Driving to Mammoth Lakes from Southern California

Oct 15, 2020

Located in the heart of the breathtaking Sierra Nevada Mountains, scenic Mammoth Lakes is only a drive away from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles and Southern California. When driving to Mammoth Lakes, the scenic drive through the desert and up Hwy. 395 is part of the experience.

Scroll down for detailed directions for your next trip and points of interest along the way.


Nothing beats the freedom of the open highway, and a road trip to Mammoth Lakes from Southern California takes travelers from the cactus-studded landscape of the Mojave Desert into the broad Owens Valley. Flanked by some of North America’s most impressive mountains and lined with ancient glacial lake beds, it’s easy to see why Hwy. 395 to Mammoth Lakes is considered a Scenic Byway. Once out of the city, the traffic density dwindles and you’re able to revel in the region’s impressive natural beauty.

Along the way, several quaint high-desert towns remind visitors of the rural Old West while providing full services to travelers. From chain restaurants to locally-famous eateries and charming hotels, visitors are able to find suitable meals and rest areas along the drive.

Driving from Los Angeles to Mammoth Lakes

The 325-mile drive from Los Angeles to Mammoth Lakes takes five to six hours, depending on travel conditions. From Los Angeles, take California Hwy. 14 toward Lancaster or Hwy. 15 toward San Bernardino to Hwy. 395, which will take you all the way to Mammoth Lakes. 

Driving from San Diego to Mammoth Lakes

San Diego is about 400 miles, or seven hours with no traffic, from Mammoth Lakes. From San Diego, take California Hwy. 15 toward San Bernardino to Hwy. 395. which will take you all the way to Mammoth Lakes. Or take California Hwy. 5 and Hwy. 405 toward Los Angeles then connect to Hwy. 14 toward Lancaster before taking Hwy. 395 to Mammoth Lakes.

Driving from Santa Barbara to Mammoth Lakes

The drive from Santa Barbara to Mammoth Lakes is about 385 miles or six and a half hours with no traffic. From Santa Barbara, take California Hwy. 101 toward Ventura, then select the fastest route toward Los Angeles to connect to Hwy. 14 toward Lancaster. Then take Hwy. 395 all the way to Mammoth Lakes.

Driving from Palm Springs to Mammoth Lakes

Palm Springs is about 345 miles or five and a half to six hours from Mammoth Lakes. Take California Hwy. 10 from Palm Springs toward San Bernardino. From there, connect to Hwy. 215 and then Hwy. 15 before taking Hwy. 395 all the way to Mammoth Lakes.

Scenic Areas on the Drive from Southern California to Mammoth Lakes

On the way to Mammoth Lakes, you’ll pass these iconic Eastern Sierra landmarks and scenic areas. 

  • Mt. Whitney
  • Death Valley National Park
  • Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest
  • Manzanar Historic Site



For those who don’t have access to a vehicle or prefer to skip driving, year-round train and bus service is available to Mammoth Lakes. This convenient and budget-friendly option costs travelers around $50 in combined ticket costs each way.

To get to Mammoth Lakes by train and bus, first take the Metrolink Antelope Valley train from Union Station in downtown Los Angeles’ Union Station to Lancaster, California. Then catch Eastern Sierra Transit Authority (ESTA) Lancaster to Mammoth Lakes route,  which runs once a day Monday-Friday.

Check the ESTA website for the most up-to-date schedule. Tickets can be purchased directly from the driver. Plan to have exact change if you’re paying in cash. Credit cards are accepted for this bus route.

Jason Abplanalp

Jason Abplanalp first discovered the Eastern Sierra lifestyle six years ago and after brief tenures in Colorado and Idaho, Jason returned to the mountain town he truly loves, Mammoth Lakes, CA. As an avid skier, mountain biker, hiker, and fisherman, Jason believes there is no better place for his family to call home. Jason has…

More Blog Posts By Jason Abplanalp