Post Summary: All the best stops on Highway 395 in California and where to find them.
Road trips are just the best.
You’ve got the snacks, the buddies, the tunes, and an entire PNW podcast to catch up on, but what makes the trip even better are the stops and attractions along the way!
California is choc-full of scenic drives (like our fave, the Pacific Coast Highway) but the east side of the state holds a special place in our hearts. It’s full of quirky towns, alien-like geology, and lots of hidden gems to discover out in the desert.
Berty and I have visited the Eastern Sierras quite a few times now, and have put together an epic road trip itinerary for your next California adventure.
In this post, we’ve got you covered with this Highway 395 road trip guide that includes the best stops on Highway 395!
So pack up, pump the gas, and queue “Life is a Highway!” for your next road trip along scenic Highway 395.
- Highway 395 Road Trip Logistics (Before You Go)
- The Best Stops on a Highway 395 Road Trip in California
- 1. Agua Dulce
- 2. Randsburg Ghost Town
- 3. Lone Pine
- 4. Alabama Hills
- 5. Death Valley National Park
- 6. Manzanar Historic Site
- 7. Bristlecone Pine Forest
- 8. Lake Sabrina
- 9. Inyo National Forest
- 10. Bishop, CA
- 11. Rock Creek Lake
- 12. Crowley Lake Stone Columns
- 13. Convict Lake
- 14. Devils Postpile National Monument
- 15. Wild Willy's Hot Springs
- 16. Hot Creek Geological Site
- 17. Mammoth Lakes
- 18. June Lake
- 19. Tioga Pass (Off Route)
- 20. Mono Lake
- 21. Yosemite Junction
- 22. Travertine Hot Springs
- 23. Bridgeport Reservoir
- 24. Topaz Lake
- 25. Lake Tahoe Access
- 26. Reno, Nevada
- Highway 395 Road Trip Itinerary Examples
- Map of Highway 395 Attractions
- More California Adventures
Highway 395 Road Trip Logistics (Before You Go)
When is the best time to plan a Highway 395 road trip?
We think late summer or early fall is the best time to plan a road trip through the Eastern Sierras. This is because the summer crowds have mostly dispersed (after Labor Day) and the snow hasn’t closed anything yet.
Plus, the fall colors here can be quite magical!
Where Should you start and finish your trip?
The entire highway 395 in California stretches from the Oregon border all the way down to Victorville. Our itinerary examples go through all the most scenic parts, from Los Angeles, California to Reno, Nevada.
You could start in Reno and drive south, or start in Los Angeles and drive north. The best route depends on where you’re coming from!
Renting a Car to Drive Highway 395
The most convenient places to rent a car are in Los Angeles, CA and Reno, NV. If you plan to stop along motels, resorts, and cabins during your trip, we suggest renting a 4-wheel drive vehicle from RentalCars.com. (They have the most choices and the best prices!)
If you are planning to go camping along the way, we highly recommend renting an RV or campervan from Outdoorsy. Think of it like Airbnb but for RVs and decked-out campervans. It’s like transportation and accommodations all in one, so it’s a great budget-friendly option!
Where to Stay on a Highway 395 Road Trip
Depending on your budget, there are plenty of great places to stay on Highway 395. Here are some tips we recommend following when it comes to booking accommodations:
Finding Free Camping (Dispersed camping): There are several areas along Highway 395 that allow dispersed camping. Expect these spots to be busy in the summer, and possibly closed in the winter. Here’s how to find free camping in the USA.
Hotels and Vacation Homes: Availability depends on the time of year you visit. We recommend pre-booking your stays in the summer season, but you could get away with on-the-fly bookings more in the spring and summer.
The Best Stops on a Highway 395 Road Trip in California
1. Agua Dulce
Agua Dulce is a small community near Los Angeles that has unique geographic features. It’s likely one of the first stops on your Highway 395 road trip if you’re starting from Los Angeles.
The most interesting formation in Agua Dulce is the Vasquez Rocks, which is a popular filming location for the nearby Hollywood!
On your Highway 395 California road trip, be sure to stop by Agua Dulce!
2. Randsburg Ghost Town
What once was a booming mining town, the abandoned Randsburg Ghost Town no longer collects prospective miners, but road trippers and curious explorers along the old Highway 395!
Randsburg Ghost Town is located in the Rand Mining District, which became Southern California’s largest gold producer, making it an intriguing stop along Highway 395.
Ironically, it’s considered a “living ghost town” because the town still sees a steady stream of people coming for prospecting (mining for minerals), biking around the desert, and visiting the historic buildings that are still standing in Randsburg.
Randsburg still has a working Saloon and General Store which serves food and drinks to weary travelers and is often open on the weekends only.
This is a great stop along Highway 395 in California if you love history and don’t mind meeting a lot of eclectic people!
3. Lone Pine
Located along the Alabama Hills, Lone Pine is a small town with big views!
Because Lone Pine is situated in the Great Basin, the town has stunning views of both the Inyo Mountains to the east and the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Alabama Hills to the west.
Fun enough, Lone Pines has been the setting for many movies, and you can learn about specific movie sites and how you can visit them for yourself here!
Additionally, you can give the Museum of Western Film History a visit next time you visit Alabama Hills.
Just outside of town, you can visit the Alabama Hills Information Center, where you can find incredibly helpful rangers ready to help you find places to camp for free on BLM land.
Be sure to stop here during your trip along Highway 395 because Lone Pine is the last and closest place you can find flushing toilets and hotel beds before venturing out into the wild and natural landscape of the Alabama Hills and larger Great Basin!
4. Alabama Hills
Alabama Hills is one of the most iconic Southwest destinations to visit on Highway 395.
Free camping, amazing climbing/bouldering spots, and photography opportunities are around every corner!
To make the most of your trip here, plan to go camping in Alabama Hills–it’s free and there are tons of little pockets and places to rest your head for the night.
In the morning, seek out the famous Movie Road – a dirt road with a jaw-dropping background of Mt. Whitney and the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Here, we witnessed one of the most beautiful sunrises on our Southwest road trip, and we highly recommend visiting to experience it yourself too!
5. Death Valley National Park
Death Valley is a detour off California Highway 395, but absolutely worth the drive. Here’s our 1-day Death Valley itinerary to explore the park in 24 hours.
The closest entrance is 80 miles from Lone Pine, so if you are committing to going, you’re also committing to a LOT of driving! Make sure to have a full tank of gas before entering the park.
If you are coming in the summer, we’d suggest skipping this stop because it can be atrociously hot, like 110 degrees. If it’s any other season, definitely check it out!
6. Manzanar Historic Site
In 1942, more than 110,000 people were relocated from their homes and placed in remote, military-style camps by the United States Government.
The Manzanar Historic Site (then known as the Manzanar War Relocation Center) was one of ten camps that held Japanese immigrants who were ineligible for citizenship and Japanese American citizens during World War II.
The Manzanar Historic Site was established in 1992 to make known the tragic story of displacement in American history and stand against the injustice of the time.
7. Bristlecone Pine Forest
The ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, which is located in Inyo National Forest, is a high-elevation forest of super old trees.
Some of the living trees in the Bristlecone Pine Forest are over 4,000 years old and still proudly show off their twisted, beautiful, and weathered trunks!
Within the forest, there are multiple tree groves, informative signs about the trees, three guided hiking trails, and a visitor’s center.
Camping is not allowed at the Bristlecone Pine Forest, but you can camp at the nearby Grandview Campground!
Stretch your legs at this destination off of Highway 395 and enjoy a full day of fresh air, beautiful views of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, and ancient trees.
8. Lake Sabrina
Found in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, Lake Sabrina is just twenty minutes from Bishop, California and high in Inyo National Forest.
Be sure to add this to your Highway 395 itinerary, as Lake Sabrina is not one to miss!
9. Inyo National Forest
Located on the California and Nevada border lies the Inyo National Forest–a two-million-acre piece of land containing some of the most beautiful features of the southern states, including California’s most popular (and massive!) 14er, Mt. Whitney!
Inyo National Forest is a great stop off Highway 395, as there are tons of things to do!
Here, you can camp, have a lovely picnic off of any of the highway’s side roads, hike popular trails, or fish in the summer.
Want to keep driving and stay in the car? Drive along any of these gorgeous California scenic drives to experience the wonders of Eastern Sierra and Inyo National Forest!
10. Bishop, CA
The charming town of Bishop, California not only has excellent views of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range but acts as a hub for adventure in central California.
From Bishop, you can access the wonders of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, like bouldering, hiking (Bishop Pass is a great option!), backpacking (including the John Muir Trail), mountain biking, fishing, and sightseeing, to name a few!
You can also stay in town and explore the quaint downtown area.
Because Highway 395 passes right through Bishop, it’s not difficult to miss, so pop in for a day or two and soak up the goodness it has to offer!
11. Rock Creek Lake
Rock Creek Lake is several miles off of Highway 395, but is not one to miss!
This lake is located in Rock Creek Canyon and features a lakeside campground, views of the mountains, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, climbing, and more!
Rock Creek Lake is particularly gorgeous during the fall when the deciduous trees surrounding the lake change to their vibrant hues of yellows and oranges.
12. Crowley Lake Stone Columns
While these columns are not the easiest location to reach, visitors are rewarded with unobstructed views of this incredible natural wonder on the edge of Mono Lake!
The Crowley Lake Stone Columns are strange rock formations that look like twisted spires made of stone.
Researchers have a theory that they are the product of a large volcanic eruption, and years and years of swirling snow and boiling water carving out the columns.
Travelers will need to take a 40-minute detour from Highway 395 onto a series of dirt roads to access the stone columns.
A 4-wheel drive vehicle is required to make it safely, and during times when water levels are high, it can be temporarily cut off from access!
If you are wanting to visit the Crowley Lake Stone Columns, spend some time checking weather conditions, assessing if your car can make the drive (I wouldn’t recommend going in a rental car), and packing your car with plenty of water and sunscreen!
13. Convict Lake
This drive-to lake feels like it should be much harder to reach, but it’s so close to Highway 395!
With towering mountain views and near alpine-like conditions, Convict Lake is a crystal clear lake that’s popular with locals and visitors alike.
Convict Lake was carved out of glaciers thousands of years ago and is fed by mountain water runoff, which makes this lake exceptionally clean and scenic.
Convict Lake has a history of cornering escaped inmates from Carson City into their eventual demise, which is where the lake got its name!
With a campground and a resort nearby, this is a popular place for both overnighters and day-trippers.
On any given sunny day, you’ll find the shore dotted with families enjoying picnics, fishing, or hiking around the lake’s loop trail.
This is a great stop on any Highway 395 road trip for a perfect cool-down from the hot desert weather of Eastern California!
14. Devils Postpile National Monument
If you love geography, you’re going to love Devil’s Postpile National Monument!
It’s one of ‘the world’s finest examples of columnar basalt’ rock, towering near 60 feet high and with impressible symmetry and pattern.
At the national monument, you can check out the Postpile or hike to the famous 101-foot-tall Rainbow Falls.
It’s important to note that this area is only open during the summer months!
15. Wild Willy’s Hot Springs
Wild Willy’s Hot Springs are just one of many hot springs you can drive up to along the Highway 395 corridor.
Wild Willy’s is the most popular hot spring along Highway 395, likely because there is clear road access, camping, and a few pit toilets on-site.
This site is free and open year-round, and it’s important to pick up after yourself to leave this place clean for future use.
To get to the hot springs from Highway 395, take a right on Benton Crossing Road, drive three miles past two cow grates, and then look out for a right turn onto a dirt road.
The road is 1.5-miles long and lined with logs.
Reaching the end of the parking lot, you can reach the hot springs with a short boardwalk trail, where you can take your pick of pools!
16. Hot Creek Geological Site
Hot Creek Geological Site is an incredible Highway 395 stop on your road trip!
Sitting below the surface of the earth’s crust is a chamber of bubbling magma, creating fumaroles and geysers that let off heat along the creek bed.
From Highway 395, drive on Hot Creek Hatchery Road, and drive 5 miles on a paved-turned-gravel road.
Here, there is parking, bathrooms, and interpretive signs for more information.
This place is incredible to see any time of year, but in the winter it brings a unique perspective.
In the morning, steam will rise off the ribbon-like creek, with the Sierra Nevada Mountains dusted with snow in the background. It’s beautiful!
Note: People often take self-portraits on a ledge overlooking the bends of the creek. This area is actually fenced off and put there for your safety. Please respect the boundaries and don’t cross the fence for a photo – let’s all do our part in keeping yourself and others safe.
17. Mammoth Lakes
Mammoth Lakes is the only incorporated town in Mono County, making it the default basecamp for people preparing for adventures nearby.
Sitting at 7,880 feet and right at the base of Mammoth Mountain, Mammoth Lakes is a popular ski hub in the winter season and an equally popular place in the summer season for hiking and mountain biking.
There are plenty of beautiful Mammoth lake Airbnbs for rent here, and other cozy hotels to book as well!
This is a great stop on your Highway 395 road trip for a little break, shower, and restock on anything you might need for the rest of your trip.
Enjoy a warm bed and beautiful views of the Eastern Sierras!
18. June Lake
Situated right off of Highway 395, June Lake is a 14-mile loop that is tucked into the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains.
The resort community of June Lake is a great base camp for many outdoor adventures in the area, including water sports on June Lake itself and skiing on June Mountain!
Trout fishing at any of the four lakes on the June Lake loop (June, Gull, Silver, and Grant) is extremely popular due to the trophy-sized Alpers trout that are stocked in the lakes.
Be sure to visit June Lake in early October to see the jaw-dropping fall colors the area is known for during your Highway 395 road trip!
19. Tioga Pass (Off Route)
Whether you plan on entering the park or not, Tioga Pass is a gorgeous place to stop to take in the views (just be sure you know when the pass is open during the winter months!).
The meadows surrounding both of these attractions at Tioga Pass are particularly stunning, as they highlight purple lupine and yellow monkey’s paw.
Note: These destinations are located within Yosemite National Park. Ne prepared to pay an entrance fee, if you don’t already have a pass (~$20-35 per car).
20. Mono Lake
Mono Lake is a large lake with no outlet to the ocean, which explains its unusually high concentration of saltwater.
Because of its high alkaline content, you will find ‘tufa,’ or towers of calcium carbonate or limestone around the lake.
These tufas were revealed when water levels decreased due to excessive water diversions by the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power in 1941.
Nowadays, the tufa of Mono Lake are on beautiful display and are one of the coolest Highway 395 attractions.
If you want to stretch your legs, we definitely recommend stopping at the South Tufa Area for up-close views of the limestone towers.
For lunch, keep driving north and stop at Mono Lake Park on the north side. This area has an incredibly well-kept lawn, picnic tables, and a boardwalk to learn about the many bird species that live here.
For delicious restaurants nearby, check out the Whoa Nellie Deli in Lee Vining.
They have gas, casual gourmet food, and a gift shop on site!
21. Yosemite Junction
Yosemite Junction is not only an access point to Yosemite National Park, but is a hub to reach various activities in central California!
Alternatively, you can reach Yosemite Junction from California State Route 120, which is approximately 9 miles southwest of Sonora.
From here, you can go wine tasting at Arthur Michael Vineyard & Winery, which is tucked into the Sierra foothills, pan for gold in Jamestown, California, or go hiking in the Red Hills Recreation Management Area.
22. Travertine Hot Springs
Just outside of Bridgeport, California, you’ll find the one-of-a-kind Travertine Hot Springs.
Despite its remote location, Travertine Hot Springs is frequented often and is unique for its remarkable views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Travertine Hot Springs is named after ‘travertine,’ which is dried, hardened limestone and sedimentary rock produced by the hot springs itself!
Travertine Hot Springs is easily accessible from Highway 395 and is only a one-minute walk from the parking area!
Better yet, Travertine Hot Springs is near many other attractions, including Mammoth Lakes, Yosemite National Park, lodging, Mt. Jackson, and the Bridgeport Reservoir.
23. Bridgeport Reservoir
The Bridgeport Reservoir is a gorgeous, large lake located in the midst of Bridgeport Valley.
Created in 1924 for agriculture and recreational use, the Bridgeport Reservoir captures the High Sierra snowmelt.
At its fullest capacity, the lake can get up to 50 feet deep and cover 11 miles of shoreline, making it the biggest lake in the area!
The Bridgeport Reservoir is most popular for trout fishing (some of the biggest Brown and Rainbow trout caught in Mono County have been from this lake!), waterskiing, boating, sailing, and kayaking.
The lake also has wonderful views of the Sierras and peaks of Yosemite National Park, making it a great location to stop, camp, and take in the scenery for a day or two!
24. Topaz Lake
Topaz Lake is truly “Home of the Trophy Trout.”
Due to the high number of large trout caught in the manmade lake, Topaz Lake is admired by local fisherman and visitors alike.
Because of its popularity, the Topaz Lodge runs an annual winter fishing derby, which is a refreshing outdoor activity in the midst of winter!
Whether you’re staying at the Topaz Lodge, fishing, sailing, boating, or hiking, Topaz Lake also has a ton to offer along its 25 miles of shoreline!
Topaz Lake is located at the northern end of Antelope Valley, at the border of California and Nevada, and is easily accessible from Highway 395
25. Lake Tahoe Access
Split by the California-Nevada border, Lake Tahoe is one of the largest and clearest lakes in the area, spanning 191 miles with 72 miles of shoreline!
Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the US (Crater Lake being the first) and is fed by dozens of tributaries, but most of the water entering the lake is from rain or snowfall.
While its natural attributes are what makes this lake unique, Lake Tahoe is primarily known for the wide variety of outdoor activities the area has to offer.
In the winter, the Lake Tahoe area is known for its skiing, tubing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling!
To reach Lake Tahoe from Highway 395, turn left onto US-50 and follow the signs for South Lake Tahoe for about twenty minutes!
If the activity isn’t enough to make you stop, the stunning views surrounding Lake Tahoe sure are a wonderful reason to visit this destination on your Highway 395 road trip!
26. Reno, Nevada
While Reno, Nevada is known for its tourism and casinos, the lively city has many more unique attractions that are easily accessible from Highway 395!
For one, Reno is one of the most well-known ski towns in the winter, because it’s so close to Lake Tahoe!
In the summer, however, Reno is abundant in activities and popular locations like the National Automobile Museum, the Animal Ark Wildlife Sanctuary, the nearby Lake Tahoe, and their Labor Day hot air balloon festival (free!).
On your next Highway 395 road trip, be sure to stop on your way through Reno to experience the bustling city of many cultures, cuisine, and activities!
Highway 395 Road Trip Itinerary Examples
5-Day Itinerary for Highway 395
- Day 1: Drive from LA to Alamaba Hills
- Day 2: Drive to Bishop, CA
- Day 3: Drive to Mammoth Lakes
- Day 4: Drive to Mono Lake
- Day 5: Drive to Reno, Nevada
1-Week Highway 395 Road Trip Itinerary
- Day 1: Drive from LA to Alabama Hills
- Day 2: Drive to Death Valley National Park (spend 1 night here)
- Day 3: Drive out of Death Valley to Bishop, CA
- Day 4: Drive to Mammoth Lakes
- Day 5: Explore areas around Mammoth Lakes
- Day 6: Drive to Lake Tahoe
- Day 7: Finish your road trip in Reno, NV
Map of Highway 395 Attractions
Looking for a HIghway 395 map of all the attractions we listed?
We listed them in order northbound, but here is the map for a more visual interpretation!
Did we miss any cool stops on our Highway 395 road trip route? Tell us in the comments