June Lake may be a small, rustic town compared to posh neighbor Mammoth Mountain, but in no way does this California mountain town play second fiddle. Twinkling, star-filled night skies, towering granite domes and four sparkling alpine lakes make this Eastern Sierra town a true gem. Blink and you might miss the village, comprised of a general store, post office, library, taverns, and mom and pop eateries along the picturesque 14-mile June Lake Loop. Situated at the base of 10,090-foot Carson Peak, June Lake is a year-round mountain retreat where your vacation dollars go a long way.
It’s a good sign when your kids and spouse can’t pick just one highlight from your family vacation in June Lake, California, in the Sierra Nevada. For my family, it was a toss-up: mountain biking, boating or hiking to a glittering alpine lake. Or maybe the canoe tour on the resurrected Mono Lake?
It’s no easy feat planning a trip for one teenager, two college kids and a husband with limited travel time. Oh, and our dog. My husband insisted we bring Trooper, our 10-year-old Lab. So off we went on a nearly five-hour road trip – our SUV stuffed to the max – from L.A. to the June Lake Loop, a cozy mountain retreat in the sierras near Mammoth Mountain.
Double Eagle Resort and Spa
Our two-bedroom cabin – equipped with a full kitchen, outside deck and BBQ grill – had all the amenities we needed for a cushy mountain stay. Guests get complimentary access to the spa steam rooms, whirlpools, swimming pool, showers and lockers. Spa treatments cost extra. We made good use of the steam rooms and whirlpools each night.
Trooper was a happy camper, enjoying our daily walks alongside the creek by our cabin. Around sunset we would see half a dozen deer grazing. Towering Carson Peak and Horsetail Falls are a scenic backdrop. A short walk leads to the scenic site where parts of Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise, was filmed.
Mammoth Mountain Biking
We ski at this world-class resort, but this was our first time riding mountain bikes here. We rented bikes and met our tour guide, Scott Canter, at the busy Adventure Center. After two practice rides on the “beginner slopes,” he led us on a long, scenic forest trail studded with some rocks and roots where I managed to fly over my handlebars without any injuries. After our exhilarating ride, we took the gondola to the summit at 11,053 feet. My daughters and I opted to ride the gondola back down but Scott, my husband and son braved the hour-long steep and bumpy trails to the base. This was my son’s favorite activity (of course).
Laid-Back Boating in June Lake
Apparently Gull Lake is known for fishing. We were almost embarrassed to be the only ones cruising (and not fishing) around the lake on our rented pontoon, chatting, eating and watching Trooper eyeing the ducks paddling alongside us. It was a blissful afternoon of sunshine and quality family time.
During a two-hour canoe tour, we learned that for many years the L.A. Department of Water and Power (DWP) diverted water from freshwater streams that fed this ancient saline lake. By the 1980s, the water level dropped 45 feet. A deal was struck between DWP and Mono County allowing L.A. and Mono Lake to share the mountain streams enabling the lake to grow. We paddled by tufas, limestone formations that attract visitors from all over the world. Easily seen are the lake’s brine shrimp living in this unique ecosystem.
Parker Lake Trail
With Trooper scampering ahead of us, we climbed the initially steep, rocky trail single file. Descending hikers assured us the trail levels out and becomes more shaded. Sure enough, the trail soon hugged a river, providing a cool rest stop and drinking water for Trooper. Hearing a loud splash, we saw a deer sprint away. More hiking and then a scene out of a movie – a shimmering alpine lake surround by forest. We had the lake to ourselves for a while, and sat quietly enjoying the breathtaking views.
June Lake Loop Restaurants
Double Eagle Resort and Spa, Eagle’s Landing: Expansive windows with mountain and waterfall views makes this a cozy dining room to enjoy tasty breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Tioga Lodge, Lee Vining: The quaint Hammond Station restaurant is housed inside a historic building transported from Bodie, a nearby ghost town. A diverse, gluten-free menu.
Silver Lake Café: a small eatery serving delicious large portions.
Whoa Nellie Deli: On the grounds of a gas station, this delightfully popular deli/market serves burgers, sandwiches, pizza and hot entrees.