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Mammoth Lakes, June Lake, and Mono Lake

Posted by Gav Grayston.
First Published Jan 2018; updated May 2023.

Our USA Road Trip eventually got us to the eastern Sierra Mountains: time for some exploring!

It was dark when we arrived at the town of Mammoth Lakes, after our very long drive through the desert from Las Vegas, and so we had no idea what the place looked like.

We stayed at the Shilo Inn Suites, and we were up bright and early for breakfast in the hotel the next morning. The kids soon got the hang of the American breakfast by making fresh waffles and pancakes.

American breakfast

Breakfast at the hotel, American style, with fresh waffles and pancakes.

The view was breathtaking

At this point, we still hadn't seen outside.

I knew there was a gas station near the hotel, so as the kids were finishing breakfast, I popped outside to look....and my jaw dropped!

The view was breathtaking.

View of the Sierra Nevada mountains

The view when I stepped outside the hotel took my breath away.

Since we had arrived in the dark, we had no idea what was right outside the hotel: mountains, trees, and a glorious blue sky. The air was crisp and fresh, yet warm at the same time.

This was my kind of place!

Our Route from Mammoth Lakes

After leaving the Shilo Inn, we were to explore some of the lakes in the area, head up and over the Sierra mountains before ending up later that night in Yosemite Valley after exploring some of the Giant Redwoods. Another busy day!

But first, the lakes...

June lake loop on a map

Our route from Mammoth Lakes

We took the 395 north from Mammoth Lakes but turned off at June Lake Junction.

This road takes you on a more scenic route around what is known as the June Lake Loop.

June Lake Loop

After the desert the previous day, the greenery in the mountains was magnificent, as the roads were lined with trees rather than sand and tumbleweed.

View of the road

The roads were now very different to the desert. This is the 395.

I was keen not to miss too much of this landscape, and fortunately, just after turning off onto the June Lake Loop, there was an area we could pull over and take in the view.

The hire car

The hire car parked up at the start of the June Lake loop.

The kids also got a chance to do a bit of Geocaching. Very different to many of the caches we find at home.

The geocache

Time for a bit of geocaching.

There was just enough time to appreciate the view before moving on.

Start of the journey around the loop

Not a bad place to stretch the legs

June Lake

June Lake is the first large lake between the mountains and hills. There's a small town and plenty of water sports if you have the time to stay.

The town at June Lake

The small town at June Lake.

As the road meanders around, there are other lakes you can stop at and visit. Silver Lake was very picturesque.

Silver lake

Taking photos at Silver Lake

One thing that was abundant in this area was campgrounds.

It's certainly somewhere we'd love to revisit and spend more time.

Mono Lake

As you come out of the June Lake Loop and rejoin the 395, you soon reach Mono Lake, which is by far the biggest lake in the area.

There's a good Visitor Centre here, which is where you can purchase your ticket for going over the Tioga Pass.

Mono Lake

Mono Lake with a view of Paoha Island.

Despite being such a large lake, there's a distinct lack of watersports. That's due to the unique chemistry of this lake, which creates these delicate and rare structures called 'Tuffa Towers'.

View of Mono Lake

'Tufa Towers' formations at Mono Lake

At this part of the journey, we weren't even halfway through the day, yet the beauty of the Sierras completely took us. Little did we know just how much more incredible they would become as the day went on...