hike and backpack between May 22 and October 15, be sure to hold your permit as soon as possible, since these sell out early, especially during the weekends.
Many visitors hike to the Sierra Nevada mountains, but you may want to get acclimatized to be higher elevations by spending a day or two at 8,000 feet. Altitude sickness is terrible, and you don't want to ruin your hike to the top at Mt Whitney by having to turn back because they're too sick to keep going. If you're coming to the High Sierra in winter, you'll need even more planning, as there is a risk of avalanche along the way.
If you travel to Death Valley in the south as well as Mount Whitney, which is the highest peak in the US, you can say that you've seen two of the most well known places in California. An attraction like Mt. Whitney rewards you with impressive vistas of the Sierra Nevada mountains from a vista that is unmatched anywhere else in the country.