Moving south in the Eastern Sierra

By: Jessica Bay
yellow labs swim in alpine lake
Bailey & Maddie swimming in the Eastern Sierra. Photo by Genessa Hager.

Keep your eyes on the road, because the next major attraction is Mono Lake, a geological anomaly preserved as a natural reserve to protect its tufa towers, calcium carbonate knobs and spires formed by the interaction of freshwater springs and alkaline lake water. The lake has no outlet and is said to be twice as salty as the ocean. Millions of tiny brine shrimp survive here and many millions are devoured by migrating birds in the fall. Stop by the visitor center (just off 395) to find out which of the many tufa-viewing trails are dog-friendly.

And then comes Lee Vining, at the turnoff to the Tioga Road (Highway 120), eastern gateway to Yosemite National Park, climbing 10,000 feet at Tioga Pass. The dog-friendly Murphey’s Motel makes a great base camp for hiking and sightseeing in the area. 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 once October rolls around and the weather gets iffy.

Oh yes, don’t miss the Whoa Nellie Deli inside a gigantic Mobil gas station at the park-road intersection. No warmed-over hot dogs or stale coffee here; this is one of California’s most famous road-food stops with menu offerings including buffalo meatloaf, Asian sashimi, fish tacos and a generous selection of sandwiches and other picnic treats you can enjoy on the road with your dog at your side.


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