Become A Looper For Life – Things To Do In June Lake
When someone asks you “What’s your favorite place in California?”, for some it’s the beaches of San Diego. Others might say the John Muir Woods or even Yosemite. While we may call Lake Tahoe home, one place has tugged on my heart strings and that’s the Eastern Sierra specifically June Lake California. After multiple trips in each season, here’s the scoop on where to eat, where to go, where to stay, and finally all the things to do in June Lake California.
June Lake Quick Hits
So, why do we love it so much? What first attracted us to this slice of heaven was like so many others before us – the beauty. You’ll remember seeing this snug valley with its four lakes and steep canyon walls jutting up to high peaks for the first time. For us, it’s the closest place we’ve found in North America that feels like a town in the Swiss Alps. Then there is the community. There isn’t a strip mall or a big-box hotel anywhere. It’s authentic. A rare gem of a resort town that still has kept its soul and yet is looking to the future.
Small Town – Varied Hours
June Lake is the epitome of family-owned independent businesses. It takes a hardy folk to call this place home. Instead of working themselves to the bone, the community has joined forces to create a patchwork of hours, so they just overlap enough to keep the town running. This ensures visitors have a place to eat and locals can still have some time off to enjoy their home. In summary, be sure to visit their Facebook pages, websites, or call ahead to find out when they’re open.
Part of June Lake Loop Closed In Winter
The June Lake Loop is open year-round but beware that the north end of the Loop (a few miles past June Lake Village) typically is closed in mid-winter. You can still get into town and experience the beauty, you just can’t do the FULL sixteen mile round trip of the June Lake Loop.
Getting To June Lake
Most visitors who come to June Lake drive. To get here no matter where you start, you must take US Highway 395 connecting both Reno to the north and Los Angeles to the south. Fortunately, wherever you pick it up, this road trip rivals the Pacific Coast Highway as one of the most scenic drives in the country. From here, you’ll turn onto California Highway-158 also known as June Lake Loop.
For First Timers
For your first time, we recommend coming in the southern entrance (the one closer to Mammoth Lakes). As you ascend slightly, you’ll near a crest and what is called the June Lake Overlook (or Oh! Ridge). It’s from here you’re given the first view of June Lake and the mighty Carson Peak in the background.
As we stated above, the north section typically closes for the winter. On the rare occasion a big storm does roll in, the southern section might close temporarily for avalanche mitigation. If that does happen, don’t worry. There is another option into town as well. Use North Shore drive at Oh! Ridge to drive around and into town from the back. Another wrinkle to add to your drive if you’re coming from the Bay Area or western California is that nearly all the passes close for the winter. You need to go as far north as Carson Pass (near Kirkwood Ski Resort) if you’re planning on driving.
During the summer months, the closest major airport to fly into is Reno which is about three hours away. As the mountain passes close for the winter, seasonal air service begins around mid-December and runs through late March. United flies into Eastern Sierra Regional Airport in Bishop, California which is a little less than an hour away. And for those flying in from southern California, Advanced Air provides scheduled semi-private flights into Mammoth Lakes about thirty minutes from June Lake.
June Lake Trip Planning
This quiet hamlet tucked away in a corner of the Eastern Sierra is like a restored Victorian home. It still has the soul and feel you love about mountain towns, but it now has the modern amenities you’d like in it. Things to do in June Lake California still include the classics such as hiking and skiing, but alongside you’ll find a great music venue as well as a world-class brewery to celebrate your adventures. It’s the perfect basecamp to experience the Eastern Sierra.
Best Things To Do In June Lake Loop
June Lake Loop
Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous quote “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey” couldn’t ring truer here. Even in the Eastern Sierra which is filled with countless scenic drives and noteworthy scenery, the June Lake Loop stands out. If you’re staying in Mammoth Lakes or taking in the sights on a US-395 road-trip, be sure to make a detour and visit the loop. Each season gives different reasons to take it in. In the summer, it’s the sparkling chain of pristine lakes. For spring, it’s the bountiful wildflower and in autumn the fall foliage. Even winter is worth the visit, regardless if part of the road is closed due to snow.
T-Bar Social Club
Just when you think you understand June Lake, a curveball is thrown. For example, in a place with only four hundred and change of residents, nightlife isn’t something you’d expect. And yet you have the T-Bar Social Club, a boutique music venue hosting big name acts. How can that be? Due to its proximity to Los Angeles and Las Vegas, touring acts swing through on their way to bigger destinations.
That eye-popping scenery of peaks jutting up the canyon walls also makes for a place filled with the high entry fee of a steep climb to get out of the valley. With that being said, there are still a few trails in the June Lake area that don’t have this. You just have to be aware of it.
Easy stroll – Gull Lake Trail: A perfect example of a family friendly hike suitable for families with kids. This two-mile loop is a relatively flat stroll that wraps around a lake featuring aspens and even rock outcroppings on the south end.
Moderate challenge – Parker Lake Trail: What might be the best reward to effort in the region. This out-and-back nearly four-mile hike climbs six hundred feet with most of it at the beginning. You’ll get aerial views of Mono Lake along the way and a close-up of Parker Lake which butts up tightly to the 12,000 foot peaks of the Sierra crest. A great option for fall colors but still perfect in summer or spring.
Hard Effort – Reversed Peak Trail: Instead of a lake as your final destination, this trail provides you the opportunity to summit a mountain. Throughout its route, you’ll find sections that are steep but given opportunities to just enjoy the scenery. The hardest section is the very top where you have to do some rock scrambling to reach it. You’ll be rewarded with views of the scenic June Lake, Gull Lake, and even Mono Lake.
Ansel Adams Wilderness
For those that are more serious about hiking and want to really push themselves into the unknown, the June Lakes region is also one of the premiere gateways to the Ansel Adams Wilderness. Named after the famous photographer who used his work of Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevada Range as a way promote conservation of the wilderness. The wilderness encompasses 232,000 acres and within it you’ll find more than 349 miles of trail including the John Muir trail. You can access it via the trailheads for Rush Creek Trail or the Fern Lake Trail.
If you’re about well-manicured rides that are specifically designed for mountain bikes, we recommend heading to Mammoth Lakes. For those that are less about the adrenaline pump tracks and more about the adventure, June Lake mountain biking is a must. We did the Reversed Peak Loop trail as a shuttle and the scenery was absolutely incredible alongside some amazing XC fun. For more techy goodness, our good friend Justin from June Lake Brewing says SLR is no joke. For a deeper dive into what’s available, hit up Visit June Lake Loop’s biking page or better yet stop by June Lake Brewing and get the 4-1-1 from locals.
Fishing here isn’t just a hobby or one of the things to do in June Lake. It’s a passionate (almost fanatical) pursuit. In fact, it’s so popular and legendary that opening day for trout fishing season is known locally as “Fishmas.” June specifically is arguably one of the best locations to get a “Sierra Grand Slam.” It’s where you catch a golden, brook, rainbow, AND brown trout all in the same day. For those that like to troll from a boat, you can rent one at the Gull Lake Marina, June Lake Marina, and the Big Rock Resort.
New England might be known as the fall foliage capital of the country, but it typically only lasts a few weeks. If you’re a person that loves fall colors or even fall weather for that matter, the Eastern Sierra and June Lake should be high on your visit list. Due to the vast topographical range, fall colors can last for MONTHS. Here’s how to Fall In Love With June Lake Fall Colors – What, Where, When, & Why.
The old saying “you can’t judge a book by its cover” couldn’t ring truer for June Mountain. The trail map says only 41 designated trails which is a third of the amount compared to its bigger brother to the South. What it does have is terrain that’s more sheltered, making it the perfect option on storm days when the lifts can’t run at Mammoth Mountain. It also holds onto powder snow longer since the amount of competition isn’t as fierce. Still on the fence? Here’s 6 reasons to go June Lake skiing on your next vacation. Beginners and intermediates will love the empty groomed trails on the upper half of the mountain. And for experts, while there isn’t as much to keep you entertained, if you’re willing to poke around you’ll find short steep sections off of J7 and the steepest stuff at the resort is right on the Face under the J1 lift.
Speaking of expert terrain, as your eyes scan the surrounding peaks, you will see a host of descents that have a high pucker factor. Lines include the Negatives, Fern Creek, San Joaquin Ridge, and many others. It’s a glaring example of why the Eastern Sierra is famous for its backcountry skiing. Ski runs with more than 4,000 vertical feet are possible. And yet on the flip side, most of them have a VERY long approach especially mid-winter when you can’t start closer. The backcountry surrounding June Mountain is an exception to this rule.
Easy access doesn’t mean it’s safe though. These mountains are HUGE and come with big consequences if you aren’t prepared. As soon as you pass the ski resort boundary, you’re on your own. Don’t expect help. You NEED avalanche training as well as the proper gear before venturing into the backcountry. For this region, the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center provides an avalanche forecast.
Hire A Guide
If it’s your first time venturing into the Eastern Sierra wilderness or you just want to experience what backcountry skiing is about, we highly recommend going on a backcountry tour with International Alpine Guides or Sierra Mountain Guides.
Restaurants of June Lake
June Lake Brewing
How could we talk about June Lake without bringing up the largest institution in the village – June Lake Brewing. Justin the owner is a mad scientist when it comes to creating unique beers. Come with an open mind, and you’ll be blown away. No matter how you spend your day, this is always where you should end it.
Food Trucks At The Brewery
Depending on the day you come, you’ll find two food trucks to choose from. Ohanas 395 food truck provides delicious “Hawaiian soul food” dishes and are normally open noon to 5pm Thursday-Sunday. Then there is La Parilla 158 serving up mouthwatering Mexican cuisine that’s made to order. Our favorite menu item was their al pastor tacos. Normally open from noon to 8 pm. Either one you order, from they’ll drop it off right in the tasting room as you imbibe on one of the award-winning ales.
The Lift June Lake
For those looking for a light and healthy meal, the Lift is your best bet. Normally open Thursday through Sunday 7am-noon, if they are open for lunch or dinner be sure to go. You won’t be disappointed.
Silver Lake Resort
This tiny little gem at the farthest point in the loop is open 7am to 2pm and provides classic breakfast items you’d expect in a diner. Surrounded by aspens and a little view of Silver Lake, it’s definitely worth the visit. If you come in the summer months, be aware that there is only a dozen or so tables meaning you could be waiting a while.
Tiger Bar & Cafe
Open since 1932, it still holds one of the two longest standing alcoholic beverage licenses in California. Serving up classic bar-fare in a slow-paced relaxed atmosphere, it’s a great way to finish off the evening after catching some trophy-sized fish or an epic powder day.
New Ones To Check Out
We’ll be honest. It’s been a few seasons since we’ve visited June Lake. There have been a bunch of new spots that have opened along with a few that we couldn’t get in due to our tight schedule.
Hermitage Organic Café & Juicery
We’ve heard really good things about the smoothies from Hermitage Organic Café & Juicery. Unfortunately for us, the 9am opening was a deal breaker when we visited as our days start pretty early.
June Pie Pizza
Growing up in the Chicagoland area, pizza isn’t just a meal but an obsession. This place really piqued our interest. They use a rotating stone deck oven that cooks their NY-style pizzas at 710 degrees. And since Jaime has a gluten allergy, the gluten-free crust option gives her something to eat as well.
Eagle’s Landing Restaurant
Located in the Double Eagle Resort and Spa, the Eagle’s Landing is open daily from 7:30am to 9:00pm. On our trips we didn’t get a chance to eat here (yet), but it’s one of the few options open late mid-week. The menu includes classic fare such as baby back ribs, rib eye steak, and the June burger.
Places To Stay In June Lake California
They say in real estate – “location, location, location” are the three things that matter in property. And Boulder Lodge is the epitome of this quote. It’s close enough to the main drag of June Lake to walk to June Lake Brewing for a cold brew or a late-night dinner at Tiger Bar Café. This old-school motel provides you with a clean place to lay your head for the night. And what you give up in amenities you can enjoy on food, entertainment, and other activities. Be sure to ask for a lakeside room.
We can’t rave enough about this place. Hands down our favorite lodging in June Lake. Opened in 1927 as a mountain retreat its hosted the likes of Clark Gable, Betty Grable and Charlie Chaplan. In the 1980s the property was converted to 24 condo type units that surround the huge indoor lobby. At the center is the famous four-sided stone ﬁreplace with the signature eight foot California Grizzly Bear standing on top.
Local Freshies tip: Since this is a timeshare it can be challenging to book one of these units. If you do see one open be sure to do it you won’t regret it.
June Lake Motel
In between the Heidelberg and Boulder, you’ll find the June Lake Motel. Each of their rooms provides different levels of amenities. From a basic motel room to full-on suites with full kitchens. And if you’re visiting in the summer, it’s one of the few properties that has A/C. Great location in the center of it all and spacious rooms with a lot of amenities what more could you want?
Maybe because it’s a bit more challenging to get to. That Mammoth Lakes is only twenty miles away and is the hotbed for adrenaline-pumping fun in the area. Regardless, if you want outdoorsy fun without the crowds and good ole fashioned small town community, June Lake is worth a look.