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The Ultimate Sierra Nevada Mountains Road Trip | Lee Vining to Mammouth Lakes

One of the highlights of vanlife so far for Jake and I was driving through the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Eastern California. There are so many stunning lakes along this Sierra Nevada road trip with easy access to the water. Especially near Mammoth Lakes, there are tons of alpine lakes surrounded by breathtaking tall mountains. 

Jake and I are used to living in Vail, CO, where you usually have to work for all your alpine lakes by hiking 2,000+ elevation and 7+miles taking it a day to reach just one cool lake. Within this road trip you will visit some epic lakes with some of the most stunning backdrops without even having to leave your vehicle. Here is a guide to the ultimate Sierra Nevada Mountains Road Trip from Lee Vining to Mammoth Lakes to some of the coolest lakes in California. 

Lee Vining:

panoramic view of mono lake in lee vining, ca
Mono Lake

The first stop on this Sierra Nevada Mountains road trip is Lee Vining. It is a small town that is home to Mono Lake. Which is a saline lake that has over 2 million migratory birds that feed off the shrimp that live in the lake. The lake is said to be one of the oldest lakes in North America being 760,000 years old. 

Tufa Towers, towers that grow from underground springs on Mono Lake
Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

Mono lake is known for its Tufa Towers that can grow as tall as 30 feet. The Tufa Towers are made from calcium-carbonate and formed from underground springs. 

Camping Near Mono Lake:

There is a great free place to camp near Mono Lake called Mono Lake Overlook. But, 4×4 is highly suggested.

We actually took our van down the road, but there were some sandy sections that were very stressful, and there are bushes that might scrape the side of your vehicle.

But, if you don’t have 4×4 or campervan off-road essentials, then I would suggest staying in Lower Lee Vining Campground ($14), or try one of the other free campsites on iOverlander.

June Lake Loop:

 The June Lake Loop is a stunning loop that consists of 4 beautiful lakes. 

Grant Lake:

View of Grant Lake
Grant Lake

If you are traveling from North to South, then Grant Lake will be the first lake you come across. Grant Lake is the biggest along the loop and a fishermans paradise.

This lake is known as the “Home Of The German Brown”.

There is even a rule of 10 mph speed limit on the lake till 10am so boats don’t disrupt the fisherman. But after 10am, the speed limit is lifted and watercrafts can enjoy their day at Grant Lake. 

Silver Lake:

Silver Lake on June Lake Loop
Silver Lake

 Silver Lake was one of our favorites stops along the loop because we caught a stunning sunrise over the lake. Silver Lake lies right under Carson Peak making for a beautiful background.

Plus it was fall, so the leaves were all changing making it an even more stunning photo! The surrounding area is home to one of the oldest fishing retreats and camping resorts known as Silver Lake Resort (previously known as Carson’s Camp). 

If you are able to rent one of the cabins, it would be the perfect weekend getaway. 

June Lake:

Now on to June Lake, the lake this loop is named after! June Lake sits in the town of June Lake, which is a small town where you will find restaurants, a brewery and a couple other shops.

Oh! Ridge Campground ($26) borders June Lake making a perfect camping destination for summer travel.

There are also two marinas on June Lake, so you can rent a boat if you want to get out on the water.

Gull Lake:

Gull Lake is the smallest lake among the 4 lakes on the June Lake Loop, but known to be one of the best fishing lakes for trout.

The town of June Lake separates June Lake from Gull Lake. If Oh! Ridge Campground or June Lake Campground is full, Gull Lake Campground ($23) is near also offer stunning views of the area. 

Mammoth Lakes:

Mammoth Lakes has a bunch of cool alpine lakes in a one scenic drive! And it was honestly our favorite stops along the ultimate Sierra Nevada Mountains Road Trip. 

What can we say, we have a thing for little ski towns. Plus there are a few cool breweries you can visit in the area. 

But Mammoth Lakes was definitely an awesome place to adventure to all different alpine lakes. I will go through the loop we took, but there are definitely a handful of other great lakes in the area that we just didn’t visit that could easily be added to your road trip.

Lake Mary:

Lake Mary
Lake Mary

Lake Mary is the largest and most established in the area. You will find many fisherman lining the shores or out on the lake.

Plus it is a great lake to rent a boat or kayak to get out and enjoy the water. But Lake Mary sits at 8,920 feet, so the water stays pretty chilly all summer long. 

Lake George:

Lake George
Lake George

Lake George sits even higher than Lake Mary at 9,250 feet. You will also find many fishermen up at the lake. There are also many great hikes you can access from the Lake George parking lot. Such as Upper Lakes Basin, Crystal Lake Barrett Lake and TJ Lakes. 

Lake Mamie:

Lake Mamie is the smallest lake in the Mammoth Lakes area but still offering stunning views. It’s a great place to stop and enjoy a picnic. 

Horseshoe Lake:

Horseshoe Lake
Horseshoe Lake

Horseshoe Lake is one of the best lakes for swimming in the area because motorized boats aren’t allowed. Also offering beautiful views of mountains in the distance and the lake surrounded by tall trees. 

Camping Near Mammoth Lakes:

We highly suggest staying at one of the campgrounds in the area if you know the dates you will be traveling. You can reserve a campsite at

One of the coolest campgrounds we found was up at Lake George. It would be the perfect spot to set up camp and enjoy some fishing, swimming, and kayaking.

But if you are looking for a free site, we stayed at sawmill cutoff via iOverlander and it was a great spot in the middle of the woods. 

Convict Lake:

Convict Lake
Convict Lake

One of the coolest lakes to end the Ultimate Sierra Nevada Mountains Road Trip, is Convict Lake. Located in the Sherwin Range of the Sierra Nevada’s with Mount Morrison in view.

But the most impressive part of Convict Lake is Sevehah Cliff which is composed of folded metamorphic rock that offers the stunning waves of colors that border the lake. Making it a great photogenic spot for photographers. It’s just one of those places that is much cooler in person, photos simply just don’t do it justice.  

If you want to get out on the water, you can rent a boat from Convict Lake Marina, but do note, the lake isn’t very large. 

The background story of how Convict Lake got its name is from Convicts that escaped from prison in Carson City, NV in the late 1800’s. The convicts then took refuge near the lake after their escape. And then naming the lake after the convicts. 

Camping Near Convict Lake:

There is a great campground a short drive from Convict Lake that has all the amenities such as showers, a convenience store, restaurant, laundry, etc. 

Takeaway For The Ultimate Sierra Nevada Mountains Road Trip | Lee Vining to Mammouth Lakes:

If you are looking for an epic trip adventuring within the Sierra Nevada Mountains, then this Ultimate Sierra Nevada Mountains Road Trip is the perfect vacation for you.

Check out the campgrounds mentioned above if you have specific dates in mind.

And trust me, there are some seriously cool mountain lakes that you can easily explore.

Plus if you have a boat, kayak, SUP, etc, this is the perfect road trip to bring it along on!

We hope you enjoy the Ultimate Sierra Nevada Mountains Road Trip from Lee Vining to Mammoth Lakes.  

And if you want to continue to venture along the coast of California, check out our post:

The Ultimate Pacific Coast Highway California Road Trip From: San Francisco to Los Angelos

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Thursday 23rd of July 2020

Wow these mountains are so gorgeous! Would love to visit one day. Silver Lake and Lake George look the most beautiful and I love that June Lake has a little town nearby.

Emily Schroeter

Friday 24th of July 2020

Yes, definitely add this road trip to the bucket list! You will not be disappointed!

Emily Schroeter

Friday 24th of July 2020

Yes! It is definitely a well-worth road trip!