Plan your Highway 395 Adventure
One of my favorite highways to travel is highway 395 in California. The stretch between Ridgecrest and Reno on the east side of the Sierra Mountain range holds a special place in my heart for its beauty and variety of terrain. All my trips to this area have been in late winter, the weather is mild and in contrast to the rest of California not as crowded. While there is an abundance of things to explore on this stretch of highway I selected my top 5 with a couple bonus activities.
Drive to Kennedy Meadows - The drive up Nine Mile Canyon Rd from 395 becomes beautiful fast! As you climb, you can see the valley floor where the drive starts and the White Mountains off into the distance. Once at Kennedy Meadows explore the wonderful landscape, there is also the famous Kennedy Meadows General Store, A thoroughfare for the folks hiking the PCT. If you have read or saw the movie Wild, this place will sound familiar. If the road is open you can continue on into the Sequoia National Forest, but plan ahead and do your research for that adventure.
- Alabama Hills - Located off 395 near the town of Lone Pine, The Alabama Hills are a range of hills and beautiful rock formations one must see to appreciate the true beauty. They are backed up against the Sierras and once inside you can camp (free dispersed camping), hike, climb, and bike. Hundreds of movies and TV shows have been filmed here including Iron Man, Django Unchained and a bunch of old westerns starring John Wayne, Gene Autry and Roy Rodgers. On one of my visits I had the chance to watch a SUV commercial being filmed.
Play in the Ditches - Just south of Bishop is Keough Hot Springs. You can RV camp there and pay for the hot springs, but downstream people have created pools that the locals call the ditches. Great place for a quick soak, the closer you stay to the water source the hotter the water is going to be. It’s tough to find info about this place but here is a link to a blog post I wrote a couple years ago after my visit: https://travelingdesigner.co/keough-hot-springs-ditch/
Convict Lake - Southeast of the town of Mammoth Lakes and only a couple miles off of 395 is one of the most beautiful lakes that you don’t have to work to get to. You can drive right up and park, have a picnic, walk around the lake or take a longer hike into the mountains. Getting its name from an incident in 1871, where a group of convicts escaped from prison in Carson City, Nevada, looking at this beautiful place you would think you are deep into the mountains way off the beaten path.
- Mono Lake and Panum Crater - What a unique place, Mono Lake and Panum Crater is located 30 miles north of Mammoth Lakes. Mono Lake is an ancient saline soda lake world-famous for their tufa towers. It’s truly a unique site to see. The lake is 65 square miles allowing for a lot of exploring and photo taking. Just next to Mono Lake is the Panum Crater, a volcanic cone that is part of the Mono–Inyo Craters. You can hike the rim around the crater and get some amazing views of the Sierras and some of Mono Lake. Panum Crater is between 600 and 700 years old and the pair make for a great day of exploring and adventure.
If you are still in the area and need MORE to do, there are two things on my list that I have not been able to do yet. First is a day trip to Death Valley and second is driving highway 120 up to Tioga Pass into Yosemite National Park. Be sure to check when the road opens for the season.
That should get you started on your highway 395 adventure!
Enjoy and Happy RVing