June Lake is ideal East­ern Sierra re­sort desti­na­tion

The Oakdale Leader - - 209 LIVING - By DEN­NIS WY­ATT 209 Liv­ing

JUNE LAKE — If you em­ployed the “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” rat­ing sys­tem to judge East­ern Sierra re­sort des­ti­na­tions, June Lake would be “just right.”

There are a lot of great spots for the Papa Bear crowd — Mono Vil­lage Re­sort and Vir­ginia Lakes Re­sort among oth­ers — that have the pre­req­ui­site lake­side RV spa­ces, camp­ing and even cab­ins tucked part way up a canyon less than 10 miles off High­way 395. It’s a bit “hard” in terms of what you get in crea­ture com­forts as well as what you can ac­cess.

There are a few des­ti­na­tions for the Mama Bear types — Bishop and Mam­moth Lakes. They are es­sen­tially small towns with a bit of the hus­tle and bus­tle you said you wanted to leave be­hind. While both are close to a reper­toire of great Sierra out­ings, bas­ing a va­ca­tion in ei­ther one is def­i­nitely on the “soft” side al­though Paris Hil­ton would stren­u­ously dis­agree.

Then there is June Lake. It is off the beaten path but it’s not at the end of the prover­bial road. It is also not a one horse won­der. There’s

not just one set of out­door ex­pe­ri­ences when you step out of your tent, RV, cabin, or mo­tel room first thing in the morn­ing. There is also a wide reper­toire of des­ti­na­tions in less than an hour that makes June Lake the ideal base to en­joy an East­ern Sierra get­away.

Plus it has a hand­ful of ameni­ties — sev­eral restau­rants in­clud­ing a brew­ery, a gen­eral store, and a few spe­cialty shops — when com­bined with na­ture’s of­fer­ings makes it “just right” by be­ing not too hard and not too soft.

So what can you do along the June Lake Loop — a horse­shoe route dubbed High­way 158 that con­nects with High­way 395 — that is roughly a four-hour drive from the Cen­tral Val­ley via Tioga Pass/High­way 120?

In terms of Sierra ad­ven­tures the eas­ier ques­tion might be what can’t you do?

First there are the four lakes that are nes­tled in the glacier carved loop at 7,700 feet that are be­low towering peaks push­ing 10,000 feet that have prompted some to dub June Lake as the Amer­i­can Switzer­land.

The three nat­u­ral lakes — June, Sil­ver, and Gull — are pop­u­lar fish­ing spots as well as ca­noe­ing and swim­ming ar­eas. June of­fers the added bonus of an ex­pan­sive sandy beach that ri­vals what you will find at Lake Ta­hoe in­clud­ing Sand Har­bor. Sil­ver Lake is par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar with the fish­ing crowd thanks to ex­ten­sive shady shore lo­cales for drop­ping a line. Grant Lake — a man­made reser­voir — gets high marks for fish­ing and is ideal for wake board­ing, wa­ter ski­ing and jet ski­ing.

World class trout fish­ing can be found in the nu­mer­ous lakes above June Lake at 9,000 feet. It takes a hike — you can also pack in by horse for an overnight or mul­ti­ple day stay — but the re­wards are worth it. Dur­ing two-day hikes I took along the Rush Creek and ad­ja­cent wa­ter­sheds more than half the hik­ers and overnight back­pack­ers I en­coun­tered had fish­ing poles.

The few I struck up con­ver­sa­tions with said it was the best fish­ing they’ve ever en­joyed. I could lit­er­ally see why as at sev­eral lakes I opted to stroll along the shores in­stead of hik­ing by I was able to see trout swim­ming in the clear wa­ter.

For me, hik­ing is the thing. I was able to take three dif­fer­ent hikes out of June Lake and still not do all of the pri­mary op­tions. There are ar­guably more ac­ces­si­ble lakes via day hikes out of June Lake than any other start­ing point along the High­way 395 cor­ri­dor. Toss in a few passes and I’m a happy hiker.

You hike into the Ansel Adams Wilder­ness and can even en­ter the John Muir Wilder­ness on a longer day hike. Be­cause of how the moun­tains un­folded and the el­e­va­tion that of­ten ca­joles af­ter­noon sum­mer rain from clouds you’ll be hard pressed to match the com­bi­na­tion of rel­a­tively abun­dant wild­flow­ers and dra­matic back­drops. It ex­plains why on the course of hikes I came across three rare sight­ings — hik­ers car­ry­ing tra­di­tional cam­era equip­ment on the hunt for breath­tak­ing photos.

I’d be re­miss not to men­tion the big­gest at­trac­tion of June Lake is the abil­ity to re­lax.

It is es­pe­cially true in the lodg­ing op­tions. I stayed at the June Lake Mo­tel where a num­ber of guests re­turn ev­ery year for week-long stays. They take ad­van­tage of avail­able bar­be­cues to pre­pare fam­ily meals they en­joy on the bal­cony on the front of their mo­tel rooms at the end of the day. It also helps that there is min­i­mum traf­fic on High­way 158 and that the at­mos­phere is low key. I used to think that was the case when I stayed in Lee Vin­ing, Bridge­port, Long Pine, or Big Pine. But all of those mo­tels were just off busy High­way 395 with 24-hour truck traf­fic and more.

I’ll ad­mit a big plus was be­ing able to sleep with the win­dows open to en­joy the cool breezes sweep­ing down on June Lake from the 9,000 foot moun­tains above.

And be­cause June Lake is slightly off the beaten path and isn’t a ma­jor re­sort like Mam­moth Lakes you can rent rooms and cab­ins for less while ar­guably get­ting bet­ter ac­com­mo­da­tions, a lot more re­lax­ation, and more of a true East­ern Sierra ex­pe­ri­ence.

Even bet­ter yet is what you can do in drives of 45 min­utes or less by bas­ing in June Lake.

You can walk among on­shore Tufa tow­ers — cre­ated when cal­cium from un­der­wa­ter springs com­bines with car­bon­ate in the wa­ter —they are eerie moon-like pil­lars on the land­scape sur­round­ing Mono Lake.

You can take a guided kayak tour on the an­cient Mono Lake that traces its roots back to the ini­tial mas­sive vol­canic ex­plo­sion that cre­ated the Long Val­ley Caldera 767,000 years ago. The lake is one of the largest stops for birds on the Pa­cific Fly­way.

You can beat the crowds to Yosemite Na­tional Park’s High coun­try gem — Tuolumne Mead­ows.

There are a num­ber of canyons you can drive into to ei­ther fish or hike to­ward the Sierra Crest.

Mam­moth Lakes with all of its nat­u­ral at­trac­tions as well as ameni­ties is a short drive.

There are lots of canyons to hike and fish to catch in nearby canyons in­clud­ing the East­ern Sierra clas­sic hike up Lundy Canyon.

Spend another few min­utes on the road and you can visit Bodie State Park — the West’s largest ghost town left in an ar­rested state of de­te­ri­o­ra­tion.

And you can even squeeze in a hike to unique des­ti­na­tions such as the Pal­isade Glacier out of Big Pine re­quir­ing an 18-mile round trip hike within a rea­son­able two hour drive.

For me, it also helps that my fa­vorite book­store is less than 20 min­utes away from June Lake in Lee Vin­ing at the Mono Lake Com­mit­tee that dou­bles as a vis­i­tors’ in­for­ma­tion cen­ter. It has ar­guably the most com­plete col­lec­tion of books on wa­ter politics — with a heavy em­pha­sis on Cal­i­for­nia — and wa­ter in gen­eral. I rarely es­cape with­out spend­ing $100 to $150. For­tu­nately it’s only a once-a-year in­dul­gence. And if you haven’t fig­ured it out, my fa­vorite books cen­ter around wa­ter politics and wa­ter is­sues.

If sum­mer isn’t your thing the fall col­ors on the June Lake Loop are sec­ond to none in the East­ern Sierra.

It is also home to June Lake Moun­tain Ski Re­sort as well as well as the world class Dou­ble Ea­gle Re­sort and Spa.

June Lake is also pop­u­lar for winter snow­mo­bil­ing, snow­board­ing, and snow­shoe­ing.

For the best source of in­for­ma­tion on the June Lake area and ac­com­mo­da­tions go to


TOP PHOTO: Fern Lake at 9,500 feet is above June Lake and in­volves a 7.6 mile hike with a 1,400-foot el­e­va­tion gain. TOP LEFT PHOTO: Wild­flow­ers in Lundy Canyon. TOP RIGHT PHOTO: Yost Lake is at 8,885 feet and is reached out of June Lake. The wa­ter is...

DEN­NIS WY­ATT/209 Liv­ing

TOP PHOTO: Sec­ond Lake’s turquoise wa­ter is due to it be­ing fed by the Pal­isade Glacier. MID­DLE LEFT PHOTO: A photo of Sam Mack Mead­ows at 11,060 feet taken from the 12,400-foot level re­turn­ing from the Pal­isade Glacier. MID­DLE TOP RIGHT PHOTO: The...

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