Photo credit: Ben Girardi
Traveling from Reno to Mammoth Lakes
Located less than three hours from the city of Reno, Nevada, Mammoth Lakes is the gateway to outdoor recreation and adventure in the heart of eastern California’s legendary Sierra Nevada Mountains. With such a short distance separating Mammoth Lakes from the Reno area, a visit to this amazing destination is convenient and there are a handful of different transportation options, depending on your budget and schedule. Regardless of traveling by bus or car, the most difficult part of reaching Mammoth Lakes from nearby Reno is deciding how to arrive.
From skiing to fishing and ATV riding, Mammoth Lakes makes a great weekend trip from Reno. When it heats up in Reno during the summer months, the high elevation of Mammoth Lakes guarantees natural air conditioning. With hundreds of miles of trail and thousands of acres of lake-studded wilderness to explore, Mammoth Lakes has boundless adventures when the snow is no longer on the ground.
During the winter months, the home of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area receives epic amounts of snow for skiers, snowboarders, and snowmobilers to enjoy. From the dizzying heights of California's highest ski resort at 11,053 feet in elevation to the area's vast network of groomed trails within the Inyo National Forest, Mammoth Lakes is a great place to vacation throughout the winter while avoiding the tireless crowds of Lake Tahoe.
Driving from Reno to Mammoth Lakes
The 160 miles of roadway separating the city of Reno from Mammoth Lakes is known as one of North America’s most beautiful stretches of highway. With its trademark views, diverse landscapes, and massive snow-capped peaks, U.S. Highway 395 connects western Nevada with the eastern California wonderland via a scenic stretch of well-maintained asphalt. From river gorges to historic towns brimming with western culture, the drive is an adventure all its own.
To get to Mammoth Lakes, take U.S. Highway 395 south through the Carson Valley and into California at Topaz Lake. The highway dissects the rolling hills along the steep eastern flanks of the massive Sierra Nevada Mountains and then emerges into the gorgeous high desert of the Walker River Canyon. After passing through Bridgeport, a small western ranching community, Highway 395 reaches its apex at Conway Summit. This is arguably one of the most scenic highway viewpoints of the trip and overlooks the vast Mono Lake Basin. Farther south the highway passes the June Lakes Loop and within minutes, travelers will reach California State Route 203, which is the 2-mile stretch to downtown Mammoth Lakes and the gateway to Devils Postpile National Monument and other sights.
Many of the small towns along the 100-mile-long route between Minden, NV and Mammoth Lakes offer seasonally-based services, so it is advised to plan accordingly. The towns of Bridgeport, Walker, Topaz and Lee Vining all have year-round access to lodging and fuel. Charming Bridgeport is the seat of Mono County and is well worth a pit stop for a visit. Plus, there are several natural hot springs just outside of town (and you can find more information about those on the Mono County website).
From late spring to early fall, the preserved ghost town of Bodie immediately south of Bridgeport is open for exploration. Here you’ll find dozens of homes and commercial buildings that remain as the only evidence of the once-thriving mining community that survived here until the mid-20th century. For more information on Bodie, stop by the Mono Basin Scenic Visitor Center in Lee Vining or at the California Welcome Center in Mammoth Lakes.
For current highway conditions along U.S. 395, consult the CalTrans website. As a major commerce route, US 395 is impeccably maintained throughout the year. A majority of the drive is on divided highways with passing lanes, allowing efficient and stress-free driving during even the busiest weekends.
Public Transportation Options
The city of Reno is connected to beautiful Mammoth Lakes by a year-round coach bus service operated by Eastern Sierra Transit. EST's 395 route leaves the Reno Greyhound station at 155 Stevenson Street at 1:10 pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Travelers flying into Reno can catch the bus at the Reno/Tahoe Airport at 1:30 pm on the same days and for those that have sports equipment, the bus is skier, snowboarder, and biker friendly.
The trip takes about four hours and stops in downtown Mammoth Lakes where free public transportation shuttles serve every area of the town, easily connecting travelers with their accommodations. For more information on the bus line between Mammoth Lakes and Reno, visit the Eastern Sierra Transit site.