exploring california's highway 395
Updated: Jun 19, 2020
Have you ever been on Highway 395 in California? If you haven't, add it to your travel list ASAP! Highway 395 if one of our most visited routes since we head up to Mammoth Mountain frequently in the spring and love popping into Death Valley National Park. Even though we've been up and down the route a bunch of times, we always discover something new on our drive and love making stops along the way. To help give you the best of the 395, we've rounded up a few of our favorite spots to explore the next time you hit the road.
One of my all-time favorite spots to visit EVER. I absolutely love the landscape, the stunning backdrop of Mt. Whitney and not to mention, you can camp here because it's BLM land. There are a few hikes, such as the famed Mobias Arch Loop Trail, places to climb and roads to explore. It's gorgeous all year round, but if you plan to camp out, make sure you're prepared for the seasonal weather!
Explore the Hot Springs
One of the biggest questions we get asked all the time is about what hot springs we visit. PLEASE remember to practicing LNT (leave no trace) and clean up after yourselves to keep these places clean. We love:
Buckeye Hot Springs - Our fave! So pretty.
Crab Cooker Hot Springs
Travertine Hot Spring
Hilltop Hot Springs
Rock Pool Hot Springs
Wild Willy's Hot Springs
Whitmore Hot Tub
The Whitemore hot tub is pretty small and fits around 3-4 folks. Our biggest recommendation is to hit any spot in the early AM to avoid crowds. We've camped beside the Whitemore hot tub in the snow before - soooo worth it but bring a portable heater, ha!
Death Valley National Park / Sand Dunes
I think Death Valley is one of the biggest underestimated parks EVER. While going in the summertime isn't exactly ideal (110-114 degrees!) it is a wonderful place to visit fall through spring. I love traipsing through the sand dunes, exploring the landscape, and checking out The Racetrack - a place where rocks are moved by wind and a trail is left behind. There are countless places to discover but ALWAYS be extra prepared. It's a big park and temperatures can spike, you can easily get lost as well. Pack extra water, food and make sure you fill up on gas!
We head up every winter & spring to hit the slopes with family and usually hit all these fun spots along the way. While it's obvious that winter activities include snowboarding, skiing, snowshoeing, and more. While we love winter & spring, there's still SO much to do in the summer! You can hike in the Mammoth Lakes Basin, backpack, kayak, rock climb, stand up paddleboard, horseback ride, camp, and more.
Explore Bodie State Historic Park
I can't believe it took so long for us to find this park! About an hour-and-a-half north of Mammoth Lakes likes Bodie State Historic Park, a genuine California gold-mining ghost town. You can walk through the streets of a town that once had a population of 10,000 people and is preserved in a state of "arrested decay." It's eerie but remarkable and so trippy!
Manzanar National Historic Site: We stopped here once for a completely eye-opening experience. It's a special place and one we do recommend visiting to learn more about history and to experience the camps remains.
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest: For some reason, we always end up spending time elsewhere instead of popping into the pine forest! This forest is home to the oldest trees in the world, bristlecone pines. Some of these living trees exceed 4,000 years of age and exhibit spectacular growth forms of twisted and beautifully colored wood.
Drive up Whitney Portal road: If you're in love with the gorgeous landscape of Alabama Hills, you can explore the area more by driving up Whitney Portal Road. You can also hike Mt. Whitney but remember you need to plan for that.
June Lake: Another great option for the summer! June lake is often described as "quaint," downtown June Lake offers a number of lodges, shops, restaurants, and taverns. The lake itself is approximately one mile long and a half-mile wide, and is served by two marinas, where you can rent a fishing boat or launch your own. June Lake can also be ideal for paddling or sailing. At the northeast end is a swimming beach, popular in the Summer months, and there are campgrounds and RV parks surrounding the lake as well as in town.
Mono Lake: A gorgeous lake that reflects the snow-capped Sierra Nevada in its shimmering blue waters and fills a naturals basin of a whopping 695 square miles in size. You'll probably recognize it for its eerie tufa towers mineral structures created by the fresh-water springs bubbling up through the alkaline waters of the lake.
A FEW FAVORITE PLACES TO Eat
Schat's Bakery: This is a family staple we ALWAYS stop at and it's honestly worth the hype. They have an amazing pastrami sandwich, cheese bread 100% worth the drive, and yummy cookies. You must stop in the busy shop, browse the shelves lined with bread, and grab something to go! Holy Smoke BBQ - Just across the street from Schat's! This joint is relatively new but still great. We've been once and I loooooved the Spud Bud. Their sauces are fire.
Copper Top BBQ: Every time we're on the road, we stop here and eat. From the pulled pork to the tri-tip, everything is amazing here. It is only open from 12PM – 5PM though, or until they run out of meat, and it is closed on Monday and Tuesday.
Super inspiring right?! If you have any other must-visit spots on Highway 395, drop them below!