Scenic and weird things to see in the eastern Sierras?
September 18, 2015 12:08 PM   Subscribe

I forgot we're going on a road trip tomorrow (tentative route) leaving from Berkeley, CA. What should we do? Where should we stay? Where should we stop to see amazing and weird things?

The plan is to leave tomorrow, 9/19, and get back on Friday, 9/25. The only fixed date on the itinerary is to be in Bakersfield on Wednesday 9/23 to see the Beach Boys at the Kern County Fair. We would also like to see Mono Lake and Bodie (hence the stop in Lee Vining).

I've been looking at the California's Gold map and at state parks, but it's overwhelming.

So hive mind - do you have any recommendations of places to stop and check out? We're interested in the regular things: places to stay, light hiking, weird attractions, historical sites, vegan friendly food, local coffee roasters, and maybe antiques and record stores.

posted by kendrak to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Atlas Obscura has a bunch of suggestions for you!

In particular, Bishop Tuff Volcanic Deposits (Mammoth Lakes), Trona Pinnacles (Trona), and Devils Postpile (Madera) National Monument look amazing, and you can't really beat Barker Ranch (Panamint Springs) when it comes to weird sightseeing.
posted by divined by radio at 12:40 PM on September 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you stop in Fresno take Herndon in to town, take a R on Palm, and turn L into Fig Garden Village shopping centre. Quirky and interesting it is not, but it's one of the least offensive strip malls, and there's a good bakery, Whole Foods, Jamba Juice, and some local places. A few blocks away is a Trader Joe's too. You can take 41S out of town and meet up with 99 again without backtracking.
posted by jrobin276 at 12:46 PM on September 18, 2015

Bakersfield: you need to eat either peppermint ice milk or a black & white at Dewar's. You won't regret it.
posted by delight at 12:48 PM on September 18, 2015

Lassen National Park is not exactly on your route but is pretty close. It has some great weird and scenic things, like Bumpass Hell and the Painted Dunes. (Note: those are not really close to each other in the park.) The Subway Cave lava tubes just north of the park are also worth a visit.

There is some great hiking near Graeagle, leaving from nearby to Gold Lakes Lodge. Here's a map of a long loop but there are lots of trails and options for shorter loops.

Here's what I wrote recently about hiking trails near Truckee. On the weirder front, there are also train tunnels. For vegan food in Truckee, I can think of Cafe Spice and Red Truck but I'm not vegan. People like the Coffee Bar for coffee but I never drink it so no personal opinion.

Renting an SUP on Lake Tahoe is gorgeous as the water is really clear. Emerald Bay is a spectacular place to stop and for history there is Vikingsholm, but I've never been there. Freshies in South Lake has vegan options.

You're already going to Mono Lake, which is great. There's the Whoa Nellie Deli in the gas station in Lee Vining, which looks like it probably has some vegan options. There's Erick Schat's Bakkery in Bishop that's really popular, not sure how many vegan options they have.

Seconding Atlas Obscura for finding weird things.
posted by carolr at 12:54 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If Bodie isn't enough ghost town, you can stop by Calico north of Bakersfield.

Also in Bakersfield, there is a Woolworth's diner that serves food in a antiques store. I haven't yet gone, but I've wanted to.
posted by Duffington at 1:00 PM on September 18, 2015

We (two adults + two teens) were in parts of the Eastern Sierra last month, camping at Grover Hot Springs State Park near Markleeville. We also took a day trip to Bodie State Park, which is a mining ghost town on the outskirts of Bridgeport, CA. It's very cool and a fund visit back in time, if you;re into that sort of thing. It does get a lot of tourist traffic, though. The whole area was beautiful and well worth the visit. If you travel through Bridgeport, I recommend stopping at the Jolly Kone for burgers, shakes, Mexican food, and all manner of fried food - good stuff! Lots of great scenery and amazing fishing to be found un the Eastern Sierra! Enjoy!
posted by mosk at 1:01 PM on September 18, 2015

posted by mollymayhem at 1:37 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Bodie State Historic Park was so cool. I second mosk's recommendation. Be sure to bring water, hat, and a snack, though - it can get very hot there, and there are few services.
posted by mylittlepoppet at 2:00 PM on September 18, 2015

To see amazing mountain scenery with very little effort, head to Little Lakes Valley. The whole trail is maybe 5 miles one way, but I think the first lake is only a mile or so in and it is relatively flat. I have hiked and backpacked all over the Sierras, and this trail has the most beauty for the least effort. As a side benefit there is pie on the way to the trailhead.

Definitely worth your time -- have a great trip!.
posted by elmay at 2:02 PM on September 18, 2015

Best answer: It's a bit of an effort to get up there, but if you want to see the actual oldest living things on Earth, head for the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:40 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is mostly scenic stuff, but I would also recommend a stop at Mt. Lassen. See the Sundial Bridge in Redding, and Burney Falls as well, since you're literally driving right by. Here's a great article on things to do at Lake Tahoe. I'd stop at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center, as again, you'll drive right by it. Seconding Freshies in Lake Tahoe. Note that they're not fast, but they *are* super nice, and you can eat on the roof, looking out on the lake.

As you pass by Lee Vining, you're really not far from Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite. Drive all the way into Olmsted Point and see the valley from the end most people don't. (Cross the road and climb to the top.)

See Devil's Postpile as you go by Mammoth. You're also driving right by Death Valley.
posted by cnc at 8:49 PM on September 18, 2015

On the (far) outskirts of Bakersfield, the Trona Pinnacles and China Lake petroglyph canyons are truly awe-inspiring ancient sites.
posted by Scram at 10:46 PM on September 18, 2015

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