Take a Tour Southward on Scenic Highway 395

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    Highway 395

    Scenic Highway 395 in Eastern California
    Betsy Malloy Photography

    This tour will take you southward on Hwy 395, but it starts north of Lee Vining, California with a stop at the historic Bodie ghost town.

    This picture was taken on US Highway 395 north of Lee Vining, in the highway's most scenic section.

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  • 02 of 12

    Bodie Ghost Town

    Old Car and Buildings in Bodie Ghost Town
    Betsy Malloy Photography

    Perhaps the best preserved of all western ghost towns, Bodie is chockful of half-tumbled-down buildings and remnants of the past. It's 13 miles east of US 395 between Lee Vining and Bridgeport. Even the most casually interested visitors can end up spending a lot of time in Bodie. Allow at least half a day and more if you're a big fan of the Old West.

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    Mono Lake

    Tufa Towers in Mono
    Betsy Malloy Photography

    Mono Lake is one of the strangest bodies of water you'll find anywhere. It's so alkaline that the only creatures that can live it are tiny brine shrimp - and the alkali flies that hang out on its shores. When the lake level began to fall in the twentieth century, some odd geological features were exposed.

    The best-known feature of Mono Lake ​is its dramatic tufa (TWO-fuh) towers, created when mineral-laden underwater springs met the lake's water. Mono Lake is at Lee Vining.

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    June Lake

    June Lake in the Fall
    Betsy Malloy Photography

    A favorite of fishermen, June Lake is one of the area's more developed tourist communities, with several places to stay and eat.

    Along the June Lake Loop, you'll find several small lakes, and this is also one of the prettiest when the aspen leaves turn golden in the fall.

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    Hot Creek Gulch

    Steaming Water in Hot Creek Gulch
    Betsy Malloy Photography

    This geothermal feature might remind you of Yellowstone National Park. It's called "hot" springs for a reason, and sometimes the water is literally scalding. Look for the signs that lead you to it on the east side of Highway 395.

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    Convict Lake

    Fishermen at Convict Lake in the Morning
    Betsy Malloy Photography

    The escaped convicts who gave the lake its name are long gone, but Convict Lake is still just as beautiful as it was when they passed through.

    This small lake is popular with fishermen, but it's also a great place for a hike, with a trail that goes all the way around its shores.

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    Fall Color

    Fall Foliage in the Sierras
    Betsy Malloy Photography

    The Highway 395 corridor is the prettiest place in all California when the aspen trees turn yellow in the fall.

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    Devil's Postpile

    Rock Formations at Devils Postpile
    Betsy Malloy Photography

    Geologists say the Devil's Postpile rock formation is one of the world's finest examples of columnar basalt.

    In this unusual spot, hexagonal rock columns tower over 60 feet high, stacked as close together as next winter's firewood. Two miles downstream, you'll find Rainbow Falls. Both of these natural wonders are near the town of Mammoth.

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    Bristlecone Pines

    Bristlecone Pine Tree in California's White Mountains
    Chao Yen/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

    The bristlecone pine forest just off Highway 395 is the home of the Methuselah tree, which may be the world's oldest living thing at almost 5,000 years.

    Surviving in the harshest of conditions, the tree and its companions grow slowly, in gnarled forms. All of this happens at 10,000 to 11,000 feet elevation in the White Mountains on the east side of 395. To get there, take Highway 168 east from Big Pine.

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    Lone Pine

    Rock Formation in the Alabama Hills Near Lone Pine
    Betsy Malloy Photography

    This picture was taken in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine. Besides this humorous rock painting and its fabulous scenery, Lone Pine is famous as a movie filming location. Thousands of cowboy films, sci-fi flicks, and other productions have been filmed in the country around town.

    Film buffs should consider a stop at the movie-making museum, and if you're a die-hard fan of Westerns, try their annual Film Festival held every October.

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    Manzanar National Historic Site

    Monument at Manzanar Internment Camp
    Betsy Malloy Photography

    One of ten internment camps set up after Pearl Harbor to isolate those who might "threaten the war effort," Manzanar is a lonely reminder of what an event that occurred during World War II.

    The Manzanar National Historic Site tells the stories of the 10,000 Japanese Americans who were relocated here.

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  • 12 of 12

    Mount Whitney

    Mount Whitney from Lone Pine
    Peter Prehn/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Mount Whitney is the tallest peak in the contiguous United States at 14,494 feet high. It's a challenging, technical climb to reach the top, but a relatively easy drive to get up to Whitney Portal where the climbers begin their ascents.

    All you have to do to get there is turn onto Whitney Portal Road in Lone Pine and drive 13 miles. Whitney Portal is about halfway up, at 8,000 feet and the views coming and going are well worth the side trip.