An Adventurist's Guide to the Eastern Sierras

‘Never stop’ is the Los Adventures approach to weekend travel.

Our goal is always to pack as much into a 3-day weekend as possible. And our recent trip to Convict Lake was no exception. We hit up a National Monument, hiked to 5 glacial lakes, climbed to the base of a 101ft waterfall, lounged in a hot spring, and still found time to see Mad Max (more on that later). What follows is a suggested agenda for exploring the Eastern Sierras, if you have an ‘always go’ mentality.

See: Devils Postpile National Monument, Rainbow Falls, Hot Creek Geological Site, Little Lakes Valley Trail, Alabama Hills

Dine: Mammoth Brewing Company, Pie in the Sky Cafe, Black Velvet Coffee, Mahogany Smoked Meats

Stay: Convict Lake Campground

THE DRIVE UP THE 395 NORTH

Eager to be there, we left for Mammoth at 1pm on a Friday after a half day of work. While this would mean pitching our tent at dusk, it also meant gorgeous golden hour views of the Sierras on the way up. We took our time – stopping at the iconic Alabama Hills in Lone Pine, Mahogany Smoked Meats in Bishop for wild boar jerky and, well, anywhere along the 395 where we liked the view.

CONVICT LAKE CAMPGROUND

I don’t know if the weather could be called ‘unseasonably cold’, but it definitely wasn’t rainy and high of 55 last year. That’s likely why Convict Lake, a campground that was 80% full when I booked our site in February, had empty spots all around us. No prob. We’ll take the solitude as a nice compliment to the bacon and the epic views.

We’ll take the solitude as a nice compliment to the bacon and the epic views.

DEVILS POSTPILE NATIONAL MONUMENT

On Saturday, our first stop was Devils Postpile National Monument. From Mammoth Lodge, you take a shuttle that runs in a loop through the monument and back. We opted to get off at the Postpile stop, so we could make a 6 mile out-and-back hike to the Monument and on to Rainbow Falls.

Holy fuck – it was cold. Beautiful, bright, sunny, but cold. We realized later that we both were sunburned – so I’d advise anyone visiting to pack in lots of water, sunscreen and clothes for different temperatures. I’d say it was worth it for the geological oddity of the Postpile and the biggest waterfall I’d seen since Hawaii.

SNOW IN MAY IN MAMMOTH

With the shuttle rides and photo stops, this exploration took all morning and early afternoon. We had grand intentions of going down to the hot springs to warm up after our hike, but the intermittent drizzle of the morning turned into full rain around 4pm. We (and everyone else it seemed) went to wait out the storm at Mammoth Brewing Company. After one drink, the rain turned to snow. While ecstatic to seeing falling snow for the first time in years, we realized we’d have to eat dinner in town and see a movie instead of making fajitas, negronis and s’mores by the fire. These things happen…

LITTLE LAKES VALLEY TRAIL

The snow continued to fall through the night so we were treated to fresh snow-capped peaks in the morning. The hike we’d planned for that day, Little Lakes Valley Trail, was covered in a few inches of fresh powder as well. We decided to attempt it but not trek as far as we had intended, considering we didn’t bring waterproof boots. Again, such a weird feeling, but the sky was bright blue and sunny – but we were hiking through a ‘winter wonderland’ of snow.

On the way down, we stopped at Pie in the Sky Cafe, aptly named as this little shop serves homemade pies everyday at their outpost around 9000ft in the Rock Creek Resort. Normally, we’re health nuts, but we figured we deserved a slice after camping/hiking through this weather.

The snow continued to fall through the night so we were treated to fresh snow-capped peaks in the morning.

HOT CREEK • WILD WILLYS HOT SPRING

At this point, we had decided to go home early. The chill was really getting to these Angelenos. But in Los Adventures style, we planned to go check out a geothermal feature and a hot springs before heading back.

Hot Creek Geological Site looks a like a baby yellowstone. The two most prominent pools are bright aqua, bubbling and steaming. We’d visited hot springs around the area, but had no idea this was right down the road. (Man, California never ceases to amaze!) By this time, the weather had warmed up enough to put on a swim suit. We capped off our cold, snowy trip with a dip in a hot spring. Yeah – this trip worked itself out. ▲