When Life’s a Beach, Head to the Mountains!
By: The Mono County Economic Development, Tourism and Film Commission
***Editor’s Note: The following article is one viewpoint on the best California Vacation spot. On July 30, another viewpoint was published in the article, “Go Coastal in Santa Barbara.”
Welcome to Mono County in California’s Eastern Sierra — home to iconic snow-covered granite peaks, alpine meadows full of sage and wildflowers, trout-filled lakes, streams, and rivers, and massive swaths of pine forest! Something of a well-kept secret, the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range is easy to get to but truly feels like a world away.
US Highway 395 — a state-designated Scenic Byway — is an easily-traveled four-lane highway that is open year-round. Friendly towns along the route, including destination resort Mammoth Lakes, have everything you need: hotels, cabins, shops, and restaurants — many family-owned, some for generations. Daily air service to Mammoth Yosemite Airport (MMH) is also available with Alaska and United airlines.
From US Highway 395, dramatic mountain passes that cross the Sierra are open seasonally. Just 12 miles from Lee Vining, the famous, almost 10,000’ high Tioga Pass (SR 120 W*) brings you to the breathtaking east entrance of Yosemite National Park. Sonora Pass (SR 108*) and Monitor Pass with views of the West Walker River are also spectacular east-west options.
Mono County is 94% public land — a playground offering hiking, biking, trout fishing, horseback riding, paddle boarding, kayaking, backpacking, climbing, off-roading, camping, birding, photography, star gazing…and brilliant fall color viewing every autumn. With the longest ski season in North America, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area is beloved by California skiers and snowboarders and, along with family-friendly June Mountain, welcome winter visitors from around the world.
Mono County is also blessed with other unique attractions. Mono Lake, a vast body of water three times saltier than the ocean with alien-looking limestone tufa towers, is home to nearly 100 species of birds. In fact, if you are at California beach, and you see a California Gull, there’s an excellent chance it was born at Mono Lake, the Gulls’ primary breeding ground! Another “must-see” is Bodie State Historic Park*, AKA Bodie Ghost Town. Preserved in a state of “arrested decay,” visitors can walk through the abandoned remains of the once-booming gold rush town, keeping an eye out for spirits while peeking through the windows of over 200 remaining buildings. Devils Postpile National Monument*, one of the world’s finest examples of columnar basalt formations, and nearby Rainbow Falls*, an impressive 101-foot tall waterfall with rainbows on its rising mist, are also not to be missed!
Beaches vs. Mountains? Fortunately here in the Golden State, the option to visit both California’s gorgeous beaches AND inspiring mountains — within a few hours’ drive of each other — is completely possible… so no need to choose! To plan your trip to California’s Eastern Sierra and receive free Mono County visitor guides, please click www.MonoCounty.org or give us a shout at 800–845–7922.
(*Mountain passes and some roads close for winter due to snow. Always check Caltrans road conditions before traveling.)
The Mono County Economic Development, Tourism & Film Commission is dedicated to improving and strengthening the tourism economy in Mono County. California’s Eastern Sierra Nevada offers the most unique and impressive landscapes in the world. If you’re looking for roads winding through dramatic mountain backdrops, sparkling mountain lakes and waterfalls, authentic ghost towns, bubbling hot springs or moon-like rock formations, search no further! It’s here in Mono County!