For seven days, we're taking you on a fall road trip through the Eastern Sierra of California and Nevada. We'll go behind the scenes of our September issue's cover story, "The Road to Gold," with bonus photographs and videos. Follow along and use our daily itinerary to plan your own trip up quiet, gorgeous U.S. Highway 395. See days 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.
Mammoth Lakes, CA
9 a.m. Mammoth Lakes Basin
Follow Lake Mary Road south toward Red Mountain, where the town was founded after an 1877 gold and silver strike. Head to Coldwater Campground for a self-guided tour of the Mammoth Consolidated Mine’s buildings and equipment. Nearby, campgrounds and cabin resorts are tucked into the red firs bordering four lakes: Twin, Mary, Mamie, and George. Bikers ride the paved Lakes Basin Path, and hikers take their pick of trails. Follow the short path from Lake George to TJ and Barrett Lakes, or the steeper trail that leads to Crystal Lake, which fills a granite bowl below 10,364-foot Crystal Crag.
Ride the Mammoth Mountain Panorama Gondola to the 11,053-foot summit for an effortless 360° that takes in the Minarets, Mono Lake, and 400 miles of the Sierra’s highest peaks. $25; 10001 Minaret Rd.
Geology meets geometry at this massive basalt oddity alongside the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River. From the ranger station in the valley, walk 15 minutes to the base of the 60-foot-high columns. From U.S. 395, 10 miles west on State 203 to Minaret Vista, 8 miles on a mountain road; $7/shuttle entry ($10/vehicle starting early to mid-Sep).
6 p.m. Minaret Vista
Watch the sun drop behind the Ritter Range, a chain of serrated peaks and pinnacles. From U.S. 395, 10 miles west on State 203, near Devils Postpile entrance station.
Score one of 10 tables, then sit down to a dinner of line-caught Alaskan halibut, pan-roasted venison striploin, or Kurobuta pork belly. $$$; 163 Twin Lakes Rd.