Discovering Those Eastern Sierra Wonders: Road Trip Routes to Mammoth Lakes

Discovering Those Eastern Sierra Wonders: Road Trip Routes to Mammoth Lakes
Photo: Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Nestled in the heart of California’s Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, Mammoth Lakes is a dream destination for travelers. Whether you’re traveling with companions or embarking on a solo journey, you’ll encounter breathtaking peaks, lakes, landmarks, and stunning views that will take your breath away. You could be a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or simply seeking a scenic escape – the Eastern Sierra has something for every traveler.


Photo: Samantha Lindberg/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

If you love watching landscapes change, then California’s Highway 395 is a spectacular drive to Lake Mammoth. This scenic byway originating from Southern California showcases some of the most notable landmarks of the Eastern Sierra, transitioning from the cactus-studded landscape of the Mojave Desert into the expansive Owens Valley.

From Los Angeles, head north on either California Highway 14 towards Lancaster or Highway 15 towards San Bernardino until you reach Highway 395, which will lead you directly to Mammoth Lakes. En route to Mammoth Lakes, you’ll encounter these iconic landmarks and picturesque areas of the Eastern Sierra.

The Iconic Mt Whitney         

If your journey begins in the City of Angels, Los Angeles, then be prepared for a six-hour drive with a brief stop at Lone Pine, a quaint town in a vast landscape serving as a gateway to the iconic Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the United States. If you fancy a hike up the mountain, check out the trail from Whitney Portal, just 21 kilometers from Lone Pine.  

Rock Climbing in Mammoth Lakes. Photo: Samantha Lindberg/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Landscape Love At Death Valley National Park

Consider an alternate route slightly to the north, passing through Death Valley National Park. Beware, nature enthusiasts, for this unique terrain is not for the faint hearted. Death Valley National Park spans across eastern California and Nevada boasting attractions such as Titus Canyon, featuring a ghost town and vibrant rock formations, and Badwater Basin, home to salt flats, marking the lowest point in North America. Above, the Telescope Peak Trail meanders through pine forests, while to the north of the jagged salt formations dubbed the Devil’s Golf Course, rattlesnakes inhabit the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.

The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Lakes Basin. Photo: Samantha Lindberg/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

There are other routes available via Highway 395. The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, home to some of the oldest living organisms on the planet, with some bristlecone pines surpassing 4,500 years in age, is a stop or an excellent day trip option from Mammoth Lakes. The ancient trees stand tall like guardians along the slopes of the majestic White Mountains, thriving in one of North America’s harshest yet uniquely beautiful environments. The forest is special as it gives you the most breathtaking views of the Sierra Nevada Crest to the west. While visiting, remember that the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest offers two main groves for exploration: the Schulman Grove and the Patriarch Grove. Travelers can easily access these legendary trees during the summer months when the road is open to vehicles.

Manzanar Historic Site Exploration

Featuring dramatic geology, Devil’s Postpile is 95 miles north of Manzanar. Photo: Mammoth Lakes Tourism


If your journey to Mammoth Lakes begins in San Francisco, don’t miss the chance to explore Yosemite National Park along the way. California Highway 120 (Tioga Pass), offers the fastest and arguably the most breathtaking route from Northern California to Mammoth Lakes, passing through Yosemite National Park.

Photo: Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Yosemite National Park is a celebrated gem within the National Park System, known for its stunning natural beauty. Take in sights such as the iconic Tioga Pass archway, the majestic El Capitan and Half Dome, and the mesmerizing waterfalls that adorn the park. Yosemite offers endless opportunities for exploration, including scenic drives, wildlife viewing, and photography.

After experiencing Yosemite’s wonders, make your way north to Mammoth Lakes. Don’t be surprised when you witness the ever changing mountain scenery, with the rugged Eastern Sierra mountains calling out to you to discover their hidden sights.


Regardless of the route you choose to reach Mammoth Lakes, your journey promises to be an adventure in itself. Whether you depart from California and marvel at the towering peaks of Mt. Whitney, explore the historical significance of the Manzanar Historic Site, or traverse through the iconic vistas of Yosemite National Park, each stop along the way will leave you craving more.

Crystal Lake. Photo: Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Similarly, if you drive to Mammoth Lakes from Las Vegas, make sure you hit up Hwy 95 and then to Hwy 266, the quickest way to Vegas. If you embark from Reno, Hwy 395 is your best deal and you can take in the mesmerizing sights of Lake Tahoe, Bodie State Historic Park, and Mono Lake.

Keep in mind that every scenic route out there leads to a remarkable journey to Mammoth Lakes that promises unforgettable experiences and boundless discoveries.

For latest travel news and updates, food and drink journeys, restaurant features, and more, like us on Facebook or follow us on Instagram. Read more on Travel and Food Network

Related Coverage

The Ultimate Summer Guide to Mammoth Lakes, California

The Perfect 4-Day Summer Itinerary for Mammoth Lakes

You May Also Like