By Mimi Slawoff
June Lake is small and rustic compared to posh neighbor Mammoth Mountain, but star-filled night skies, towering granite domes and four sparkling alpine lakes make this eastern Sierra town a gem.
In the Jones family since 1977, the homey Silver Lake Lodge and Cafe (6957 Highway 158; 760-648-7525; www.silverlakeresort.net) overlooks Silver Lake, a popular trout-fishing hole. The cozy diner, open for breakfast and lunch, serves big tasty portions at budget prices. Be patient. There might be a line to get seated at the counter or at one of the handful of tables. Use the time to pick up supplies at the adjoining general store.
Worth the 15-minute drive to Lee Vining, Tioga Gas Mart and Whoa Nellie Deli (22 Vista Point Road; 760-647-1088; www.whoanelliedeli.com) is an eclectic one-stop shop for gas, souvenirs and yummy meals. There’s often a line out the door (especially during summer family-friendly concerts) for fish tacos, lobster taquitos, wild buffalo meatloaf, fresh-baked pizza, burgers and sandwiches.
A short drive from the village, the congenial and dog-friendly Double Eagle Resort and Spa (5587 Highway 158; 760-648-7004; www.doubleeagle.com) is situated at the foot of Carson Peak (look closely to see Horsetail Falls). A two-bedroom cabin with a fully-equipped kitchen comfortably sleeps a family of five. Around sunset, take the kids and dog for a walk along the resort’s Reversed Creek path and you’ll probably find deer quietly grazing. The resort’s Eagle’s Landing Restaurant has a woodsy, chic ambiance and offers fine dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
June Lake, Gull Lake, Silver Lake and Grant Lake comprise the June Lake Loop. The beautiful, rugged landscape gushing with streams, creeks and waterfalls is a natural playground for fishing, boating, biking and hiking.
Many trails lead into the nearby backcountry of the Ansel Adams Wilderness Area. Among the easiest is the four-mile roundtrip Parker Lake Trail, which starts off a little steep but soon levels out and follows whispering Parker Creek (with many shaded spots to rest), ending at Parker Lake.
Or pack a picnic and spend an afternoon on a shaded pontoon. Boat rentals are available for $200 and up per day at Silver Lake and full-service marinas located at June, Gull and Grant lakes.
For a unique adventure, learn about Mono Lake’s ecosystem on a two-hour guided canoe tour ($25 per person, no one under age 4 allowed; www.monolake.org/visit/canoe). No paddling experience necessary. Paddle past tufa towers (limestone formations) growing in this ancient saline lake, home to trillions of brine shrimp.
The best place for bicycling is at the Mammoth Mountain Bike Park (one-day tickets cost $49 adults, $23 ages 12 and younger; from The Village at Mammoth, take the Bike Park Shuttle; www.mammothmountain.com/bikepark). Pedal on your own or take a guided tour to navigate the elaborate network of trails for beginners to experts. The Discovery Zone Learning Area is a good place to practice before tackling level forest or challenging mountaintop trails.
Let’s Go columnist Mimi Slawoff is a mother of three who writes about family fun.