The Eastern Sierra's granite peaks and giant sequoias bedazzle heart and soul so completely that for many visitors the experience surpasses that at more famous urban attractions. Most of the Sierra's wonders lie within national parks, but outside them deep-blue Mono Lake and its tufa towers never cease to astound. The megaresort Mammoth Lakes, meanwhile, lures skiers and snowboarders in winter and hikers and mountain bikers in summer.
The Eastern Sierra is accessed most easily via Highway 395, which travels the length of the region from the Mojave Desert in the south to Bridgeport in the north. Main towns along the route include Lone Pine, Independence, Bishop, Mammoth Lakes, June Lake, and Lee Vining, a small town at the eastern endpoint of Tioga Road from Yosemite National Park. Pristine lakes and rolling hills outside the parks offer year-round opportunities for rest and relaxation. Or not. In winter the thrill of the slopes—and their relative isolation compared to busy Lake Tahoe—draws a hearty breed of outdoor enthusiasts. In summer a hike through groves and meadows or alongside streams and waterfalls allows you to see, smell, and feel nature up close.