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Highlights of our favorite stops along Highway 395, the Eastern Sierra Route. You might find yourself on this road coming out of Death Valley and Las Vegas or coming from Los Angels or San Diego
If you are going anywhere on 395, you are likely to pass through Bishop. This is a town that marks a landscape change from a dry and baren desert to the south, to the rich and rugged Sierra views to the north. Don't miss a stop at the bakery!
One could spend a day tasting the delicious treats in this special bakery. Besides the usual sweets there are seemingly dozens of different styles of bread. A must stop when traveling through Bishop
A haven for Los Angelean's getting away from the big city has turned what used to be a sleepy mountain getaway into a viable community. The little town I knew a dozen years ago is hidden behind high-end shopping, condos, a high school and hospital. Getting away from town up to Lake Mary is still very pleasant and the walk to the devils post pile is very popular.This year-round resort town has a ski hill with a chair lift right in the middle of town along with two golf courses who's greens seem to dissect the middle of town making it a bit confusing to the first time visitor. Get into the country side above town with the lakes and postpile, this is wonderful.
Off the beaten path, and away from the hordes that seem to have grown up around Mammoth. We love the scenery and this odd geological attraction is worth a look-see. The hike from here to Rainbow Falls is lovely also, about 3 miles.
This 14 mile bypass tucks you back in along the base of the mountains. The Northern most lake, Grant Lake is a reservoir lake and while it has fishing, lacks the natural growth of trees along the coastline that make lakes so pretty. Theother lakes, Silver and June are both natural and lovely. Many of the buildings here are of a log cabin style and the whole region just oozes charm. Fishing & fall folliage photography are both big activities along the loop.
This crossroads town has grown up at the intersection on highway 120 (the Yosemite route, Tioga Pass) and 395. Two of my favorite stops are here.
As I write this, I see TA lists Mono Lake in Mammoth, it is not. It is about an hours drive north at Lee Vining. Perhaps by the time you read this, it will have been corrected. These stops are actually in a logical order.
Mono Lake with its lunar-esque landscape is at the intersection of 395 and 120 and has several access points. As you drive away from the lake, look back and see that it continues on far further than you would think from your first view of the lake. The lake was, in recent years, the center of attention regarding water use rights. Nearly drained by the Los Angeles in the 1980, Mono Lake is now quite full and alive with shrimp, birds and all manner of little critters. The visitors center at Lee Vining is a wealth of information, pictures, history and learning opportunities about this unique bit of California.
This optional piece takes an extra two hours or so and you do some backtracking, but is is oh so neat! This Ghost Town is maintained at a level called "arrested decay" so if a building needs a nail in it to keep it from falling down, then it gets the nail. Else, it just fades with each passing season. Spooky and fascinating.
Hitting the road again, head north on 395 for about 20 minutes--Not nearly as far as Bridgeport. There is but one oft-missed sign indicating the Bodie turnoff and it is a right turn and then 12 miles. Once on the road to Bodie, civilization quickly falls away and the road eventually blends to gravel. Watch for the hillside Shepard and his dogs in the meadow on the right, very European! Once at Bodie head for the museum. This is where you will pick up your passes for the Gold Stamping Mill Tour. Only a few dollars, but worth tons in history, local color and interesting information on an era long past. The tours are at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm daily. If you can't make a tour time, take a moment to query one of the docents or rangers, they have a depth of knowledge and seem to genuinely enjoy sharing it!
After Bodie we backtracked to Highway 120 in Lee Vining to head into Yosemite. Make a dining stop at the Mobile gas station on your left. This is the Whoa Nelly Deli, sign posted "Restaurant" and is a low-key marvelous and quick stop for a snack, lunch or complete gourmet dinner...always delicious and very fairly priced. The Whoa Nelly Deli is only open while the pass is open. Preferred seating would be outside at a picnic table with views to Mono Lake.
Once the weather changes and the snow starts falling, perhaps late October or Early November, Tioga Pass will close to through traffic until late May or early June of the following year. The next closest cross-over that is cleared throughout the winter is Highway 88, somewhat north of us, but another lovely trip!
This is a list in itself!
Heading out of Yosemite towards San Francisco, one can't miss the Gold Rush town of Groveland. Interesting stops here include the museum at the intersection of 120 & Ferretti Road, open daily from 1-4pm. The Iron Door Saloon is a step back in time and worth a stop and Mountain Sage is a destination in its own right, first a marvelous coffee stop, gardens and nursery, hammock garden, art, crafts, books and sitting nooks. Another spot one could spend the day. They also have wireless here if you need a connection to the internet.
If Groveland is a sleep over spot, www.StayNearYosemite.com can offer a diverse selection of lodging choices in the area and www.groveland.org can provide a preview of the areas dining choices.
If you are traveling this route in the winter, you will not get into Yosemtie from this direction and are better suited to head up to Lake Tahoe. If you are still interested in seeing Yosemite, you can get over the mountains at Tahoe then head over to route 49 and south.
The Eastern Sierras are beautiful year round, but Yosemtie access is limited to less than half the year.