Hwy 395: I call this the gateway to the prettiest mountains in California, but it’s known as the stretch of road that leads from Southern California to access the entire Eastern Sierra Nevada mountain range.
I’ve been traveling countless weekends up and down Highway 395 over the last few years and have made a list of all my favorite stops along the journey. I know where the cheapest gas is, the free campsites, and most importantly – the best food and snacks – and I’m sharing them all with you to help you plan the perfect California road trip 🙂
To familiarize yourself, once you hit the 395, the main towns you will pass between LA and Mammoth Lakes (in order from South to North with no traffic) are:
- Lone Pine, CA: 3:30 hrs from Los Angeles
- Independence, CA: 3.45 hrs from Los Angeles
- Big Pine, CA: 4:10 hrs from Los Angeles
- Bishop, CA: 4:30 hrs from Los Angeles
- Mammoth Lakes, CA: 5 hrs from Los Angeles
- Bridgeport, CA: 6 hrs from Los Angeles
*varies obviously depending on traffic and what part of LA you’re leaving from*
Not a fan of fast food? Me either – here are some of my favorite must-stop eats for the road trip.
- Lone Pine: Alabama Hills Cafe & Bakery – they have amazing breakfast food (huge portions) and the cookies are a must! They’re expensive cookies but the day-old ones are cheaper and just as good.
- Big Pine: Copper Top BBQ – best BBQ plate off the 395. The meat is so tender!
- Mahogany Smoked Meats – the best jerky on the planet! I stop here almost every time I pass through since I found out about this spot in 2018 (yup, you can imagine how much this place breaks my bank) but it’s always worth it. The sandwiches are good too and huge! My favorite jerky is their honey turkey jerky and if you like spicey, definitely try the habanero beef. They offer free samples so you can try it all!
- Erick Schat’s Bakery – they have a location in Mammoth too but it’s not the same experience; that one is tiny so stop at this Bishop location if you’ve never been. It gets very busy and is a tourist attraction… but there’s a reason for it so make time for it.
- Day old section: There’s a small room in the back corner by the restroom where they keep their day-old baked goods at a discount, usually 50% off but sometimes as cheap as 35 cents! Yup, I’ve scored a whole loaf of bread for 35 cents!
- The cheese bread is delicious – again, pricey, but worth trying at least once. I’m not a cheesy person but I love this one.
- Deli – I don’t know anywhere else that makes a turkey salad sandwich and it’s my favorite sandwich here! You can order it fresh or grab and go from the refrigerator section.
- Mammoth Lakes:
- Stellar Brew Natural Cafe: they have a chocolate chip vegan cookie on the counter – it’s huge and expensive (like $6/ cookie) but SO worth it if you like the baked goodies like me. Can you tell I have a sweet tooth? This is also the ONLY place that offers dark hot chocolate drinks in town… I literally went to every chocolate and coffee shop in town in search of this. I’m particular with my chocolates too and basic milk hot cocoa tends to be too sweet and milky for me.
- Johns Pizza Works – delicious pizza and really good hot Italian sandwiches! Great spot to carb-load.
- Good Life Cafe – the homemade blueberry muffins are the reason I come here. You can order it as a side item instead of toast which is amazing!
- Salsa’s Taqueria – huge burritos, quick, filling, easy
- Elixir Superfood – if you’re looking for a healthier option, their smoothies are yummy (I recommend the Superhero smoothie)!
Cheap gas is hard to come by, but look for the gas stations/ casinos owned by reservations! They’re usually cheaper. Also, the first and last gas station in Mojave tends to be the cheapest in town.
- Independence: Fort Independence Travel Plaza (about 5 mins north of Independence)
- Bishop has 2 cheaper gas station: Bishop Paiute Gas Station & Yuhubi Nobi Gas Station
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Quick and easy, jump out of your car sights to see right off the 395 with no hiking involved.
- Red Rock Canyon State Park (off the 14 hwy but en route from LA to Mammoth)
- Alabama Hills in Lone Pine
- Convict Lake near Mammoth Lakes
- Hot Springs – there are a lot of natural ones outside of Mammoth Lakes
- Mammoth Hot Creek Geological Site
- June Lake – about 15 mins north of Mammoth
I use freecampsites.net to find free camp spots, but it’s basically BLM and forest service roads that you can camp at for free. There are plenty of options around Alabama Hills in Lone Pine, Big Pine (towards White Mountain Road), Bishop (Volcanic Tablelands is a good option that any standard sedan can make it to and the Owens Valley area), Mammoth Lakes, and surrounding areas.
Restroom / Rest Areas
Not a “must-stop” but likely a necessity. These all appear on Google maps but here’s a quick summary – there are 3 rest areas along the way:
- Coso Junction: about 30 mins South of Lone Pine
- Division Creek Rest Area: Between Independence and Big Pine
- Crestview Rest Area: Just north of Mammoth Lakes
- Markets are a good option for restrooms if you don’t like dropping into restaurants or gas stations to use the facilities
- Ranger Stations – there are 3 between Lone Pine and Mammoth Lakes, for permit pick-up and restroom breaks
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