Some hidden gems along the Eastern Sierra – Scenic 395
We’ve been on this road before, yet the scenery on Highway 395 remains awe-inspiring. We had never explored much of what lies beyond the highway, the less-traveled roads that brought us deep into the area’s natural wonders and very colorful history. Folks who have a strong interest in geology would find this place paradise. For us who simply want to gawk and experience its beauty, it’s best to simply spend as much time discovering hidden corners and appreciate it firsthand. We are a couple of weeks late in enjoying the full fall splendor, as the autumn colors are beginning to fade and the temps are dropping. And yes, we realize we can’t do it all at once – especially with some areas already closed for the season. However, there were enough beautiful sights here to persuade us to extend our stay for a couple of days. We will come back again to do more of our favorite outdoor activity – hiking. There are many opportunities here but we are somewhat rushed to outrun the winter weather. I know what you’re thinking – oh those poor people with nothing else to do but follow the sun!
The Eastern Sierra is an abrupt wall reaching two miles above the floor of the Owens Valley. It encompasses everything from desert scrub and alkali springs to lush alpine meadows and jagged mountains holding glacial ice. We are experiencing golden autumn leaves – fantastic fall colors in some areas. We explored a few creeks, lakes and canyons. But this is also a great place for so many other activities – mountain biking, 4-wheeling and lots of hiking. And of course you skiers would be in heaven up here!
June Lake Loop– a scenic 14-mile mountain drive where massive glaciers have carved out a steep horseshoe-shaped canyon. The area has four lakes known not only for fishing but also for many year-round activities. At the entrance to Oh Ridge campground, a slot machine has been erected in concrete to commemorate a lost slot machine supposedly tossed into June Lake in 1941 when “the Feds” were looking around for bad guys.
Mono Lake – Travelers along scenic 395 can’t possibly miss this – the oldest lake in North America. It is described as hauntingly beautiful and its most distinctive feature is its eerie tufa towers – mineral structures created when bubbling fresh-water springs intersect with the lake’s alkaline waters.
Crowley Lake is considered one of the best spots for trout fishing and is the focal point of Mono County’s fishing season. To my fishermen friends, make this your next fishing destination. The lake is named after Father J.J. Crowley, the popular “Padre of the Desert.”
At the McGee Creek Canyon we parked our car at the end of the paved road and walked further to view the wildly colorful mountains with swathes of red, orange, brown and gray. Geologists call these “roof pendants”- chunks of older rocks remaining on top when the great gray granites Sierra rose up beneath them and glaciers ground most of the older rock away.
Convict Lake was the site of a shootout in 1871 that occurred when local law enforcers tracked down escapees from a Nevada Prison. The lake sits on a spectacular setting of rugged mountain peaks. Simply beautiful!
We drove to Rock Creek Canyon, known for its vibrant fall colors but because we blinked or we were late in the season our chances to ensure the best show had just passed.
Due to the high elevation, the aspens here were the first to shed all their golden leaves. As we drove back to camp we saw snow starting to fall on the mountain peaks. Time to move on!