Stanislaus National Forest
Incredible scenery. As you drive up CA 108 out of Sonora, you climb from about 1800 ft elevation to almost 10,000 ft. It's amazing to see the contrast going up to the high country and there are dozens of places to pull over and enjoy and lots of back roads to wander down.
The area is full of just about every kind of outdoor recreation you could ask for.
Horseback riding, hiking, winter sports including taking snow mobiles on closed roads for miles. Pinecrest Lake near the town of Strawberry has a great hike for around the lake that's easy even for an old guy like me. You can rent pedal boats on the lake or just enjoy the beach during the summer. It looks exactly like you'd expect a beautiful mountain lake would look, with pine trees and hills all around it.
The highway closes near Strawberry for the winter. For sightseeing and summer activities, it's best to go July - Sept. If you want winter sports, Dodge Ridge and Leland Meadows are ready to provide a lot of fun and the high remains open up to both.
No charge for the scenery - the others vary.