The 150 miles of Highway 395 between Topaz and Bishop (also known as the Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway) ranks right up there with coastal Highway 1 as California's most scenic drive. You'll have trouble keeping Rover's head inside the window and your eyes on the asphalt as you travel this gorgeous route tracing the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada. Pick a side road, almost any side road, and you and your four-legged friend will find yourselves surrounded by rugged canyons, granite peaks, rushing streams and vast displays of aspens, cottonwoods and willows that paint the landscape in yellows, oranges and reds for a few short weeks each autumn. More…
Bodie ghost town - Photo Keith Skelton
Our suggestion for an Eastern Sierra trip over a long weekend: Pick up Highway 395 in Reno or Carson City and spend the first night about 100 miles down the road at the dog-friendly Bridgeport Inn, a historic lodge in the Mono County town of Bridgeport. Two other excellent choices for travelers with pets are Walker River Lodge (also in town) and Virginia Creek Settlement, a compound encompassing a log-cabin motel, housekeeping cabins, tent cabins and campground on the shores of Virginia Creek five miles to the south. More…
On your next full day in the Eastern Sierra, take a leaf-peeping excursion in the vicinity of Conway Summit, Virginia Lakes or Lundy Canyon, where you'll be rewarded with sweeping views and, if you hit it right, carpets of color that will take your breath away.
If you're a hiker, dog-friendly Virginia Lakes Resort offers myriad options right out the door. This popular cabin resort on the shores of Little Virginia Lake is at the center of a web of trails leading to 10 lakes within a mile, five of them less than a 30-minute walk away. RV travelers with pets get a super-friendly reception and lots of advice on where to spot fall color at the Meadowcliff Lodge & RV Resort at the base of Centennial Bluffs, an impressive geological formation on the west side of Highway 395 just south of Coleville.
Just passing through? The Robinson Creek Trail to Barney Lake is one of several paths that will transport you into the spectacular granite realm of the Hoover Wilderness, which shares a border with Yosemite National Park. It's OK for your dog to be off-leash here and on other national forest trails so long as she's under voice control.
The town of Lee Vining might be small, but it sits at the nexus of an area rich in opportunities for hiking, fishing, photography and bird-watching, which is at its peak in fall. The spic-'n'-span Murphey's Motel caters to explorers with dogs in tow. Nearby Mono Lake is unique for its otherworldly tufa towers. Leashed pets can accompany you anywhere in the National Forest Scenic Area, but not on boardwalks in the area designated as a county park. To avoid confusion, check at the visitor center to find out which trails are legally dog-friendly.
Photo credit: "Wet Dog at Mono Lake Boardwalk " - Mik The Duch (CC)
Lee Vining is also the eastern gateway to Yosemite National Park via seasonably passable Highway 120 and 10,000-foot Tioga Pass. Opportunities for hiking with dogs are limited once inside the park, but you'll enjoy similar landscapes in Twenty Lakes Basin just to the east of the pass, where the scenery rivals anything on the other side of the border. The Saddlebag Lake Loop Trail skirts the lake of the same name and is especially gorgeous—and uncrowded—in fall. Tioga Road/Highway 120, by the way, will take you on a scenic journey through Yosemite and out the other side, where you can access Highway 99 for the trip back to Sacramento or the Bay Area. It closes for the season when snow starts to fly, so check its status if the weather looks iffy.
Dog with a view
The Mammoth Lakes
area is the most developed part of the Eastern Sierra, with amenities and services to accommodate everyone from luxury-seekers to campers and, of course, DogTrekkers. The area is loaded with dog-friendly lodging
establishments, and while we can't vouch for them all, we do have our favorites.
Tamarack Lodge, a classic log skier's retreat dating to 1924, has a cozy lobby where guests gather in the evenings, an acclaimed restaurant and comfy cabins where uprights are allowed to stay overnight with their four-legged masters.
At the classy Westin Monache, canine visitors are treated with miniature "Heavenly Beds," food and water bowls, and lots of recommendations for dog-friendly places to go and things to do in the area. At Edelweiss Lodge, spayed or neutered dogs are welcomed with a basket containing treats, bowls for food and water, pick-up bags, sheets to protect furniture and temporary local tags. Prefer a vacation home rental? Beautiful Snowcreek Resort offers many pet-friendly choices.
Regardless of where you hang your leash, the Mammoth Lakes area is a leaf-peeper's paradise webbed with dog-friendly national forest trails that you're welcome to explore leash-free. Leash laws are in effect at Devil's Postpile National Monument, but don't let that stop you from exploring this awesome formation of polygonal basalt columns and 100-foot-high Rainbow Falls during the mid-June to mid-October season.
Another sure bet for knock-your-socks-off color is crystal-clear Convict Lake, an achingly beautiful cirque of blue rimmed by aspens and surrounded by towering granite peaks that make it one of the most photographed fall color spots in the Eastern Sierra. You can walk the mostly-flat perimeter trail with Rover any time, but if you book a pet-friendly cabin at Convict Lake Resort, you'll wake up to find yourself in a pink-and-gold wonderland.
Other places you don't want to miss include McGee Creek Canyon, where the color during peak season gets intense about a mile from the road; and Hot Creek, a thermal stream with pools popular—if not necessarily safe—for soaking. Fido can look, but don't let him get into hot water.
Photo: Dog With a View - Jenn Gleckman (CC)