With granite peaks and domes, giant sequoias, alpine lakes, and breathtaking desert vistas, and a dash of luxury, this drive from Yosemite to Mammoth Lakes should be on everyone’s A-list.
Trip length: 1 day
Total distance: 100.4mi/161.6km
Tuolumne Grove. Though not as large as the more famous Mariposa Grove, this gem off the beaten path (near Crane Flat, 1.5/2.4km east on State 120, still contains dozens of century-old giant sequoias . There’s a 2-mi walk in, but it’s a mild elevation gain and the views make the time fly.
Olmsted Point (28.5mi/45.9km; 30 min). Leave the valley behind as you climb 30 winding miles east on State 120, then pull over and stare. One of the Sierra’s great vantage points, Olmsted provides an unusual eastern perspective of Yosemite Valley.
Tenaya Lake (2.3mi/3.8km; 2 min). It’s a 2.5mi/6.5km mostly flat walk around this lake, and every step of the way is worth it. This is high-country hiking at its best, with spectacular views across the lake to granite promontories trimmed with pines. Don’t miss it.
Tuolumne Meadows (7.4mi/11.9km; 9 min). Look for purple asters, red paintbrush, blue lupine, and a host of other wildflowers in this expansive alpine meadow. Check in advance for latest blooms and guided wildflower walks here and elsewhere in Yosemite.
Lee Vining (20.3mi/32.7km; 27 min). Recharge with lobster taquitos at Whoa Nelli Deli at the eastern end of Tioga Road, or try wine-tasting at the fun saloon at Tioga Lodge .
Mono Lake (.8mi/1.3km; 3 min). Take a guided boat ride or walk at Mono Lake, with its ghost-like tufa towers and vibrant birdlife. Ask at the excellent visitor center for directions to Mono Craters , volcanic youngsters ranging in age from 600 to 40,000 years old. Drive right up to Panum Crater , on Mono’s south shore.
June Lakes Loop (14.8mi/23.8km; 24 min). Head southwest on State 158 to tour this breathtaking horseshoe-shape canyon , cradling four alpine lakes ringed by some of the Sierra’s most dramatic peaks. Get a dose of country charm—and a good cup of mocha--at Trout Town Joes, with local artwork on the walls. Head next door to June Lakes General Store for fishing gear and where to cast your line.
Mammoth Lakes (20.8mi/ km; 27min). Poke around in a paddleboat on this pristine lake. In July, enjoy the Mammoth Lakes Jazz Jubilee . Have a swanky cocktail at the Westin Monarch then find a kicky summer outfit for less at the Mammoth Luxury Outlets .
Mammoth Mountain (5.5mi/8.9km; 14 min). Stroll through the pretty village at the bottom of the mountain, then soar up to 11,053 feet via the resort’s scenic gondola . Try your hand at mountain biking —gear and trails for all levels are available. Or just enjoy the view from the aptly named Top of the Sierra Café.