Road Tripping California’s Eastern Sierra

Mammoth Lakes, a town in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, offers year-round adventure. Photo © Evgeniyaphotography |

Looking for an outdoor getaway in Northern California with hiking trails, scenic views, and local brews?

At every curve on the Eastern Sierra’s U.S. 395, wonders appear through your windshield. With the saw-toothed Sierra peaks on one side and the arid Great Basin on the other, this highway is just right for a camping, hiking, and beer-sipping road trip. This itinerary will take you south to north.


California’s largest ski resort morphs into a hiker’s playground in the summer months. Take the kids on the easy trail to Mammoth Consolidated Gold Mine and Heart Lake for a history lesson and a swim, or hike to the top of 10,797-foot (3,291-m) Duck Pass for an aerobic ascent to glacier-carved lakes and a lofty view. Pitch a tent at Coldwater Campground and you can walk to these trailheads and visit two breweries in a 10-minute drive: Mammoth Brewery and Distant Brewing.


A field of purple wildflowers in the foreground against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains
A field of purple lupine wildflowers in the June Lake Loop. Photo © Mkopka |

Spend the night at June Lake Campground so you can swim, kayak, or SUP right from your site and walk to June Lake Brewing Company for dinner and a beer. Just a few miles away, the easy hike to Parker Lake will delight photographers, anglers, and hikers with swimming on their minds.


A hike in Lundy Canyon offers colorful metamorphic peaks, shimmering aspen groves, and a spectacular waterfall-and-wildflower show in early summer. A few miles away, the Virginia Lakes Trail leads to a high-drama mountain pass at 11,130 feet (3,392 m). Camp at Trumbull Lake Campground 12 miles (19.3 km) north of town for easy access to hikes and fishing lakes, plus an option to drive to Tioga Pass to hike on Yosemite’s glorious eastern side.

Hike Lundy Canyon in the fall for a feast of color. Photo © Wahleb244 |


There’s no better place to catch the Eastern Sierra’s fall-color show than on the Barney Lake (Robinson Creek) Trail in Hoover Wilderness. Just a few miles south, a wealth of wildflowers and cobalt-blue lakes are tucked in below Green Creek canyon’s 11,000- foot (3,353-m) peaks. Camp at Lower Twin Lake, a five-minute drive to the Barney Lake Trailhead. Head into town for liquid refreshment at Big Meadow Brewery.

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Ann Marie Brown

About the Author

Ann Marie Brown made her first solo trip to Yosemite at age 22. Like many first-time visitors, she was immediately inspired by the Valley's sheer granite walls and shimmering waterfalls. Parking her car at the first trailhead she saw, she set off on the Four-Mile Trail. Carrying nothing but a water bottle, she intended to hike only a short distance but was so wowed by the scenery that she kept on walking. Two hours later she found herself at Glacier Point, considered by many to be the grandest viewpoint in the West. Scanning the scene, she noticed tourists dressed in everything from high heels to a nun's habit, and realized that she could have driven to Glacier Point instead of walking. Ann Marie vowed she'd never again go hiking without a map.

More than two decades later, Ann Marie has gained substantially more outdoor savvy and is a dedicated California outdoorswoman. She hikes, camps, and bikes more than 150 days each year. She is the author of 13 Moon guides, including several outdoors titles, like Moon 101 Great Hikes San Francisco Bay Area, and is the co-author of Moon California Hiking with Tom Stienstra. Her work has also appeared in Sunset, VIA, and California magazines.

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Felicia Kemp Author Photo

Felicia Kemp

About the Author

Felicia Kemp was raised camping and hiking across the U.S. with her family and discovered backpacking for the first time at Philmont Scout Ranch at the age of 13. She’s hiked everywhere her travels take her, from the depths of the Grand Canyon with her younger brother to the turquoise waters of Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia with her husband. When she and her husband moved to Northern California they immediately started exploring, fell in love with the diversity of landscapes, started a family, and began sharing their hiking adventures publicly online in 2015. When her middle child was diagnosed with Tay-Sachs disease, getting on trails as a family became more of a challenge. Aside from the typical balance of full-time jobs not in the outdoors industry and a family of five, she and her husband worked to find ADA-compliant paths to continue sharing the joys of nature with their children.

Felicia’s goal is to give confidence to would-be and newer hikers to break through barriers and get outside. She advocates for diversity initiatives through both her legal career and in the outdoors, and helps to educate others on the principles of Leave No Trace. She hopes that when people see her plus-sized, tall and brown body hiking solo, or wrangling the family on the trail, it inspires others to feel comfortable taking up that same space. She’s written several outdoors-related articles and enjoys creating social media content as Family Trail Time. She is the founder of Take A Hike Tay-Sachs in support of Cure Tay-Sachs Foundation and founded the group Sacramento Women Hikers.

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