Top 5 Favorite Things to do in Mono County, California While On Vacation

After a recent visit to we’ve come up with our top 5 favorite things to do in Mono County, California.

1.  Mono Lake in mono county, california

This lake is mesmerizing. It’s not the kind of lake you want to jump in and take a swim, but sit and marvel at the colors and birds!   I’d like to take everyone I know to the Mono Lake Committee‘s talk and walk. Not only is it beautiful, it’s informative and will change your entire perspective about taking that long shower (Kaela B. I’m talking to you)!  Two non-profits took on the big guy….and won!  You can read about it here.  Yay, Mono Lake Committee!


2.  Twin Lakes in mono county, california

This place is so beautiful it will blow your mind.  You know that imaginary peaceful mountain lake that you’ve had in your mind for years?  This is it!  It will make you look like an amazing photographer.  Your kids are going to love it.  You’re going to want to move here, trust me.  There are fun activities.  You can fish, hike, rent a kayak or boat, and swim!  There is also a bar, store and restaurant.

3.  June Lake Brewing Company and Ohana 395

Maybe it’s the people, or the location, or the beer.  I’m not sure, but they have a good thing going on.  There is something about this place that makes it special.  A certain vibe.  Beer and Hawaiian food.  How could it go wrong?  June Lake Brewing Company is great!  The spicy beef taco, Poke Bowl, tater tots and the noodles are delicious!

4.  Latte Da coffee at el mono motel in lee vining

I’m in love with this place.  First off it’s adorable and right on highway 395.  More importantly, the coffee is great!  Try the Stellar Blue breakfast sandwich.  It has focaccia bread, ham cooked in caramelized onion with bacon, blue cheese and some kind of heavenly sauce!  The world seems like a better place because this place still exists.

5.  Bodie state Historical park

Bodie State Historic Park is a strange, unique place.  Known as America’s best preserved un-restored ghost town, its heyday was from 1877-1888.  This remote gold and silver mining town held roughly 10,000 residents.  By the 1940’s it became an official ghost town and in 1962, California State Parks purchased it.   The buildings roofs, foundations and windows are repaired and stabilized, but not restored.  Amazingly 170 of the town’s buildings still exist, each containing its original artifacts.  It’s worth the drive if you have the extra time!

By | 2017-08-10T23:16:33+00:00 June 3rd, 2017|Family Destination, Road Trip|4 Comments

Amazing Weekend California Road Trip on Highway 395 (Part 2 The Drive Home)


From here we drove back to Bridgeport and down the 395 to Lundy Lake.  Mainly Lundy is known for three things. First, its fall foliage.  Secondly, there is an abundance of wildlife.  You can easily see beaver damns in the river, bird everywhere and luckily, we saw a big white Bighorn sheep.  One group we spoke with even reported seeing a Bald Eagle!  Last, it has incredible fishing.

Our number one priority this morning: coffee! We headed to the town of Lee Vining.  Can’t say enough great things about Mono Cup Coffee’s Cold Brew!  On a road trip whim we decided to check out the Upside Down House and Old School House Museum.  Regrettably, both were both closed.  The Upside Down House has a great story worth checking out.


Mono Lake Tufa State National Reserve was our next stop.  We were lucky enough to jump into a talk by Nora Livingston from the Mono Lake Committee.  This was hands down our favorite part of the entire trip.  If you head in this direction please take an hour and don’t miss their work on the history, education, restoration, and protection of Mono Lake.  It’s fascinating!


We turned off of 395 onto Highway 158 at the North June Lake junction.  This is a 14.6 mile scenic tour of a glacier formed canyon with lakes at the bottom.  You’ll see Grant Lake, Silver Lake, Gull Lake and June Lake. Reverse Creek (named after the fact that it is the only river that flows west toward its source in the Sierra) flows throughout the canyon.  We stopped at June Lake Brewing and Ohana’s 395 food truck.  Lots of dogs, outdoor seating, wonderful people, good food and amazing beer!


Regrettably, it was a quick stop in Benton.  We did, however, manage one great picture of their old store.



Our next stop was the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.  First of all, the trees are over 4000 years old!  It’s a fun drive up with steep turns, rolling hills and many curves.  California had a heavy snow year and the temperature mid May was 27 degrees.  We camped in Grandview, a first come/first serve site for only $5.00!

Woke up early to an amazing sunrise panorama and headed to Schulman Groves.  Snow was on the road and to our left on the Sierra mountains overlooking Owen Valley.   The isolation created a strange feeling of quiet in the midst of the ancient trees.    There were no visitors or rangers.  We wandered outside the closed visitor center.    The trunks are twisted and gnarled with beautifully colored wood that grows in tiny amounts each year.  Their wood is resistant to insects, disease and decay.  Interestingly, there is a direct correlation between the harshness of their environment and the ability to live longer.  I’d like to think there is  a life lesson there.

Isn’t it beautiful?!


Next, we drove back down to Bishop for coffee.  We love the Black Sheep Coffee Roasters and visit whenever we’re in town.  They have espresso, burritos and unworldly banana bread that is totally worth the extra time to our drive.  They also have outside seating and are totally dog friendly.  Mule Days Celebration was the following weekend and a sweet woman who was dressed as a unicorn pet  our dog Tucker throughout breakfast!  One just doesn’t experience that every day!



Finally, our last stop on the weekend road trip on California 395 was on the way home,  Manzanar National Historic site.  In 1942 the United States Government detained over 110,000 men, women and children to relocation centers.  Manzanar is one of these sites that became home to over 10,000 Japanese people.  Visiting this site emphasizes the stark reality of their cold isolated location and everyday realities.

And…our favorite Tucker picture of the trip at Twin Lakes!

Amazing Weekend California Road Trip on Highway 395 (Part 1 The Drive There)


An amazing weekend California road trip on Highway 395, what could be more fun?  The California scenic highway 395 is arguably one of the best California road trips, if not the entire United States.  One of our favorite things about living in California is that there are so many fun things to do within  a short drive.  Road trip!  Paul and I spent 86 hours exploring destinations in Mono and Inyo Counties.  While we’ve skied and backpacked in the Mammoth Lakes area, we’ve never ventured further north.

California 395 is often referred to as one of the West’s Best road trips.  You’ll see a vast change of scenery along the way and breathtaking views.  Driving North in California you first experience seemingly endless desert miles, rolling hills, sage, then the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and Mount Whitney.  As you continue North, this road trip continues to unfold with beautiful mountains and lakes.

There is more to do on an amazing road trip on California’s 395 than can be done in three days, so we settled on these highlights:  the tufa towers at Mono Lake, the alpine beauty of Twin Lakes, the world’s oldest trees at Ancient Bristlecone Forest, Mazanar National Historic Site and the ghost town of Bodie.  Our goal was to briefly see as much as possible so that we know which places we’d like to visit again.  The wonderful part of this vacation is that it has a bit of everything: scenic natural wonders, history, tales of the old west, environmental causes, and recreational sports.  Whatever you are into, you’ll find it here.  This is a road trip you don’t want to miss!


For this California’s 395 adventure we opted for a loose idea of what we wanted to do.  This is our favorite type of traveling, with no schedule. We basically pack up the car and see where the wind blows.  For this trip we had three requirements:

  1. We had to be back Sunday afternoon, meaning only four days of travel ( 86 hours).
  2. Everything had to be dog friendly, we were bringing our fearful two year old golden retriever, Tucker with us.
  3. We are on a tight budget!

We packed the car with camping gear and left Orange County at 3pm on Thursday arriving near Mono Lake in the evening.  Found a dispersed camping area and called it a night.  We woke up early Friday morning and headed to Bodie State Historic Park..

Bodie State historic park


Bodie State Historic Park is heralded as America’s best preserved un-restored ghost town.  During its heyday from 1877-1888 this remote gold and silver mining town held roughly 10,000 residents.  After the mining was depleted, the town shrunk to a single caretaker within several decades.  In the 1940’s it became an official ghost town and in 1962, California State Parks purchased it.  Currently it is kept in “a state of arrested decay”.  The buildings roofs, foundations and windows are repaired and stabilized, but not restored.  Amazingly 170 of the town’s original buildings still exist, each containing its original artifacts.

Make sure that when you arrive you buy the $2.00 self-guided tour booklet.  It’s worth every penny!  It will tell you all about each building and the people who lived in there.  Second, don’t miss the school house.  Look in the windows!  There are desks, books, even writing on the chalk board.  There is an eerie sense in Bodie that kept reminding me of Stephen King’s book the Langoliers. Very few times in your life do you experience a place where people just  leave.  It’s almost as if they vanished.  Usually when people move they take their belongings, yet that’s not the case here.  It’s a strange, yet surprisingly wonderful.


Next we headed to Bridgeport where we stopped and received our fire permit at the ranger station (required to have a fire or use a propane stove in the back country).  The ranger provided useful information including camping, hiking and restaurant ideas.  She suggested lunch at The Barn because they have outdoor seating for our dog.  The food was good.  However, to our surprise, this cute little hamburger stand had the best sweet potato fries that we’ve ever had!  Also, check out the court house on your way through town.  Next, we ventured to Travertine Hot Springs.

Travertine Hot springs

The road that leads you to Travertine Hot Springs is a short distance (about a mile) and just behind the ranger station, simply follow the signs.  There is one tub by the road, four tubs about 25 yards from the parking area and a few other small tubs scattered around the area.  We have found that this type of undeveloped hot springs often provides the most colorful experiences.  They seem to attract interesting characters.  Many places openly go naked at sunset to allow more sensitive types to use the tubs during the day.  Some hot springs are more modest, others openly nudist.  This might sound strange, but each hot springs really has a different culture that we try to respect.  The culture varies depending on the location.

Really what it comes down to is everyone is trying to have a good time and relax, but sometimes these characters will be more entertaining than others. This was the case at Travertine.  Today featured an extraordinarily chatty 60 something year old man parading around outside the hot tub wearing only flip flops, two tattooed women taking naked photos of each other and one spry 80ish year old man only wearing an open white button down shirt and neckerchief.

Hot tub Story #8,341

You really need an idea of what the hot springs looks like in order to continue the story.  It’s really a large mound of travertine rock, maybe 12 feet high, with hot water coming through holes.  Surrounding the mound are about five small individual pools.  If you lean back on the mound you can look out at a mind blowing view of the mountains.

We first saw this naked fellow go by carrying a pool hose and a pick ax. Odd, but nothing completely abnormal at a hot tub.  Ultimately, he decided that our area suited him (pun intended). Instead of sitting in one of the four tubs, this old man scrambled up the rocks to the right of  us doing amazing feats one wouldn’t expect from a man his age.

Initially, we were on one end of the pools and he was on the other.  We leaned back on the rock, looking out to take the picture above.  We wanted a picture that capture the amazing view we were seeing.  When we turned around to take a selfie with the mountains behind us, we realized we weren’t alone.  A mere inches away from our faces, pick ax in hand, Yukon Cornelius was hanging by one hand and trying to chisel out new water channels through the rock. After several swings of his ax (and nether regions), we decided we’d had enough fun and decided to leave for the next destination.    Old butts aside, the views of the Sierra were stunning.

california road trip to Twin Lakes

 The beauty of Twin Lakes was a site for sore eyes.  Nothing like a naked butt to get you to really appreciate anything else.  To get there, you drive through the most wonderful, green meadow complete with cows, horses and a lovely little stream. As you drive up the canyon there are many campgrounds along the river.   When we arrived at Twin Lakes, my mind was blown.  As a kid, I went to Glacier National Park. I have compared every single lake view to that memory my entire life.  I guess I have romanticized finding a lake that is the deepest blue with huge mountains on all sides that could truly command my attention since then.  One could even call it a quest of sorts to find the perfect lake that I could take my kids to and teach them to kayak and fish.   This is the lake that I’ve been looking for.
At the lakes, there’s fishing, kayaking, hiking, and boat rentals. We continued to the end of the second lake where we found Mono Lake Resort. Mono Lake Resort is a mountain resort offering campsites, RV sites, cabins, a restaurant, general store, boat ramp, boat rentals, kayak rentals and  a car parking lot for day hikes. We attempted a hike called Horesetail Falls, but ended on a hike around the lake which was beautiful.  After about three miles we retraced our steps and found the correct one. Helpful hint!  It’s the trail to the right after the bridge.


Paha campground

We stayed at Paha Campground and found a spot right next to river.


Twin Lakes Campground from the US forest service is located next to the river at the beginning of the lake.  It has lush vegetation, trees and flowers.  We preferred this campground to Crags Campground, which is more brown and open.  There is also a cute General Store.  You’ll find stuff you need (matches) to stuff you just want (s’mores fixin’s). Everyone there was helpful and nice!


By | 2017-09-18T18:03:50+00:00 May 23rd, 2017|Family Destination, Road Trip|0 Comments