Tucked away with the wonders of the historic Highway 395, June Lake is a delightful mountain town that resembles a postcard in real life.
Residing at 7,600 feet of elevation, this High Sierra town offers abundant winter activities and is a vacation paradise during the summer.
Under the shade of Mount Carson, June Lake is the ideal destination for adventurers, vacationers, fisherpeople, horseback riders, and individuals who appreciate the stunning and sometimes unusual natural beauty of this one-of-a-kind area.
Come check out June Lake, where the water is frigid, but the vibes are chill!
We’ll get into all the best things to do in June Lake in just a second, but first, let’s talk a few logistics!
How to Get to June Lake
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Like most attractions along the 395, June Lake is a bit of a drive from major cities or airports. There are three main directions in which you can make your way to June Lake.
From Reno, simply hop onto 395 South and drive down the beautifully quiet and scenic highway for 154 miles. It should take you approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes.
From the South, you can connect to the 395 via Highway 14 in the Mojave Deserrt. From here, it is a 228-mile drive and takes about 3 hours and 30 minutes.
While passing through the Mojave, stop at the unassuming hidden gem Mojave Thai Cuisine restaurant — you will thank me later.
During the summer, you can choose to cross through the Sierra Nevada via Tioga Pass Road. This is ideal if you are coming from the Bay Area or Northern California.
This way will take you along the width of Yosemite National Park, and the road is usually open from late May until late November — or earlier, depending on the first significant snowfall.
From Fresno, the drive to June Lake is 171 miles, but it takes about 4 hours, as the drive-through Yosemite is slower.
However, it is a majestically scenic journey through America’s most iconic park!
Where to Stay in June Lake
For a luxurious stay in June Lake, visit the Double Eagle Resort and Spa.
The resort offers several lodging amenities, opportunities for relaxation at the spa, and an excellent dining experience at the Eagle’s Landing Restaurant.
For a glamorous stay, check in to one of Double Eagle’s Luxury Resort rooms.
Conveniently located next to the Creekside Spa and Fitness Center, the luxurious rooms overlook Ron’s Pond and provide an excellent home base for adventure or a serene getaway for the traveler craving some much-needed leisure time.
Each room has a king bed or two queen beds, a large TV, a whirlpool bathtub, and a separate rain shower.
For a more rustic stay, book one of the warm two-bedroom cabins.
For an immediate family gathering, these cabins have all the character and charm you could be for looking when dreaming up your mountain getaway.
Each cabin has a wood-burning fireplace, a full kitchen, and a living room to entertain to go with a beautiful outdoor deck with a provided charcoal BBQ.
If traveling in a group, book your trip early and stay in the exclusive Eagle’s Resort Guest House.
The guest house is a large, 2,300 square foot house with all the amenities of your home away from home.
The house has four bedrooms, a bunk room for the kids, a full kitchen, a laundry room, and a large deck with comfortable furnishings.
Finally, if you are looking for a more inexpensive option, then June Lake Villager is your best choice!
Nestled in a quiet mountain setting and has a large swimming pool. June Lake Villager Hotel is located on June Lake, which is 20 minutes away from the beach.
The hotel features spacious rooms, free Wi-Fi, and an outdoor pool with breathtaking views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.
The property offers suites with fireplaces and private hot tubs, as well as an on-site restaurant that serves fresh-made pastries and breakfast items.
While the amenities of a resort are convenient and dependable, June Lake offers many vacation rentals by independent homeowners that allow guests to spend their visit in beautiful cabins all around the lake, with the quiet and privacy to properly appreciate the beauty surrounding you.
Take advantage of vacation rental websites such as VRBO to find the perfect fit — whether it is a small get-together or a large family reunion, there are rentals available for any group at the lake!
For adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts alike, there is no better choice for a stay than at June Lake than staying on the lake!
Whether you enjoy glamping or rustic dry camping, Oh Ridge Campground has outdoor camping opportunities for comfort levels of all varieties.
Located above the shoreline of June Lake, Oh Ridge Campground has 143 campsites and can accommodate vehicles up to 40 feet long.
The campground is an active black bear area and campers are required to use the provided bear lockers for food storage.
There is fresh drinking water and flush toilets are available.
Fees are $30 per night and can be reserved on recreation.gov or call directly at 1-877-444-6777. There is a 14-day limit.
Things to Do in June Lake
Enjoy the High Elevation Beach at June Lake
Located just two miles south of the junction of Tioga Pass and the 395, June Lake is a massive alpine lake, stretching a mile long and a half a mile wide of crystal-clear blue waters.
Once the leave your car in the large parking area, there is an excellent natural beach right off the road, perfect for throwing a Frisbee, firing up the grill, playing volleyball, or simply catching rays from the warm sun!
The coastline remains shallow and is an excellent, albeit cold, place to go for a comfortable swim in beautiful waters shrouded by snowcapped mountains.
Enjoy Some Water Sports on June Lake
In addition to beach activities, June Lake is a popular place for water sports.
As you move past the shallow coastline, the lake grows to an average depth of 60 feet, reaching a maximum depth of 168 feet!
With over a mile of clear calm waters, June Lake has ideal conditions for kayaking and paddleboarding.
Before 10 AM, the lake is open to motorized boats as well!
During the warmer summer mornings, water-skiing in an alpine lake is the bucket list item that cannot be taken for granted!
Settle into the Culture of June Lake Village
The origins of June Lake Village date back to the 1920s when June Lake was a blossoming hot spot for celebrities traveling the Reno/Los Angeles circuit.
Performers such as Clark Gable and Charlie Chapman frequently would stay at the June Lake Lodge during the week between weekend shows!
Today, June Lake Village is a quaint town with a charming downtown with shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants.
Within walking distance of downtown is an excellent variety of motels, cabins, and vacation rentals to make your stay in June Lake not just beautiful, but convenient.
Stop for a Bite at the Historic Tiger Bar & Café
While it may not look like much from the outside, Tiger Bar & Café is more than your regular bar and grill!
Established in 1932, Tiger Bar was a popular place for locals and travelers to grab a pint or enjoy a cocktail.
The Tiger had poker tables and slot machines had become a small-town casino.
When California outlawed gambling, officials would gather remove the tables and machines, throwing them into the depths of June Lake.
Try Something Fresh at June Lake Brewing and Ohana395
June Lake has but just one brewery in town, but it cannot be missed.
The brewery serves a variety of styles of beer and rotating taps – including a unique Japanese rice lager.
If you wanted an excellent meal to accompany your visit, time your visit between Thursday and Sunday from noon to 5 PM.
Then, you can enjoy delicious Jamaican soul food from Ohana395, a local food truck operating in the June Lake Brewing beer garden.
The exclusive menu offers incredible Hawaiian tacos, Kahuna chips, and mouth-watering Jamaican meals!
Go For a Drive on the Scenic June Lake Loop
The beauty of this area does not end at June Lake.
Continuing down highway route 158, you will encounter three separate alpine lakes along the stunningly beautiful June Lake Loop.
June Lake Loop bends through a horseshoe-shaped canyon that follows along the snowcapped mountains, glaciers, and shimmering aspens along the 16-mile loop, ultimately returning you where you started.
The loop is great for a morning or sunset drive, however, the best way to experience June Lake Loop is not on four wheels, but two!
On a bicycle, you can enjoy the loop in a way that stimulates all your senses. The path is one of the most scenic rides in all the Eastern Sierra.
From June Lake, the ride is a rolling and steady climb the entire 16 miles with about 900 feet of elevation gain and is rated as moderate.
After completing the loop, the road leaves you on the 395 near Mono Lake.
As a reward for completing the climb, the ride back to June Lake is a straight shot down 395 and is a 6-mile, effortless, wide-shouldered, pedal-free cruise down one of the most beautiful stretches of pavement any cyclist could wish for.
Relax at Silver Lake
The first lake you will encounter following June Lake is Silver Lake.
Arguably the most majestic and picturesque lake down the loop, Silver Lake is the preferred choice of paddleboarders and trout anglers.
The lake is calm and secluded, making for a quiet and tranquil day surrounded by the aromas permeating from the surrounding pines.
Stretch Your Legs at Gull Lake
Moving further down the loop is the smallest of the lakes, Gull Lake.
Although small, Gull Lake has plenty to offer.
Of all the lakes, Gull Lake is the only one that has a hiking loop of its own!
The hike circling the lake is a 2-mile, moderately trafficked trail comfortable for hikers, walkers, runners, and bikers.
It is rated as easy, with only 65 feet of elevation gain, making it an opportunity for a perfect early morning walk.
Get on the Water at Grant Lake
The final lake on the loop is Grant Lake and is the premium choice for adrenaline-seekers.
Out of all the lakes in the loop, Grant Lake is the only one that permits water sports.
The lake is man-made, and depending on the water level, is a perfect setting for exciting water sports such as wakeboarding, jet skiing, and water skiing.
Boats are available for rent at the Grant Lake Marina, where you can reserve a campground reservation, purchase fishing gear, or have a bite at the marina’s café.
Hit Some Fresh Powder at June Mountain Ski Area
Locals refer to June Lake as the “Switzerland of California.”
During the winter, the mountains transform from a lively and bright summer adventure village into a peaceful and serene, snow-blanketed winter wonderland.
In the cold and wintry months, the June Mountain ski area is an excellent alternative to the tourist-occupied ski town of Mammoth Lakes, just 20 minutes south of June Lake.
At June Lake, the skiing is also much more family-friendly than the typical mountain getaway.
With various levels of paths, skiers and snowboarders of all varieties have the opportunity to enjoy miles of fresh powder to glide across.
If you prefer to observe the slopes, a ride on beautiful chair lifts will give you a bird’s eye view of the entire June Lake Loop.
Kids under 12 can ski for free!
Experience the Ancient and Unique Mono Lake
Just north of June Lake is the ancient and historic Mono Lake.
Experts believe Mono Lake is nearly 760,000 years old and was formed by a volcanic eruption in Long Valley and continues to be an active geologic area.
What makes Mono Lake truly unique is that there are no water outlets, causing the lake and its waters to become alkaline – high concentrations of salt accumulating from the runoff of the Mono Basin.
The lake is enormous, stretching an astonishing 45,000 acres and, at its lowest depth, is nearly 159 feet deep.
Thanks to unusual pH levels, the alkalinity of the lake creates an ideal habitat for brine shrimp and only exists in the confines of Mono Lake.
During the summer months, Mono Lake can inhabit a staggering 5-7 trillion brine shrimp at one time.
Because of the extreme surplus of shrimp in the water, the lake becomes a feeding ground for migratory birds and proves the essential ecological importance of Mono Lake on both a local and global scale.
Check Out the Tufa Formations on the South Shore
Tucked away on the shallow shores of Mono Lake are unusual rock formations called “The Tufas.”
Resembling stalagmites, the tufas are limestone columns developed over centuries beneath the surface.
With the high alkalinity of the lake and the absence of water outlets, the chemistry of the tufa’s formation has made years of morphology.
As water levels have subsided, the tufas are now fully in view, emerging from the surface of the water and what remains is a truly unusual natural phenomenon.
Don’t Miss the Whoa Nellie Deli
You may ask yourself, “What is so special about a small-town gas station deli?”
But stay with me here.
The Whoa Nellie Deli is in partnership with the Tioga Gas Mart at the corner of 395 and Tioga Pass Rd, the intersection that leads you to Yosemite in Lee Vining, just 15 minutes north of June Lake.
From the outside, it looks like a regular gas station in the middle of nowhere.
Inside, you will notice the establishment is more of a catch-all visitors center and café than your typical rural convenience store.
In addition to your regular pit-stop knick-knacks, you can find backcountry permits and trail maps from seasoned travelers eager to give advice about adventures waiting to be discovered.
Where Whoa Nellie sets itself apart is the deli experience.
Specializing in BBQ, Chef AJ and his team have crafted an excellent selection and quality menu of southern favorites with all the flavor of the Carolinas.
Leaving no one out, they also have high-quality items for the pickiest tastes, such as amazing fish tacos, cheesy pizza for the kids, salads, and burgers.
The true joy of the deli is the location and the travelers it brings.
During the summer, bands will grace the outdoor patio with live music and the deli will sell beer and wine for guests to enjoy.
During these summer nights, at any given time you may find yourself sharing a table with photographers, thru-hikers, scientists, and historians.
The deli transforms into a melting pot of diverse individuals with the most engaging and unbelievable stories you may uncover in the Sierras.
Cast a Line in the Crystal-Clear Waters of the June Lake Loop
Along the June Lake Loop is a variety of excellent fishing opportunities.
Most of the fishing is best accessed by kayak or rowboat, as most of the lakes do not allow motorized watercraft.
Anglers come to June Lake in search of Lahontan cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, and brown trout, and can be hooked in each of the lakes along the loop.
If you want to get the truest form of fishing in the Eastern Sierras, grab your fly rod and galoshes and wade your way into the rushing waters of Rush Creek.
The creek is 30 miles long, beginning in the High Sierra as snowmelt and ending in the lakes of the June Lake Loop.
In these streams, you will discover some of the most iconic fly-fishing areas in the entire world, with a trophy catch streaming by searching for the perfect fly.
Go Backpacking with Guided Horseback Rides
One of the more unique opportunities in the Eastern Sierra is taking a guided horseback ride along with one of the many pack trails throughout the mountains.
The Pacific Crest Trail which runs from Mexico to Canada was designed as a pack animal trail to transport materials and goods throughout the West on the back of horses and mules.
These trails tend to be less intense, with comfortable terrain suitable for their horse and mule travel companions.
At June Lake, you can enlist the services of Frontier Pack Train, a company specializing in backcountry camping trips by horseback.
The guided backcountry journey takes you through some of the most beautiful areas of the High Sierra, with the stress-free support of Frontier.
They offer comfortable established camping along the way, supported by seasoned wranglers, assistants, and even cooks -serving up an all-inclusive camping experience.
You can reserve your trip at frontierpacktrain.com or call at (888) 437-MULE
Witness the Colors Change
June Lake is a town that changes and evolves depending on the time of your visit.
Between exploring the Eastern Sierra and working on your tan at one of the many lakes, be sure to take the time to appreciate the seasonal wonders of the area.
As the winter snow subsides, the entire town erupts into the beautiful arrangement of millions of colorful and vivid wildflowers.
Depending on the amount of snowmelt each year, the spring bloom of wildflowers begins to bloom in late May to early June, and the wildflowers become their most vibrant in late June through July.
As the season’s turn and fall arrive, the wildflowers call it a day and set the stage for June Lake’s next beautiful season.
Once the weather turns cold, for just a brief time in late September through October, the fleeting fall colors arrive in June Lake.
During the summer, June Lake is engulfed in lush, green aspens for as far as the eye can see.
As the temperature drops, these glistening aspens change to a stunning display of orange, gold, green, and deep red colors.
Depending on your vantage point, you can see all the shades of aspens cascading down from peaks down to the valleys.
Look Up At The Night Skies
One of the highlights of the entire Eastern Sierra is the absence of light throughout the region.
With major cities hours away, the towns along the 395 have concentrated efforts to establish themselves as an “International Dark Skies” area — perfect for stargazing in California.
During the new moon cycle every month, it is common to find campers tucked away in the mountains with telescopic lenses capturing planets and galaxies in one of the most visible star-gazing areas in the entire world.
Get Your Camera Ready and Capture the Wildlife in June Lake
With the high concentration of trees and deep valleys with an abundance of streams and rivers, the Eastern Sierra is the ideal and healthy habitat for wildlife of all types.
In the valleys, it is common to see mule deer grazing through the pastures and to hear the subtle howl in the distance of coyotes.
In the higher elevations, there are ideal conditions for marmots and ludicrously adorable pika.
With the healthy population of wildlife, predators are in abundance as well. It is required in all campgrounds in the Eastern Sierra to be equipped with a durable plastic bear canister as the area is common for black bears.
They are typically harmless and prefer to forage, but taking precautions is always advised.
Just like black bears, the hills are inhabited by numerous mountain lions.
These creatures are not known to forage; however, the lions are not much of a threat to human beings because of the sheer amount of wildlife available to keep themselves well-fed all season long.
Raised in the Midwest, Alex is an RV pulling, bike-touring, globetrotting, slow-hiking nomad. He travels full-time with his travel nurse wife and their famous hiking tabby, Rafiki (yes, she has an Insta). He enjoys experiencing the lesser-known destinations and discovering hidden gems.