3 Fall Color Scenic Drives in the Eastern Sierra

Aug 26, 2022

As the days shorten and the air becomes brisk with the onset of autumn, the deciduous trees around Mammoth Lakes respond with an epic display of color. Quaking aspen trees lining scenic mountain canyons and rimming serene alpine lakes explode in a show of incredibly bright yellow and orange. With hundreds of miles of roads lined with deciduous trees, the Eastern Sierra is home to some of the best fall foliage viewing accessible by car in the Western United States.

The best time to explore the majestic foliage of the Eastern Sierra is beginning the last week of September, with colors continuing through the first two weeks of October. These suggestions are weather dependent and visitors are encouraged to check with the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center for current information. Be sure to check out these three unforgettable and breathtaking autumn drives from Mammoth Lakes.

Fall Color Scenic Drives in Mammoth Lakes

Mammoth Scenic Loop to Sherwin Creek Road

This 2-hour drive begins at the outskirts of town on the Mammoth Scenic Loop. Lined with stands of quaking aspen, the paved roadway is awash with color during the autumn season. Along the way, several dirt roads lead into numerous aspen stands and to the Inyo Craters interpretive site.

The Scenic Loop is located off State Route 203, just west of the Village at Mammoth, and descends to US 395 over a distance of 7 miles. When you reach US 395, turn right to head south. Magnificent views of Bloody Mountain and Laurel Mountain are visible from the highway, each adorned with a diverse collection of colorful deciduous trees and shrubs. In 5 miles, turn back onto State Route 203 toward Mammoth Lakes and take an immediate left onto Sherwin Creek Road. This well-maintained gravel roadway winds along Mammoth Creek and is often inundated with endless fall color. As you pass the Sherwin Creek Campground, be certain to note the contrasting aspen and willow shadowed by the perpetual greens of towering ponderosa pine and white fir.

Mammoth Lakes Basin

An autumn vacation to Mammoth Lakes would be incomplete without a visit to the nearby Mammoth Lakes Basin. Surrounding the many alpine lakes, isolated groves of fluorescent aspen stand out against the expansive pine forests. Along the slopes of the rapidly rising mountains, many deciduous shrubs splash their red, yellow and orange foliage against the rocky backdrop.

Reaching the Mammoth Lakes Basin is easy. Follow Main Street past the Village at Mammoth, continuing as the road turns into Lake Mary Road. Heading west and gaining elevation, you’ll reach the first lake in 2 miles. For more information on visiting the Lakes Basin in the fall, visit the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center. 

READ MORE: Fall Colors in Mammoth Lakes

Fall Color Scenic Drives Just Outside of Mammoth Lakes

June Lake Loop

The June Lake Loop (State Route 158) contains some of the most awe-inspiring displays of fall foliage accessible by automobile. From the Oh! Ridge Campground just off the roadway, visitors can gaze over an endless sea of colorful trees rimming high alpine lakes, their reflections mirrored by deep blue alpine waters. In the distance, the flanks of Carson Peak are aflame with the reds and oranges of deciduous high alpine shrubs. Further down the loop, along the banks of Reverse Creek, groves of aspen and cottonwood shower public picnic areas with a display of golden yellow.

Reach this scenic drive by heading north from Mammoth Lakes on US 395 for 17 miles. Take a left onto the 14-mile June Lake Loop (State Route 158) at the green general store and gas station. After passing Silver Lake and paralleling the banks of Rush Creek, then reaching Grant Lake, the June Lake Loop merges with US 395. Turn right to return to Mammoth Lakes, or for an additional adventure, turn left to reach Mono Lake and the village of Lee Vining.

READ MORE: Fall Colors Just North of Mammoth Lakes

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