Running along the eastern Sierra Range, U.S. Route 395 is one of California’s classic drives. With its otherworldly landscapes and unique volcanic geology, the mostly two-lane highway passes through jaw-dropping scenery, especially the stretch from Mono Lake south to Lone Pine.
Situated just north of the junction with State Route 120, the Tioga Pass Road, Mono Lake is known for its tufa formations. Created by calcium-rich springs, these unusual limestone towers can grow to heights of 30 feet. Dry camping is allowed on the shore with a free permit from the visitor center at Mono Basin Scenic Area. A hike along the nearby Panum Crater Trail offers gorgeous views of the lake and its volcanic island, Paoha.
Hot Creek Geological Site, dubbed Little Yellowstone, sits just east of Route 395 and contains colorful geothermal springs. Water temperatures are unpredictable and can change rapidly, so people are no longer allowed to swim in the pools. However, several rustic hot springs that are safe to soak in are right off Route 395. A couple of our favorites are Wild Willy’s near Mammoth Lakes and Travertine near Bridgeport.
A few miles outside of Lone Pine are the Alabama Hills, a range of rounded rock formations in contrast to their ragged Sierra backdrop. Whitney Portal and Movie Road offer scenic drives, and the area has endless opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, fishing and biking. Just west of the Alabama Hills, BLM-managed Tuttle Creek Campground is open year-round.
IF YOU GO: For a less-rustic stay in the Lone Pine area, Boulder Creek RV Resort
supplies full hookups and Wi-Fi. The pet-friendly Good Sam Park also has a swimming pool, showers, laundry facilities and a convenience store.
Author, photographer and artist Cate Battles travels the country full time with her husband, Chad, in their renovated, mural-painted 1976 Airstream Argosy. The couple’s travel blog, Argosy Odyssey, chronicles their adventures as they tour North America with their pet goat and dog. You can read more of Cate’s dispatches for Trailer Life here and follow the Battles on Instagram and Facebook.