My family and I love road trips, and one of our absolute favorites is the road trip from Lake Tahoe to Los Angeles! The drive from Lake Tahoe, though long, clocking in at eight hours plus, is quite scenic if you take U.S. Highway 395 which runs along the East side of the Sierra Nevada. From mountains and desert landscapes to Casinos and small towns, here’s a look at some of the highlights during your road trip — Lake Tahoe to Los Angeles.
Highlights: Road Trip Lake Tahoe to Los Angeles
Nevada State Capitol
The Capitol building in Carson City, Nevada’s State Capital, is not only a historic landmark, but also a magnificent piece of architecture with a silver painted cupola that shines like a beacon in the sun for miles. This small city also has a lot of great local eateries and casinos for gambling.
Gold Rush Towns
Back in California, as you drive south, you will pass through several small towns that sprung up in the 1800’s during the gold rush. Bridgeport is one such town. Park and walk along the historic main street or stop at a local coffee shop for a fresh cup.
Just 30 minutes south is Mono Lake is a large saltwater lake that is great for hiking and birdwatching. You get great views of this body of water as you drive past the shores on US Highway 395. There are also several pullout locations along the road for photo opportunities. Two hours west of Mono Lake is Yosemitee National Park.
Erick Schat’s Bakkery
Back in the car it’s an hours drive to Bishop, home to Erick Shat’s Bakkery. Stop here for some fresh bread or pastries for the road or order a fresh sandwich for lunch.
Manzanar National Historic Site
As you continue south, you will continue to follow the Sierra Nevada’s and be witness to stunning mountain views. In the wake of these mountains is Manzanar National Historic Site.
In 1942, the United States detained Japanese American citizens and resident Japanese aliens in remote, military-style camps. During World War II, more than 110,000 men, women and children were forcibly relocated. Around 10,000 came to Manzanar. Today the camp has a great museum where you can learn about this seemlingly forgotten chapter in our history. Though most of the buildings are gone today, the grounds are well marked and you can take a driving tour.
Just south of Manzanar is Lone Pine, another small town that was formed by settlers following the gold rush. The surrounding Alabama Hills have been featured in many movies including Gladiator and Iron Man. Visit the Lone Pine Film Museum to learn more about nearby filming locations.
Eastern Sierra Visitor’s Center
Be sure to stop at the Eastern Sierra Visitors Center on your way out of town. The friendly staff will point out which peak on the mountain range is Mount Whitney, the highest summit in the contiguous United States, and can advise on detours to nearby Death Valley.
From Lone Pine to Los Angeles it is still another three hour drive. I wish I could say there are more cool sites to see along the way, but for this portion of the journey you will just have to stay entertained by the transforming landscape as mountain peaks give way to desert cacti.
These are my best highlights from our California roadtrip from Lake Tahoe to Los Angeles. Know any other cool sites that I missed? Leave a comment.