Revisiting the Eastern Sierras, CA

Betsy got a safe and sound rest at Sparks Marina RV Park

We paused in our southward migration to park Betsy at Sparks, Nevada, taking the car for family and friend visits between there and the Bay Area.  We had no desire to drive Betsy down there again, and being able to stay with family for a few days made it a no-brainer (thank you, Becky!).

We spent five busy days enjoying time with special people we hadn’t seen for too long, and you can guess what that entailed; lots of food, drink and good times!

We returned to Sparks after a lot of fun and frivolity.  Next up was a hike at Hidden Canyon Regional Park to burn off some of those calories.  This was a rough and steep trail that provided excellent views of the Reno/Sparks area as we climbed high above:

Fall colors in Reno/ Sparks Nevada
Catching our breath at the top

Eastern Sierra Nevada

We continued south along Hwy 395, repeating one of our favorite routes that we last drove in 2012.  This rugged mountain range packs a lot of outdoor adventure, and Hwy 395 is the access point to all of them.  The many interesting points of interest have something for everyone in a span of about 300 miles.  While there, we camped in the towns of June Lake, Bishop, and Lone Pine as we attempted to stay ahead of the cold Fall temperatures coming into the higher elevations.

What’s so special here?  Diversity!

You can visit the ghost town at Bodie Historic State Park, which is kept in a state of “arrested decay,” here’s my post about our fun visit there.

Or you can check out the world’s oldest trees at Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, see this post and photos of them –

Or you can bask in mountain sceneries as you drive to visit picturesque and accessible lakes –

Or you can learn about past injustices at Manzanar National Historic Park Historic , my story is here

Or you can dry camp with your RV like we did with Betsy and go boulder hopping at Alabama Hills, where countless Hollywood westerns have been filmed over the past several decades –

Or you can scale the tallest peak in the continental U.S., Mt. Whitney at 14,505′.  We didn’t do the whole mountain, but here’s my post about our hike at the portal –

The above are only the beginning of what you can see and do on a trip along Hwy 395 through Inyo and Mono Counties!

From the Mono Lake vista point, looking down at Highway 395 and the lake

Having completed most of our must-do and must-see things during our 2012 visit, this time we focused on the many stunning hiking opportunities to choose from.

We were glad that we’d reserved only three nights at June Lake, because at 7,654′ the nights were getting very cold.  Our priority was to visit Devils Postpile National Monument, which on our previous visit had closed for the winter days before our arrival.  This year it closed on Oct. 27th, so we made it just in time.  They have a shuttle service that takes visitors to the monument, but it had already shut down for the season so we took our car up the narrow and steep road, climbing almost 1,500′ from Minaret Vista Station:

Hexagonal rock columns tower over 60′ high, stacked as close together as next winter’s firewood

Geologists say these formations are some of the world’s finest examples of columnar basalt.  To better understand them click here for the National Park Service’s explanation.

Molten lava and glacial ice shaped these unusual rock columns

From there we followed a trail to the highest waterfall in the eastern Sierras, the 101′ tall Rainbow Falls.  It’s named for the rainbow that appears in the mist from the water flow on sunny afternoons.  We were too early for the rainbow and continued on a 6-mile loop back to our car.

Rainbow Falls

Having checked that one off the ol’ bucket list, we next chose to follow two other trails in the area, the Rush Creek Trail to Agnew Lake and the Gull Lake Loop.  Along the way we trekked through vibrant Aspen trees, golden meadows, fallen leaves and granite peaks.  The eastern Sierras don’t have the incredible variety of colors seen in some eastern states, but their craggy rocks with yellow and gold leaf carpets creeping all the way up to the tree lines is amazing:

Glimmering Aspens reflect on Silver Lake

The rewards of the Rush Creek to Agnew Lake Trail were pristine views of multiple lakes, stunning foliage, and a nice waterfall:

Rush Creek tumbling down granite walls
Looking back at our trail
Tram tracks lead to several hydroelectric projects here
Flaming gold-yellow
Aspens dotting a section of June Lake Loop or Highway CA 158, you got to drive this loop
Our liquid reward after a 1,352′ elevation gain hike – yay!

Gull Lake was within walking distance of our home base at June Lake RV Park, so we took a quick 3-mile walk around it before moving on to our next destination:

The claim to fame here happened in 1968, when a record-breaking Brook Trout was caught
Gull Lake is the smallest of four roadside lakes on the June Lake loop, and apparently a mecca for anglers

We were among the last campers at the park, and they closed for the winter a couple of days after our departure.  Their cabins remained open for the winter ski season, but we were eager to move to a lower elevation – the forecast for the next night was 15º.  We gotta get outta here!




  1. Good food, special people — can’t beat that!
    We look forward to spending more time along that 395 corridor in the future, and you have certainly provided a fabulous resource for planning. Those basalt columns look positively fake, and the “lakes” of golden aspen tucked in amongst the hills are glorious. And walking along trails that are tunnels of fall leaves has always, always been a favorite of mine.

  2. Nice to have family time…..I love all the things to see and do outdoors along 395….it’s one of our favorite drives and it never gets old for us. Rainbow falls looks stunning and those aspens – gasp!

  3. We spent many weeks camping along the Eastern Sierras when our children were young. I enjoyed reading about all the places you went, especially Gull Lake. Jon taught our kids how to fish at that lake. He spent so much time helping them as they caught fish after fish that he never had a chance to set up his own pole. Lots of fun. Thanks for triggering the memory.

  4. It’s too bad we weren’t aware you were in Sparks, NV. We’ve been there for the last couple months at the Sparks Marina RV park for most of that time. We bought a house there too for our daughter and we’ve been working on it.
    Last year we were there also and traveled down H 395 which was a very nice trip … especially the Alabama Hills.

    • Hi R.K.,

      Sorry to miss you at Sparks but glad to hear you’re on the road now and hope you’re having a good time. Keep in touch!

  5. Betsy was happy you left her out of that crazy city traffic. Nice family photos. Boy you were just making it weather wise. But you hit the beautiful gold colors. Your photos are just spectacular…blue lakes and gold leaves!! Devil’s Postpile is amazing!! Definitely not to be missed. Glad you made it this time.

  6. I am sure you were more than ready to get moving with the cold temps, but your timing with the Aspen colors could not have been better. You’re right that there’s not as much color variety out there as there is in the east, but man, is it impressive!

    On a related note, I really love your photos of the lakes. The reflections of the trees in the water are just beautiful!

  7. Your photos of your time with family and friends are so sweet! And what a great plan, to not drag Betsy into the Bay Area.

    We love traveling 395 and hiking the trails in the Sierra Nevada, as you know. I’m so glad you made it to Devils Postpile and hiked down to Rainbow Falls. That place is so amazing! Your photos are fabulous…and thanks for adding a couple of new hikes to our list for next time. 🙂

  8. I love Devil’s Postpile! It’s such a unique place. I haven’t been there in years, but hope to return someday.
    Great pics, as usual. 🙂

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