I’m always up for an adventure, and when someone suggests a new place, you can count me in! Recently I was invited to explore the Eastern Sierras with Al and his dog, Mali. A fellow photographer, fly fisherman and outdoor enthusiast, Al convinced me that the Sierras are a must-see destination, and he was right.
Brimming with beautiful trails, colorful Aspens, massive peaks, gorgeous lakes and cute little towns, all of these epic locations are accessible off famous US Route 395. There’s something new to see and explore around every bend in the road.
Want to see an area that is world renowned for its fall Aspen colors? Bishop Creek is your spot. The short drive up State Route 168 to South Fork Bishop Creek is jaw dropping. The road winds through the mountains, and beautiful red, yellow and orange trees line the slopes. Never in my life have I seen fall colors like this. Take advantage of pull-offs along the road to enjoy and photograph streams, meadows and stunning vistas.
We ventured further into the wilderness on a few hikes, starting with South Lake. The crystal clear water was unbelievable, the landscape breathtaking. My philosophy is to try and see as much as possible by daylight – it’s the explorer in me – so we decided to hike deeper into the backcountry.
Sitting at a higher elevation, Ruwau Lake is surrounded by unforgiving mountain peaks that make you feel so small. Al took the opportunity to fly fish here before the weather turned on us. Using his size 8 hopper pattern in combination with his favorite fly rod (a Sage x 6wt), he combated the unpredictable mountain wind. He fished for brook trout which love to eat a big dry fly before fall turns to winter. He caught a beautiful trout and released it back into the lake. I’ve never watched someone fly fish before, but I left with an appreciation of this art form.
One thing to keep in mind here is the weather can change in an instant, so be prepared! As soon as we saw the clouds roll in,we headed back. We found ourselves hiking back in a snow storm which was awesome and made the hike even more epic. We stayed warm and dry in our KÜHL SPYFIRE HOODY and FIREFLY HOODY.
Explore more: Bishop Pass Hiking Map
This was one of my favorite places in the area and a must-see. This little lake was nestled between mountain peaks, and the water was extremely clear and smooth – a photographer’s dream. What really caught my eye were the rock formations. Sculpted by glaciers, they’re spectactular. We decided to do some nighttime astro shots at Convict Lake, and the Milky Way lined up perfectly for us between the two peaks.
Learn more about the origin of Convict Lake’s name.
Little Lakes Valley
This is another great area for hiking to pristine, backcountry lakes. Mosquito Flat Trailhead ventures into John Muir Wilderness, where you can hike to a few lakes to camp, fish or simply have a quiet outing. The trail is dog friendly, and Mali had a great time exploring with us. We hiked to an undisclosed lake in the area, put up the hammock, and relaxed.
I could sit for hours soaking up the landscape: a big, beautiful blue sky; mountain peaks dusted with snow; a gorgeous lake and good company always make for an epic outdoor adventure. Plan a full day to explore Little Lakes Valley.
Mammoth matches its name perfectly – it’s huge! I’d heard about Mammoth Lakes, but this was my first time visiting. I cannot wait to return. We visited the lakes and spent time at Lake Mary. As we watched the sun set over Crystal Crag from our hammock, the lake was peaceful and still.
There are many hikes in the area, and the campgrounds are in prime locations. The town itself is very cute and has several dining options. Book in advance to get a room in this popular area, especially during the ski season.
Hot Creek Geological Site – a really cool place with great views and sunsets.
White Mountains – if you’re into sunset watching, make sure and look to the East and watch these bad boys light up beautiful shades of pink and orange.
June Lake Loop – hit this spot on your way home. Take the loop back to 395, and you’ll see gorgeous landscapes. June Lake is a beautiful shade of blue/green and a very popular place.
Places to Eat & Stay
- Great Basin Bakery – Delicious breakfast sandwiches are the perfect fuel for a day of hiking.
- Tom’s Place – Rustic accommodations and great food. Rent a cabin or stay in the campground. Be sure to say hi to Cheryl. She’s lived in the area here entire life and can give you a fantastic history lesson.
- Mammoth Tavern – Sports fans, check out the awesome atmosphere here for a game.
- Mammoth Brewing Co – Delicious brews and hamburgers.
- Mountain Rambler Brewery – I really loved the live music, great food and cool people here.
Royce is an outdoor enthusiast, photographer and athlete. She’s a Northern California native and has a passion for our National Parks and public lands. As a KÜHL ambassador, she shares her adventures and photos to encourage others to get outside and experience nature. When she’s not photographing epic locations you’ll find her running, cycling or competing in various athletic races. Follow her on Instagram @casunshine0508