INYO NATIONAL FOREST, CA
We live in Vegas and we love Vegas. Sure there are a million places on our bucket-list world-wide. But first, we've got to explore our own neck of the woods. This is how we found Inyo National Forest. We knew it was there, but we didn't realize it was do-able as a day trip from Las Vegas, NV. Thanks to Google Maps, we found the quickest, most scenic route and planned out the first two lakes we'd visit during the day. Anyone can do that. For real. The only thing stopping you is you. If you've got the time and resources to make it a weekend trip or longer, that's amazing and you definitely should do it. This is just your starting point (and ours) to exploring Mammoth and its surrounding landscape in the Inyo National Forest.
First things first. From Las Vegas, NV, get on the 95 northbound. Take that to Beatty, then hang a right. About 20 miles down the road, you'll go left to link up with the 266. Follow the 266 westbound until just after you cross over into California and then hang a left onto arguably the most entertaining road you'll ever drive - the 168. Seriously, we want you to report back to us when you experience it! When you get to the T in the road, go right (north) onto the 395 towards Bishop. Just as you enter town, hang a left on Line Street (168) and follow that until it dead ends at Lake Sabrina. All in all, it was a 4.5 hour drive for us. Leaving at 6am, we were there well before lunch, had all afternoon to explore and then hit the road home after dinner. Yes, it was a long drive home, but with the right road-trip tunes and good company, it's totally doable.
Meagan has a thing for Aspen trees. They're right up there with sunflowers in her mind. Driving through Aspendell on the way to Lake Sabrina was like a dream come true for her. She might've needed a hanky (are those a thing anymore?) to wipe the drool from her mouth. It was truly spectacular. We timed our day trip perfectly with the Aspens in full color. Even better was, right near Lake Sabrina, where the street was lined thick with Aspens making it feel like a tunnel of trees. Then at the end of the road there were two parking lots, a ramp for fishing boats and a breathtaking view of Lake Sabrina with the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range as the backdrop. We were just there for the day, so we hiked around the shore of Lake Sabrina and enjoyed the mesmerizing view for a bit before moving on to South Lake. If you've got a few days in the area, bring along your fishing pole. It looked like the fisherman's paradise there! And if you're into backpacking, we noticed several hikers hitting the trail head just east of Lake Sabrina. While we didn't have time on our day trip to explore the hiking trails, based on what we saw from the lake view, it would be incredible to hike the mountain and get a birds eye view of the lake.
On to South Lake. Head back down the 168 a few miles and go right on South Lake Road. Which, you guessed it, goes straight to South Lake. There were two parking lots here as well. The first lot was much smaller, right by the boat ramp. The second lot was much bigger and near some restrooms and the Bishop Pass Trailhead. Again, we we just here for a day trip, so our time was a bit limited. We hit the Bishop Pass Trailhead and immediately wandered down to the shores of South Lake, which really only took a minute or two. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, in the mid-60s, so we spent our time enjoying the sounds of the water lapping against the rocks scattered along the shoreline. Across the lake, it looked like "Pirates of the Caribbean" coves. We wished we had a canoe with us so we could paddle back there and see more. Instead, we made our way back to the trail that parallels the east side of South Lake. It was a nice gradual gain in elevation on a well-groomed, wide trail. Every spot we stopped had breathtaking views of South Lake down below. Coincidentally, we happened to meet another couple on the trail, husband and wife in their mid-70s, both photographers, on their way back from hiking to Long Lake. We stopped and chatted for a while, ( Richard & Twink Bumann ) exchanged contact info and laughed at how two people can take the same picture just 4 feet apart and somehow one of them will end up with "the shot". Really though, that's the benefit of team photography. What you miss, the other will get. And vice versa. Plus, it's fun having a hobby together. As we walked away from our new photography friends, we both looked at each other and said "that's us in 30 years". And every year in between. Because let's just keep it real. Adventure truly is better together. Especially when it's with your best buddy.
As we were heading back towards the 168 from South Lake, we stopped at the creek in a forest of Aspens. The water was rushing rapidly and the sunlight hit the water at just the right angle near sunset. It was the perfect spot to end our adventures on our Inyo National Forest day trip!
While we barely touched on the Inyo National Forest this time, we left feeling fulfilled and with the thirst to hurry back there again with our boys for a longer trip where we can venture into Mammoth as well. Next time we visit the Inyo National Forest, we'll update you with any other recommendations we discover. Which we're sure will be plentiful. Until then, don't hesitate to leave your comfort zone, explore this beautiful earth we've been blessed with, and try something new. Even if just for a day.
As always, pack out whatever you pack in. Leave no trace. Protect and keep nature wild. Then go back again and again to enjoy it!