Road Trip Secrets in the Sierras: My Favorite 395 Side Trips, including Mammoth

395 and Eastern Sierra Hot Spots

I was fortunate enough to have spent a big chunk of my childhood living in the mountains, specifically the Sierras. Being able to drive 35 minutes into Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, hiking through backyard streams with our llamas, and being in a small town around genuine people was magical. Over the past four years, I have been re-falling in love with the Sierras, specifically the Eastern Sierras and I want to share some of my favorite gems in the area. I love adventuring in the shoulder seasons with spontaneous weather with my dog, Moo, trotting alongside me. Whether I am going for a trail run, a cross country ski session, hiking 14ers, or on a multi day backpacking trip; my pup Moo accompanies me on the regular and it’s pretty obvious she loves the Eastern Sierras just as much as I do. Most people complain about the drive up these mountains however the 395 is one of the most incredible mountain highways in the United States. Most of these towns located off the 395 have some of the best of the best scenery, coffee, snow, hot springs, burgers, and sunset spots you will ever experience. I hope you are to visit and appreciate these spots as much as I do.

Favorite food and drink spots

  • Copper Top BBQ: Located in Big Pine; killer slow cooked BBQ.

  • Burger Barn: Located in Bishop; cutest burger joint in the books. Their veggie burger, tater tots, and French fries are out of control.

  • Black Sheep Coffee: Located in Bishop; best pour over coffee and vegan breakfast burritos I have ever had.

  • June Lake Brewery: Located in June Lake; my go to place when I want to drive the loop and enjoy some of the best IPAs. They also occasionally brew a great red and a great ginger beer and always have the killer Ohana food truck.

  • Schat’s Bakery: Located in Bishop and Mammoth (his ex-wife opened the Mammoth location); some of the best fresh baked bread in every variety.

  • Looney Bean Coffee: Located in Mammoth and is super dog friendly.

  • Black Doubt Brewery: Located in Mammoth; fantastic microbrewery and very dog friendly.

  • Goodlife Café: Located in Mammoth; best breakfast join.

  • Gordo’s in June Lake and Salsa’s in Mammoth have the best burritos

Favorite Gear Stores

  • Mammoth Gear Exchange: Located in Bishop; huge selection of used and new gear with killer prices.

  • Mammoth Mountaineering: Located in Mammoth; best shop for mountaineering or snow gear.

  • Kittredge Sports: Located in Mammoth; fantastic customer service and they sell cross-country skis!

  • Brian’s Bicycles and Cross Country Skis: Located in Mammoth; Brian is the cross-country ski expert in town.

Favorite sites, hot springs, and Sunday drives

  • Manzanar Internment Camp: In 1942, the United States government ordered more than 110,000 men, women, and children to leave their homes and detained them in remote, military-style camps. Manzanar War Relocation Center was one of ten camps where Japanese American citizens and resident Japanese aliens were incarcerated during World War II. 

  • Ancient Bristlecone forest: Home to the oldest trees in the world, bristlecone pines. Some of these living trees exceed 4000 years of age and exhibit spectacular growth forms of twisted and beautifully colored wood. 

  • Alabama Hills: Stunning hill and rock formations including the infamous Mobius Arch on BLM land

  • Benton Hot Springs: Private hot springs with each campsite; bring your mosquito repellent and make a reservation well in advance.

  • Upside Down House: A pretty cool creation that was made into a museum that is so much more than just a great photo op. 

  • 395 House: Located on the way to Lee Vining

  • Rainbow Falls: Located in Mammoth

  • Devils Postpile: Located in Mammoth

  • Tioga Pass: Highest elevation backcountry road in the United States. Goes over a 10,000-foot pass and allows you to see Half Dome from the backside while looking out your car window and you will drive past Tuolumne Meadows.

  • June Lake Loop: Stunning windy road that drives through the town of June while passing all of the many spectacular lakes and trailheads to loop back onto the 395.

  • Lee Vining: Quaint town with lakes, an upside house, lots of photo ops, the freshest spring you will ever experience, and the most expensive gas prices in Mono County.

Favorite trailheads

  • Lone Pine: Mt Whitney trail or Cottonwood Lakes trail

  • Big Pine: Big Pine Creek/North Fork/South Fork to Big Pine Lakes, Palisade Glacier and Temple Crag

  • Independence: Onion Valley to Kearsarge Pass and beyond

  • Bishop: Any trails out of North Lake, Lake Sabrina, South Lake and Rock Creek Canyon

  • Mammoth:  Any trails out of the Mammoth Lakes Basin or Red Meadows

Favorite 14ers

  • Lone Pine: Whitney and Langley

  • Independence: Williamson

  • Big Pine: White Mountain

Favorite sunset spots

  • Owens River Gorge

  • Buttermilks

  • Convict Lake

  • Hot Creek

  • Minaret Vista

  • June Lake

  • South Tufa at Mono Lake

  • Alabama Hills

Favorite lakes

  • Lake Mary: Cross-country skiing

  • Horseshoe Lake: Cross-country skiing

  • Convict Lake: All seasons, especially fall

  • June Lake: Paddle boarding during the summer

  • Thousand Island Lake

  • Garnet Lake

  • Lake Sabrina: Can ski the road during winter

  • Big Pine Lakes

  • Heart Lake

  • Silver Lake

  • I keep adding to this list each year…

    Please practice good stewardship and keep things cleaner than you found them.

    Thanks for reading,

    Xx

    Kristen

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Kristen Fuller

Explorer of cliffs, mountains, oceans, and deserts by day and night.