Bike, ski, climb and paddle your way through the High Sierra during this epic weeklong road trip. Experience a night under the stars followed by a day discovering California’s unique dining options. Pack some camping gear and don’t forget to bring the camera on this east side adventure.
Daily flights into the Mammoth-Yosemite Airport arrive from San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Denver. Others choose to fly into Reno, rent a car and enjoy a scenic drive down Highway 395.
Once in Mammoth Lakes, grab a quick breakfast at Toomey’s Catering and Carryout. The coconut mascarpone pancakes will knock the socks off of anyone who is a fan of fluffy, sweet flapjacks. Breakfast burritos are available on a grab-and-go basis and Toomey’s stays open to offer après ski snacks in the afternoon.
The Troutfitter is the place to go for the angler in the group. From tackle and bait to guide services and fishing reports, the Troutfitter will set you up to catch a trophy.
If ripping lips isn’t your thing, rent a bike for a day on the town. Mammoth Mountain Bike Park is well known for its lift-accessed downhill trails, freeride features and cross country adventures. Scenic gondola rides are also offered. Additionally, the Inyo National Forest houses a network of trails from mellow fire roads to steep winding single track. Don’t worry about flying with your bike as rentals are available at Mammoth Mountain Sports in the Mammoth Village.
Fuel up for lunch at Burgers Restaurant, and as the name suggests, the restaurant is best known for its burgers made from fresh beef, ground daily. The menu includes other grilled specialties such as pork ribs and steaks.
Road bikers will also enjoy exploring the area, whether it’s a mellow cruise around town or a leg-burning climb to the Minaret Vista, or a scenic push along Highway 395. Footloose Sports offers rentals and high performance demo gear for road and mountain bikes. Turn any bike ride into an adventure with geocaching. According to geocaching.com there are 55 sites within a 10-mile radius of Mammoth. Most caches are located near hiking and biking trails and often include historic points of interest.
Indulge in Greek-inspired cuisine at Jimmy’s Taverna. Best known for the seafood, Jimmy’s specialties include Oakwood-grilled octopus, tiger prawns as well as seasonal fish filets. The gyros are another not-to-miss treat.
Settle in for the night at the Tamarack Lodge. Known for the surrounding cross country skiing in the winter, the Tamarack Lodge is located on the shores of Twin Lakes and is a hub for adventure. Enjoy an evening in the main lodge or rent a 1- or 2-bedroom cabin for a good night’s sleep.
Grab breakfast at Stellar Brew & Natural Café serving up locally sourced fare. Breakfast burritos and vegan breakfast burritos are available as a grab-and-go treat, or try the homemade granola or an acai bowl. Grab a sandwich or wrap to go and thank yourself when lunch rolls around. Stellar Brew opens bright and early at 5:30 a.m. so you can be on the road to Bishop for a day of climbing in no time. The first stop in Bishop is Eastside Sports for the locals scoop on the area and any gear rentals one may need.
The Owens River Gorge is California’s most concentrated sport climbing area with roughly 450 routes ranging from intermediate to advanced. The fall is the best time to visit this area, although it is accessible year-round. If you can find them, the meadow hot springs to the north of Owens River Gorge are a luxury after a day of climbing. The Buttermilks is a world-famous bouldering area located on the western edge of Owens Valley. Rent a crash pad at Eastside Sports and see how many problems you can conquer.
After a long day, relax with a local brew at the Mountain Rambler Brewery with happy hour specials including Parmesan polenta tots and sriracha ginger Chex mix. Stay for dinner and enjoy a tempeh Rueben sandwich or a spicy bratwurst.
For a night under the stars, the best free camping is located along the Owens River Gorge road near the upper gorge parking area in the pinion site. The Keough’s Hot Springs Resort located just south of Bishop offers camping, tent cabins and rooms along with the opportunity to soak in the pristine waters.
Alternatively, the Creekside Inn near Bishop City Park is a great choice for those who are traveling with kids or just want the amenities of indoor lodging.
Enjoy the complimentary breakfast buffet at the Creekside Inn or head over to Erick Schat’s Bakkery for fresh Dutch-inspired baked goods. Don’t miss the chili cheese bread and consider grabbing some sandwiches for lunch too.
Continue south on Highway 395 towards Lone Pine. Take the time to stop along the way and enjoy the area including the beautiful ancient bristlecone pines above Big Pine. The historic Eastern California Museum in Independence explores the lifestyles of the Paiute and Shoshone Indians and the early cowboys who settled in the area. For an outdoor adventure, head west out of Independence towards the John Muir Wilderness. Be sure to stop at the Manzanar National Historical Site and discover the dark history of the military internment camps that housed nearly 120,000 Japanese families during World War II.
Enjoy lunch in Lone Pine at the Mt. Whitney Restaurant. This family-owned restaurant serves exotic burgers made from ostrich, buffalo and elk as well as quality steaks, fresh salads and homemade desserts.
The Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center is the place to stop before any adventures to Mt. Whitney or the Mohave Desert. Pick up the necessary permits and get the latest weather information before heading out to the Mt. Whitney Portal. Set up camp at the Whitney Portal Campground and spend an afternoon exploring the Pacific Crest Trail and the John Muir Trail. The Whitney Portal Store is the last chance for supplies and food before settling in for dinner around the campfire and a good night’s sleep under the stars.
After snagging some freshly baked pastries and breads from Great Basin Bakery on your way through Bishop, keep heading north for Yosemite. Your first stop is the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center to get acquainted with the area and pick up maps and supplies.
Kids in your group will probably want to sign up to be a Yosemite Junior Ranger. Visit the Yosemite Museum and the Indian Village of Ahwahnee to experience the Valley’s cultural history before wandering out for yourself. Enjoy a 2-hour tour on the open-air tram, or take on a self-guided tour. Don’t miss Yosemite Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. Enjoy lunch beneath one of the most iconic cliffs in the area, El Capitan, and explore the Merced River at Happy Isles. Enjoy the interactive exhibits at the Nature Center at Happy Isles where participants can learn about the surrounding natural history.
Take a relaxing hike to Mirror Lake and enjoy stunning views of Half Dome and its reflection in Tenaya Creek. End the day at the Ahwahnee Hotel, a National Historic Landmark. Enjoy a locally sourced organic meal in the dining room or a cocktail in the lounge. The Ahwahnee Pub & Bar is the perfect place to unwind and enjoy live piano music. Book a room at the Ahwahnee or any of Yosemite’s other great lodging options with the Yosemite Bed and Breakfast package for a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast.
You can also choose to sleep under the stars at the Upper Pines Campground, which is located next to the trailheads for both the John Muir Trail and the Half Dome Trail.
If you’re lucky enough to be in the area after a recent rainfall, wake up bright and early for the chance to catch the morning light over Staircase Falls. The waterfalls are located just behind the Curry Village making it a great stop before grabbing breakfast at the Curry Village Pavilion. Stock up on trail snacks at the Curry Village Store and get ready to tackle one of Yosemite’s most well-known and strenuous hikes. Prepare in advance by visiting Eastside Sports in Bishop to pick up any last minute camping and backpacking gear.
Permits are required to summit the Dome and are available through a preseason lottery as well as daily lotteries. The hike to Half Dome is fourteen miles round trip. However, camping is available at Little Yosemite Valley for those who wish to turn the excursion into an overnight adventure. Plan on hitting the trail bright and early so you have plenty of time to stop and enjoy both Vernal and Nevada Falls, each of which are a destination in their own right. Be prepared to get a little wet, it’s not called the Mist Trail for nothing. After taking in the majestic falls, the trail continues to wind up into the dense pine trees.
Stop for lunch and unload the camp gear at the campground at Little Yosemite Valley. The campsite is mostly undeveloped but fire pits and a composting toilet are available. After fueling up, the trail continues through the pines until you reach a set of stone stairs. Here’s where the fun begins. Follow the stairs to the base of the cables at Half Dome. Not for the faint of heart, the final push is straight up the side using the cables for balance and guidance. Once at the summit, hikers are rewarded with panoramic views of the valley nearly 2,000 feet below. After celebrating on the summit, return to Little Yosemite Valley for dinner around the campfire and a night under the stars.
Enjoy breakfast along the banks of the nearby Merced River before hiking back out to the valley. Yosemite Valley is a world-class destination for rock climbing. The area has been a hot bed for the evolution of climbing gear and methods for decades. Records for some of the most difficult ascents are held at Yosemite and in fact, the Yosemite Decimal System is a standard in grading the difficulty of climbing routes.
While some of the best climbers in the world flock to Yosemite, beginners too can get a taste of the sport in the Valley. Lessons are offered daily from April to October for climbers of all levels to break into the sport or to refine technique. Camp 4 is a common spot to boulder in the Valley with many boulders of varying levels of difficulty.
Enjoy lunch in the Curry Village and spend the afternoon enjoying any activities you may have missed the first day in Yosemite. Walk-in camping is available near Camp 4, or book a cabin at the Curry Village.
Rise and shine for a day at Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. The lake is just a short drive from Yosemite National Park, but you’ll want to leave early to beat traffic in and out of the park. Once known as the twin to Yosemite Valley, the Hetch Hetchy Valley was dammed in 1913 to store water for the Bay Area, creating a large lake with fishing and hiking. Day hikes around Hetch Hetchy include stunning vistas, raging waterfalls and beautiful flora and fauna. Guided naturalists hikes are offered to Wapama Falls and Rancheria Falls through the Evergreen Lodge at Camp Mather.
Grab a sandwich to go, or dine in at the Evergreen Lodge for lunch.
For something that will get your heart pumping, enjoy a day of white water rafting on the Tuolumne River. One to 3-day adventures await on the Tuolumne River through guide services such as O.A.R.S. Meet the guides at Groveland before making the trek to the river. The first stretch includes three of the rivers’ most notorious rapids, the Rock Garden, Nemesis and Ram Head. Lunch and necessary gear are provided.
Spend the night in the Sugar Pine Ranch Cottages outside of Groveland off Highway 120 for a relaxing final night in the High Sierra.