Eastern Sierra Birthday Road Trip: Fall Foliage along June Lake Loop, Highway 395 & 108 + Schulman's Grove, Bodie Ghost Town & Yosemite National Park
For my birthday, I originally planned a road trip to Yellowstone National Park, but the weather forecast for the week was snowfall. I have driven in heavy snow in Utah and during snowboarding trips in Mammoth and Big Bear and I'm not a fan of skidding on the road.
The next best thing was a fall foliage road trip along the Eastern Sierra on Highway 395 to June Lake Loop just in time for the beginning of peak fall foliage. Visiting June Lake during fall foliage has been on my radar for a while now just to see the dramatic colors of autumn.
First thing on my mind before, during, and after vacation is always food. A stop to grab a bite at Copper Top BBQ has become a ritual on the drive home from Mammoth on past snowboarding trips along with picking up some bread at Erick Schat's Bakery.
I took my tri-tip sandwich and mac 'n cheese up to Schulman's Grove for a picnic lunch. I met a lady, her friend, and dog camping in the area also from the San Fernando Valley. She wanted me to text her wife a message of "thinking about you and I love you" when I got to June Lake because there wasn't any cell service around Schulman Grove. I thought it was so sweet that they are married couple still in love.
Along with me, some photographers trying to get the perfect shot of the ancient bristlecone pine trees during sunset -- these are the oldest living trees in the world at more than 4,000 years old!
The Whispering Pines in June Lake was my home for the next two nights. It was nice to have a kitchen in my motel room as I brought a lot of snacks and instant Asian soup bowls. Of course, I brought my own sheets again, pillow, electric hot water kettle for tea, and air purifier... and brought my disinfecting wipes to sanitize everything I was going to touch in the motel room.
This was the picturesque view outside the motel in June Lake.
Scenes from the stunning June Lake Loop.
This scenic fall morning drive around June Lake was a treat for my birthday.
A flock of sheep on my way to Bodie Ghost Town. I scared them off. :(
I spent a couple hours wandering and taking photographs of Bodie Ghost Town which was a booming town during its heydey during the California Gold Rush era.
This was an interesting find. It was a crate of soda bottles from Glendale, California inside one of the decrepit buildings.
It's a ghost town frozen in time. They haven't done anything to clean up the place, just made some reinforcements to some of the structures.
Some eye candy along highway 108 to Sonora Pass.
Fresh powder at Sonora Pass.
Marking my birthday at the historic and scenic Sonora Pass.
Fall colors on the way back down from Sonora Pass.
June Lake in the afternoon on my way to June Lake Brewery for craft beer and Ohanas 395 for Hawaii-inspired eats. The owner spent time in Hawaii and crafted a menu including poke, fish tacos, fried rice, and vegetarian food. She also has lumpia (Filipino egg rolls) on the menu. I ordered the mahi-mahi fried rice and mahi-mahi tacos to eat with my sour beer and pale ale. I realized that had a huge phone dependence problem when I realized that I left my phone in my car and couldn't take a photo of my fried rice and sour beer lol.
I caught some deer having dinner at dusk back at the motel.
I spent dusk exploring Hot Creek to see the geothermal activity there. It's like a mini Lassen Volcanic National Park.
There weren't many options in June Lake for dinner. This barbecue pizza at June Pie Pizza Co. seemed like the best option for dinner in the area. I didn't eat the crust so that tells you a bit about this pizza.
Due to high wind activity on the 395, I decided not to explore Whitney Portal and Manzanar on my way back down. Instead I returned to Yosemite for the day to take the 41 back down to LA.
The mountain range was beautiful covered in snow, but I dreaded driving over ice and snow. The people behind me probably hated how slow I was driving.
I think I was around 5 years old when I last visited the Tunnel View for a photo. Maybe I'll post it here when I have time to locate it.
I decided to explore the Wawona Hotel surroundings and hike in the area before heading out of Yosemite.
I cracked open this craft beer I bought at the general store near the hotel for my leisurely stroll.
More of a gentle stroll in the woods than a heart-pounding hike, it was peaceful and I enjoyed my time here without anyone around. I ran into only two individuals during my time on the trail.
View of the meadow towards the end of the trail.
I decided on a second round of hiking at Mariposa Grove to see the giant sequoia trees of Yosemite. I ran into deer who weren't afraid of me. Just like dogs, most animals love me!
I quickly roamed the sequoia grove and didn't go further a couple more miles to see the larger grove since it was getting dark. I took the service road back down to avoid hiking in the dark. It was about a 30-minute walk back to the welcome center.
There's so much more to see and do in Yosemite and can't wait for a return trip to explore more places away from the Yosemite Valley which is way overcrowded. I couldn't wait to escape the Valley the last time I visited. There wasn't any parking and too many people. It must be more worse now since my last visit as more people are discovering our national parks and "van life" Instagrammers during the pandemic.
The crowds ruin the experience for me at our national parks. I much prefer the hidden gem national parks. It's nice to know there are still spots to visit in Yosemite that are more peaceful. It also helps to visit Yosemite and other popular national parks during a less busy time of the year.
Hello, I'm Anne.
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and I love exploring Los Angeles like a tourist. I have as much fun in my hometown as I do traveling in another country. I live to eat and travel! My love language is food (and service... can you cook for me?). I hope my adventures inspire you travel, eat well, and live life with no regrets.