I am a full-time traveling registered nurse, fitness enthusiast, and nutrition expert. Every morning I wake up intending to bring awareness of the importance of health and spiritual wellness, especially to the traveling community. At Messy Bun Traveler, we promote travel that allows the traveler to either kick-start, maintain, or enhance a healthy lifestyle. So whether you're someone who travels for business, travels for pleasure, or new to travel and looking for health advice while on the road, this blog is for you!
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Highway 395 passes through the east side of California and is, without a doubt, a road less traveled. I took this drive when heading to North Lake Tahoe and wanted something a little more than the monotonous I-5.
Route 395 is often used when traveling from Los Angeles to Mammoth or Mono County—but after taking this scenic drive, I realized it could easily be stretched out into a multi-day adventure!
The entire route is filled with some of the most pristine natural landmarks, untouched nature, and old western towns, making you feel like you step back in time into the old wild west.
You’ll pass through the Mojave Desert, crystal clear lakes such as Mono and Mammoth Lakes, staggering mountains like the infamous Mount Whitney—ancient volcanoes, hot springs, ghost towns, and more! This road trip is vastly underrated, and I encourage you to make a weekend getaway out of this before the secret gets out!
This route starts in Southern California at the Mojave Desert and travels to the Canada-US border near Laurier.
In this post, we’ll be discussing all the must-see locations between the Mojave Desert to Lake Tahoe!
This area is such a beautiful scenic drive! Just sit in awe at all the lonely cacti in the middle of literally nowhere filled with sand dunes and cinder cone volcanoes.
The Mojave Desert’s Red Rock Canyon is an incredible site to lay your eyes upon! The canyon can be seen right off the road, or you can take the seasonal route (accessible by 4-wheel-drive vehicles only) and drive through rugged volcanic tablelands, distinct red rock formations, and sites of ancient Native American Petroglyphs!
The Red Rock Canyon State Park is located right off the 395 and Highway 14 junction.
Next, you’ll head through the old western town of Bishop, where you can check out the ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest—home of some of the oldest trees in the world!
The Alabama Hills are super cool because it will look like you’ve stepped foot on Mars! Alabama Hills are rock formations surrounding Mount Whitney, which is the highest summit in the adjoining United States! Make sure to stop here for a picture opportunity!!
The snow-capped peaks of Mount Whitney and its surrounding mountains are some of the largest in the country! Seeing the infamous Mount Whitney up close and personally was breathtaking as it stands tall and proud!
The mountain can be seen from Lone Pine, CA and can give you a birds-eye view of route 395 and it’s surrounding valley!
People come from all over the world to hike many of Mount Whitney’s peaks and trails. You also have access to the world-renowned PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) and John Muir wilderness.
After spending time in Bishop, Lone Pine, and Mount Whitney, you will drive along some of the most pristine roadside lakes and streams you will ever see! You’ll see some of the most unique and beautiful lakes—some being right next to the highway and some being a little bit of a drive onward.
This area is a good spot to stop and do some hiking, camping, backpacking, and water sports such as boating, swimming, cliff jumping, water skiing and fishing! I have listed some of my personal favorite lakes we checked out on our road trip, and I highly recommend you do the same!
A large and beautiful lake just right off the highway.
Many different lakes make up Mammoth. They are all so beautiful and will be some of the freshest, cleanest water you will ever see! Some lakes, you’ll even be able to see to the bottom!
This lake is gorgeous in the fall because you’ll see all the surrounding trees of the lake changing to beautiful fall colors!
Mono Lake is a must because the rock formations look like you stepped on an entirely different planet!
If you’ve got an extra half-day or, even better, full-day—make sure to drive through the highest mountain pass in all of the Sierra Nevada mountains. If you love scenic roadways and thrilling tight turns and sharp drop-offs, you’ll want to take a detour on CA Highway 120!
Tioga Pass gains more than 3,000 feet in elevation from Route 395 so you can expect to see some jaw-dropping views! There are several hiking trails through this pass as well for the adventure traveler in you!
Keep in mind this route is only open in the summer through the beginning of November. Given that there is no snow. As soon as the first snowfall hits, this route is closed for the winter as they do not do any plowing on this road.
I took this road trip end of September. On our trip up to Tahoe, the route was opened. But on the next day, there was heavy snowfall and the road closed. Make sure to check weather conditions before you go!
Talk about eerie! Bodie State Historic Park is just north of Mono Lake and west of the Tioga Pass. This is a California gold-mining ghost town!
According to the California Department of Parks and Recreation website, the deserted town had a population of nearly 10,000 people. Back in 1875, small amounts of discovered gold brought people in from all different regions of the United States.
In 1942, during World War II, the mines closed due to the War Production Board. To this day, the mining never resumed. The whole town was abandoned—except for a few ghosts who decided to stay.
You can find these mystical hot springs on the outskirts of Bridgeport right off Route 395. You’ll take a little dirt road to the top of a hill and make a slight right. There is a sign directing you where to go. No need to worry about getting lost (Google Maps help too!).
Here, you’ll soak up the picturesque Sierra mountain range views while basking in 100-degree natural pools. This was definitely one of the highlights of our trip!
About 13 scenic miles from the town of Bridgeport, Twin Lakes looks like you’re standing in a painting! You could easily spend a few days here as the area offers boat rentals, cabins, campgrounds, restaurants, and fishing. It’s also home to many scenic hiking trails!
Lake Tahoe is a beautiful alpine lake entering both states of California and Nevada. There is so much to see and do here that there should be an entire post dedicated to it! Lake Tahoe is where we ended our journey and spent the remainder of our time participating in the Spartan World Championship Weekend!
Reno is a cool little town to stop and check out in Nevada. It’s known for its high-rise casinos, the fun nightlife of clubs and bars, and a whole lot of shopping! It’s the lesser-known Las Vegas!
I am a full-time traveling registered nurse, fitness enthusiast, and plant-based nutrition expert. Every morning I wake up intending to bring awareness of the importance of health and spiritual wellness, especially to the traveling community. At Messy Bun Traveler, we promote travel that allows the traveler to either kick-start, maintain, or enhance a healthy lifestyle. So whether you're someone who travels for business, travels for pleasure, or new to travel and looking for health advice while on the road, this blog is for you!
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