On Location: Road Trip – Cruising 395 and the Eastern Sierras

Cruising Along 395 and the Eastern Sierras by Wanderlust Designer
Cruising Along 395 and the Eastern Sierras by Wanderlust Designer

Want to explore a lunar landscape? Discover a Wild West ghost town? Dine at an authentic Basque restaurant? Roll the dice at a craps table and do this all within only a few hours drive? Head to the California/Nevada border, and hop on Interstate 395 for an unforgettable scenic road trip!

Cruising Along 395 and the Eastern Sierras (Illustrated Map by Wanderlust Designer)
Cruising Along 395 and the Eastern Sierras (Illustrated Map by Wanderlust Designer)

Road Trip Highlights

Reno/Sparks – Nicknamed the Biggest Little City in the World, Reno and the Sparks area has had it’s share of ups and downs with mining, gambling and Wild West history, but it looks as if the booming metropolitan is growing up. Surrounded by beautiful scenery, and less than an hour from major ski resorts and Lake Tahoe adventures, the Reno area has been growing with many Californian and Bay Area transplants tired of California prices and traffic. Besides gambling there are many festivals (such as Artown, the Great Reno Balloon Race, Burning Man, the Reno Air Races, Hot August Nights, Street Vibrations and the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cookoff) held in the Reno area throughout the year that attract all types of tourists. For history buffs, there’s even an app, Reno Historical, that will guide you through places, people and moments that have defined Reno’s history.

Carson City – Carson City has a small town appeal even as a capital to the great state of Nevada. Like Reno, it is also rich in mining and western history including famous railroad spots and even a United States Mint building. Head to the Nevada State Museum and the Nevada State Railroad Museum, both in Carson City, to learn more.

Minden/Gardnerville – As you continue South on 395 you enter the small cities of Minden and Gardnerville. Historically, both cities were heavily influenced by gold and silver mining but also have an interesting Basque twist. Many young Basque families initially came to the area as miners, but soon realized they could have a better life raising sheep and selling the meat to miners. Generations of Basque still reside in this area and have set up clubs and restaurants celebrating their traditional heritage. Be sure to stop off for lunch or dinner at JT Basque to enjoy the fare.

Topaz – 395 crosses the Nevada/California border at Topaz Lake. Just a few miles south is the tiny town of Topaz, California.

Bridgeport – Any fisherman will tell you Bridgeport is the spot to stop if you are interested in trout! Bridgeport Reservoir, Twin Lakes, Virginia Lakes, Green Creek, the East Walker River, the West Walker River and a number of other backcountry lakes and tributaries contain some of the worlds best trout. If fishing is not your thing, the retro mid-century motels and historic county court house also make this a charming town to stop in on your 395 road trip.

BodieBodie State Historic Park is an incredibly preserved ghost town not to be missed. You can feel the wild west history unfold around you as you meander the dusty streets and peak into the dilapidated structures. Once a booming mining town with nightly gun fights, Bodie’s remote location and severe landscape only add to the mystique. Bodie is located on State Highway 270, just 13 miles from US 395. The last 3 miles are dirt road, and often in the winter the road may be closed so check before you go.

Lee Vining – Just 21 miles south of Bridgeport is the town of Lee Vining. Mining put this small town on the map (first known as Lakeview) but now it is known for it’s central location to many sites and areas to explore including Mono Lake, June & Mammoth Mountain Ski Areas, Bodie and the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park.

Mono Lake – Only a few miles from Lee Vining on 395 is the strange landscape of Mono Lake, a natural wonder not to be missed. If you were dropped in by helicopter, you may think you just landed on the moon. This saline soda lake was formed over 3/4 million years ago. The lack of an outlet cause extreme high levels of salt to accumulate and create an alkaline base. The lake is a critical stop over for millions of migratory birds that feed on the shrimp and black flies. What makes Mono Lake so unique is the tufa towers that line the edges of the shoreline.  These iconic towers give Mono Lake it’s lunar feel and make beautiful portraits when photographed at dawn or sunset.

Cruising Along 395 and the Eastern Sierras Illustrations by Wanderlust Designer
Cruising Along 395 and the Eastern Sierras Illustrations by Wanderlust Designer


  • Jenny McCulloch

    I want to take this journey with my family! I remember seeing Bodie as a child and eating in the Basque-style restaurant…vivid memories that spark the imagination!

    • bbeier

      Yes, Jenny– I too remember that childhood trip to Bodie!!! Definitely worth the trip to just see how Bodie has changed yet kept it’s imaginative quality (the State Parks have done a great job preserving it!) I have done this road trip a couple more times since then, and each time find something else to love about the Eastern Sierras!

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