Top 5 Pit Stops along the Eastern Sierra

By Dane Deaner

The Eastern Sierra is bursting with an incredible diversity of mountains, lakes, and wilderness to explore. It doesn’t take long to realize how much raw beauty is within the region. You can drive through it all in just a few hours, taking in the cascading cliffs and rolling hills through a car window, or you can spend a lifetime discovering each corner that makes the Eastern Sierra so special. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

I’ve been traveling through the Eastern Sierra for the better part of a decade, letting the lure of curiosity pull me. With a camera in hand, this region was the focus for my first photobook, Along for the Ride: Unplanned Adventures in the Eastern Sierra, where I share my favorite moments from the road, inspiring landscapes, and pit stops that fueled me along the way. I’m a firm believer that it’s not about the destination; it’s about the roads taken to get there—the ride is really where it’s at. Tag along while I divulge my five favorite pit stops along the Eastern Sierra.

1. Alabama Hills

If you’ve never heard of Alabama Hills and you were driven to the location and you opened your eyes for the first time, you might think you were sent off to a different planet. A geological daydream full of jagged peaks, natural arches, and rounded rocks erupt from the earth in all directions. You’ve seen it in movies like Tremors, Django Unchained, and Iron man, but you won’t get the full effect unless you stop by and see for yourself. One of the things that makes Alabama Hills so special is that it shares space at the base of the tallest mountain in the continental United States—Mount Whitney. The best camping spots to hit up are Tuttle Creek Campground, a first-served established campsite, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM), where you can find dispersed camping.

2. Lake Sabrina

Tucked into the mountains just north of Bishop, California, you’ll find Lake Sabrina in all of its glory. One of the most talked-about lakes from local fishermen and one of the most sought-after for hikers of all types, Lake Sabrina is that fresh breath of mountain air you can always count on. Rent a boat and hit the water for either a half-day or a whole day, both of which give you more than enough time to see it all. If you’re heading out, use Lake Sabrina as a jump-off point for some incredible alpine lakes up the mountain. If you’re looking for the best spot to fish, rent a boat and head to the North end of the lake where the creek feeds in—you’ll be guaranteed to get some bites!

3. Convict Lake

Once home to escaped convicts in the late 1800s, this lake is now a one-stop shop for camping, fishing, dining, and hiking. The surrounding mountains hug Convict lake, framing the view and quickly displaying all that this incredible lake has to offer. This is a perfect spot to spend a night or a weekend, whether you’re relaxing by the water after a day of hiking or hanging by a campfire cooking up some fresh trout from the lake. Be sure to hike Convict Lake Loop, dine at The Restaurant at Convict Lake, and if you need a place to crash for the night, rent a cabin or camp under the stars at the Convict Lake Campground.

4. June Lake

I’ll never forget my first experience visiting June Lake. I was driving up the June Lake Loop in mid-October at the height of the golden Aspens. The trees were speckled with yellow and gold, and the lake couldn’t have looked crisper. The view overlooking June Lake is truly one of the most incredible I’ve ever witnessed. It’s home to a perfect little community full of restaurants, lodging, boating, and skiing. A few must-dos in this area: take a drive around the June Lake Loop, swing by Silver Lake and Parker Lake, and end the day with a cold beer from June Lake Brewing.

5. Twin Lakes

Not to be confused with Twin lakes in Mammoth, California, these Twin Lakes sit up in the mountains of Bridgeport, CA, the last stop on your way out of the Eastern Sierra. Take a drive up the windy mountain road that leads you to Twin Lakes, where you’ll find one of the best-hidden getaways in the Sierra. Surrounding mountains tower magnificently while boats cruise by in search of the next hot spot. You can stay in style at one of the cabins on the North end of the lake or try your jiffy pop out while camping at Lower Twin lakes Campground. Some getaway hacks to keep in mind: take a hike up Horse Creek Falls Trailhead, grab lunch at the Village café, and rent a boat at Lower Twin Lakes.

If you follow these helpful tips, you’ll be sure to have a breathtaking adventure!