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Millpond County Park is 11 kilometers north of Bishop, off Highway 395.
It’s best known as the site of a music festival held every September.
Early on an autumn morning it’s a tranquil place for reflection (in all
senses of the word).
Continuing north on the 395, the Owens Valley gives way to Long Valley, the caldera (crater) of a volcano that last erupted about 200 years ago. In the valley are some very popular ski areas, including the upscale resort town of Mammoth Lakes. The volcano is starting to show signs of renewed activity, including some rather ominous earthquakes. But that doesn’t seem to be deterring development.
You can see evidence of a long history of volcanism at the Devil’s
Postpile. Lava flowing from an eruption some 100,000 years ago formed
hexagonal “pillars” of basaltic rock as it cooled and shrank. 80,000
years later, glaciers exposed, bent, and broke up the pillars.
Getting to the postpile requires an easy 650 meter hike on a pleasant
trail from the parking lot (or shuttle bus stop) at the ranger station.
The postpile wall is 18 meters high and faces west, so the best time
to visit is in the afternoon.
The postpile is actually just a small part of the 324-hectare Devils Postpile National Monument. Along with the adjacent Reds Meadow, it’s a popular destination for hiking, camping, and fishing. During the crowded summer months, only people who are using the monument’s small campground or who are handicapped can drive on California Route 203 past the Mammoth Mountain ski area. Everyone else must park at the ski area and ride a shuttle bus. By the middle of September the crowds dissipate, the shuttle bus stops running, and visitors can drive the narrow, twisting road into the monument.
Sotcher Lake is in the Reds Meadow area of Inyo National Forest, east
of the postpile. It’s a good place to relax and enjoy a picnic.
The town of June Lake is 32 kilometers north of Mammoth Lakes on the
395. It’s a ski resort like Mammoth Lakes, but a prettier and far less
pretentious one. June Lake is a very pleasant base for exploring the
area from Mammoth to Mono Lake. The town and its namesake lake are at
the southern end of Route 158, a 25-kilometer byway known as the June
The scenery is stunning on the southern half of the loop, which includes
June Lake, Gull Lake, and Silver Lake. But the trees inexplicably
disappear when you get to the northern half of the loop around Grant
Lake, before it rejoins Highway 395. The landscape there is barren and
clearly reveals the region’s volcanic history.
Lee Vining is 15 kilometers north of June Lake on the 395. It’s the
nearest town to Mono Lake and Bodie.
Beyond Lee Vining, the 395 continues another 105 kilometers to the