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California’s Eastern Sierra is packed with incredible scenic beauty and must-see locations. From Mono Lake and Bodie State Historic Park to Mammoth Mountain and Yosemite National Park, the region is a wonderland of nature.
But the area also boasts smaller, less-known destinations that are equally beautiful and worthy of exploration. Such is the case with June Lake (www.junelakeloop.org), which offers great fishing, hiking, skiing, sightseeing and more. Tucked at the base of 10,909-ft Carson Peak, the scenic little town and the 14-mile-long June Lake Loop that encircles it has been attracting nature-lovers since Hollywood popularized the area in the 1920s.
“June Lake is special because it has that hidden gem, small-town feel while still offering something for everyone,” says Lindsey Chargin, owner/manager of Golden Pine RV Park (www.goldenpinervpark.com) and June Lake Chamber of Commerce Secretary. “Fall is a great time to visit June Lake because the crowds are thinning, the leaves and trees are beautiful and the fish are still biting.”
A couple of friends and I began a recent fall getaway to June Lake at Whispering Pines Motel & Cabins (www.DiscoverWhisperingPines.com), a rustic property situated at the base of Carson Peak and 1.5 miles from June Mountain. The resort offers motel rooms, cabins, and two-bedroom suites for skiers and families who love the beauty of the Sierras.
Our suite at Whispering Pines came with a large living room with a sleeper sofa and TV, a separate bedroom with a queen bed, and a full kitchen with an oven/stove, sink and dining table. The room had a cozy mountain feel and boasted incredible mountain views from the living room and bedroom. In fact, we could see two flowing waterfalls falling down the mountain from the couch!
Once acquainted with the room, we went exploring. One of the highlights of the town is driving the June Lake Loop
“For a quaint town with a year-round population of 600, the June Lake Loop has an incredible amount of offerings including four lakes, six trailheads, a ski area, brewery, craft cannabis boutique, world-class spa, and music venue,” says local resident and businessman Jamie Schectman, president of B-ROC, LLC. “The natural beauty holds its own against many other internationally famous destinations and is frequently being compared with the Alps, but it is located in the Golden State California.”
The loop begins along the southernmost rim of the Mono Basin, where SR 158 veers away from Highway 395. It follows a horseshoe-shaped canyon, surrounded by mountains and traverses four glistening, majestic lakes.
June Lake is about a mile long and a half-mile wide and is served by two marinas. The picturesque lake is ideal for boating, fishing, paddling, and sailing, or as we did, walking around the shoreline skimming stones and admiring incredible views. The lake also boasts a swimming beach, campgrounds, and RV parks.
Gull Lake is the smallest of the four lakes. It offers a boat landing, a community park, a few summer homes and condos, and a campground. Gull Lake is a popular fisherman because of its good trout fishing.
Silver Lake is set in the heart of the Sierra Nevada at the base of Carson Peak, near the confluence of Reversed Creek with Rush Creek. It is home to one of the Sierra’s oldest fishing and vacation spots. Silver Lake Resort, originally known as “Carson’s Camp,” has been famous for quality mountain recreation since 1916. Near here hikers can reach Rush Creek Basin, The Ansel Adams Wilderness, and Yosemite National Park. Finally, there is Grant Lake, the largest of the four lakes and a reservoir on the Los Angeles Aqueduct system. It sits in the shadow of 12,000 ft Mt Wood and is known for its excellent fishing.
Back in the town, we went to June Lake General Store and bought marinated carne asada, flour tortillas, pasta salad, and cold beer and then made a gourmet dinner in our suite at Whispering Pines. While eating, we pulled the curtains open and enjoyed a front-row seat to the jagged cliffs and icy waterfalls of Carson Peak.
The next morning we discovered Parker Lake Trail, a relatively easy 4-mile hike that starts near the north end of June Lake Loop. Beginning in a parking lot, the trail follows Parker Creek into a beautiful aspen forest and then to the Parker Lake, where glacier peaks jet from the water. The lake is a great place to fish for trout. On the way back from the Parker Lake we had sweeping views of Mono Lake and the Mono Craters. We also encountered some deer running across the trail.