Mono County in the Eastern Sierra is connected to Yosemite National Park
via Highway 120, the “Tioga Road,” which crests the Sierra Nevada at 9,943-foot Tioga Pass, traverses the park and exits 59 miles later at the Big Oak Flat portal in Tuolumne County. This super-scenic byway is closed in winter due to snow, reopening when the conditions allow, usually in late June. Although dog-friendly options along the route are limited to picnic spots, this is one scenic drive you don’t want to miss, regardless of which direction you’re traveling. Our suggestion: Pack a picnic and take a roadside break at Tenaya Lake
, where you’ll likely be entertained by the sight of stand-up paddle-boarders practicing their sport against a classic alpine backdrop. You’ll have to pay a $20 entrance fee to drive through the park, but considering the pass is good for a week and there are few other routes over the mountains, the “toll,” in our canine-centric opinion, is hardly worth growling about.
Once over the pass, heading east, you’ll come down to earth at Lee Vining on Highway 395. The spic ‘n’ span Murphey’s Motel (reserve far in advance for visits in July and August) offers comfortable lodging within a bone’s throw of one of the Eastern Sierra’s main attractions, Mono Lake, a land-locked geological anomaly in the otherwise semi-arid landscape. Leashed canines can join their uprights on many, but not all, trails in the vicinity; check in at the visitor center to determine which routes are dog-friendly.
From the Highway 120/Highway 395 junction at Lee Vining, the scenic route traversed by Highway 395 is your ticket to a dog-friendly recreational wonderland. Head south to Mammoth Lakes, a summer paradise for hiking, fishing, boating and other recreational pursuits. While there, don’t miss a hike through Devil’s Postpile National Monument, one of relatively few preserves under National Park Service jurisdiction that is canine-friendly. Be forewarned that a muzzle (groan) is required on the shuttle-bus ride mandatory for reaching the site between mid-June and the week after Labor Day.
North of the Highway 120/Highway 395 junction, more scenic overload awaits. Among the highlights: Bodie State Historic Park, a gold-mining ghost town where you and your leashed pal can explore deserted streets and peer into the windows of abandoned buildings preserved in a state of “arrested decay.” Plan on spending at least half a day and don’t forget food and water. Pickings are slim on site and it’s a bit of a drive to the nearest town, Bridgeport, where both you and your four-legged companion will be welcome at the historic Bridgeport Inn.