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Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway

The Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway is an approximately 235-mile stretch of US Highway 395 passing through Inyo and Mono Counties in California. The southern terminus is at Little Lake, between Olancha and the junction with Highway 178, and the northern terminus is at the California / Nevada border at Topaz Lake. It’s a project of the Coalition for Unified Recreation in the Eastern Sierra (CURES), a broad partnership of both public and private entities, including the US Forest Service, BLM, NPS, US Department of Transportation, California Department of Fish & Game, and many others.

While this is a driving route, and not a site per se, it bears inclusion because almost all of the route travels through public lands (primarily administered by the BLM), and it offers proximity and/or access points to four National Parks: Death Valley, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite. This route is also frequently used by Pacific Crest and John Muir Trail hikers for re-supply purposes, not to mention the thousands of hikers who attempt to tap out Mt. Whitney each year (the Mt. Whitney portal is in Lone Pine, CA).

On a personal note, this is my favorite highway in the world – my own Mother Road, if you will. I’ve driven its length several times in the past few years getting to and from various hikes and trails in the Eastern Sierra. I could dedicate a whole separate website to the wonders and delights to be found along Hwy 395, but I’ll leave it to you to discover its beauty and charms for yourself. Because road conditions can get hairy, especially during the winter, make sure to check CalTrans for any closure info before heading out. If you don’t feel like driving it yourself, you can catch a pretty cheap Eastern Sierra Transit bus that will get you almost all the way up (or down) 395!

Although completely impractical and counter to my previous route plans, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to kick off my full-time foray into the Public Lands Project with a cruise up 395. I started from its southern terminus at Interstate 15 in Hesperia (although the southern end of the scenic byway is at Little Lake, just south of Olancha) and went to Bishop, where I caught up with some trail family at The Hostel California, before taking it back south to Lone Pine, where I visited the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center (where you can pick up a free copy of ‘Motor Touring in the Eastern Sierra’) before continuing east to Death Valley National Park.

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