The Sierra Nevada got a crazy amout of snow this year so even well into Summer most mountain passes were still closed. Getting to the Eastern side required a couple of extra hours of travel, but we were rewarded with vast emptiness and amazing snow capped mountain views in every direction. The Eastern Sierra is one of my top recommended places in California for it’s varied landscapes, wide open spaces, and easy access to lots of outdoor activities. We based out of Mammoth Lakes this time but took day trips South and made more Northern stops on the way in and out.
Our first stop was Mono Lake, a large and shallow saline lake that’s an important layover for migratory birds. Whether you’re into birding or not, a quick detour to check out the Tufa is well worth it. The lake is 2.5 times saltier than the ocean. We didn’t go swimming as it was still pretty cold, but if you’d like to the best place is South Tufa.
There’s no shortage of things to do in the Mammoth area. It was still pretty snowy and we didn’t bring our snowshoes (major fail), so we spent a little more time just off the 395 than we had originally planned. The great thing about the Eastern Sierra is that there is fun to be had no matter the weather or time of year. Hot Creek Geological Site is wonderful and offers so much more than we were expecting. There’s a hiking path along the stream with amazing views of the snow capped mountains in the distance. It’s an out-and-back trail so go as long as you’d like then head back the way you came. Convict Lake is another fantastic spot just off the 395 South of Mammoth. We were floored by how beautiful the drive up to the lake was. The hike around the lake is a short 2 miles and one I’d highly recommend.
Ancient Bristlecone Pine ForestA two hour drive south of Mammoth is the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. The Methuselah Loop trail is a must. It’s a 4.5 mile long trail through some of the oldest living trees on earth in an amazing alien-like landscape. It’s one of Oliver’s top places we’ve visited thus far and unlike any place we’ve been before.
On the way back from our trip we headed up the 158 through June Lake and up past Grant Lake. There are plenty of places to stop along the way and the scenery is simply breath-taking. Hiking options are plentiful and, while we didn’t partake, fishing seemed to be the reason most people were in the area.
I can hardly wait for our next adventure to the Eastern Sierra. One could easily spend weeks out there (#vanlife) and never get bored. It’s so close that it makes a great long weekend particularly in the summer months when the passes are open.