Discovering the Eastern Sierras!
Updated: Nov 15, 2020
July 2020 - Hotel Hiking Trip
I spent many of my college years camping in the Eastern Sierras which I think of as one of the most majestic places in California. I planned a trip for my girls to see what all the fuss is about. I called this trip our "Hotel Hiking Trip" because instead of camping we would stay in hotels. I knew that I would be taking them on long hikes each day so I figured lets do a bit of glamping. We would hike our hearts out by day and take long showers and sleep in cozy beds by night.
DAY 1: Drive to Lundy Canyon, Elevation 7,858 ft
We left Santa Cruz by 5am and made it to Lundy Canyon by noon. I used to visit this canyon growing up and have not been back in 20 years! I had a 4 mile hike planned but made the mistake of parking at the lake rather than at the trailhead, duh! I realized my mistake as we were hiking up the dirt road in the heat watching cars drive past, coating us in a thick layer of dust. By the time I realized my mistake, it was too lake to turn back and get the van so we trudged on. We were huffing and puffing by the time we made it to the trailhead and the altitude was definitely making itself known. We hiked up into the canyon but did not make it to the falls as the kids were pretty hot and tired. We did see beaver ponds, alpine flowers, lakes, and the Sierra's iconic quaking aspens.
On our way to the hotel, I dragged the girls to Mono Lake but didn't stay long as they were not loving the farty smell of the muddy shore, not to mention the black blanket of flies that parted as we walked. We loaded back into the car and made it to our home for the next 2 nights, El Mono Motel. We checked into our cute little room and explored the town of Lee Vining, which is about 2 blocks long and more of a truck stop than a town. We feasted on burgers and fries for dinner and got to bed early as we had a big day ahead of us.
DAY 2: Saddlebag Lake to 20 Lakes Basin, Elevation 10,000 ft, 8.9 miles
This was my favorite hike of the trip! We discovered countless lakes, played in the snow and even made a snowman! We covered a lot of distance and the scenery was breathtaking. This has to be my most favorite hike I have done in the Sierras.
After a full day of hiking we used Yelp to find a place to get some dinner. We ended up going to the coolest gas station I have ever been to which was rumored to have famous fish tacos! The Mobil gas station had a restaurant called, Whoa Nellie Deli with just about everything one could want. The kids settled on chili and cornbread and I had to get their infamous fish tacos with mango salsa. After dinner we browsed in the store which had so many cool souvenirs, I wanted to buy everything!
DAY 3: Virginia Lakes to Frog Lakes, 9,819 ft., 5 miles
The kids were a bit tired today from the miles we put in the day before but they rallied. About a mile into the hike, we discovered an old miners cabin which was really fascinating. Once we made it to Frog Lakes we saw how it got its name, little frogs everywhere! We also saw some sort of ground bird, maybe a grouse?
After our hike we drive to Mammoth to meet up with my mom and her husband. We checked into a fancy ski lodge with a pool. Our room had a TV, balcony and a cute little kitchen! The kids thought this was pretty darn fancy compared to how we normally travel, which usually involves a sleeping bag, tent or our little RV. Carney gals, "Welcome to the lifestyles of the rich and famous! "
DAY 4: Little Lakes Valley to Gem Lakes, 7.2 miles, 10,300 ft.
This hike is the reason I chose to stay in Mammoth, it looked amazing. It is closer to Bishop, about a 45 minute drive from Mammoth. The trail is definitely crowded and the parking lot was full at 9am but that being said I highly recommend it. About 1/2 mile in we realized my mom forgot her backpack with water and snacks. I ran back and got it because you just cant do a 7 mile hike without water.
My mom and Matthew turned back after a mile, it was their 1st day in the high elevation and were feeling it big time. Willa decided to go with them and Scarlett & I took off on our own at a faster pace.
We past lake upon lake and saw an old abandoned wagon chassis from the mining days. It is amazing that people were able to get those up in these remote mountains. The hike became pretty epic with tall granite mountains to either side of us. We made it to Gem Lakes and had to turn around as we needed to head back quickly to meet up with the family.
After 1 mile I hear "Mommy!!" and I see little Willa running up the trail. Apparently she changed her mind after we parted ways and ended up in tears wishing she went with us saying how "This was the hike my mommy wanted to do so bad, this is why she came here" Thankfully Matthew, who is seriously the nicest guy, turned around and hiked her back despite how the elevation was affecting him, remember we were over 10,000 feet!
We finished the hike together and met up with my mom at the trail head who was talking to the squirrels and soaking her feet in the water. They are such good sports and did pretty great for being their 1st day at high elevation.
DAY 5: Mammoth, took the gondola to the top and hiked down, 4 miles, 7,881ft.
We took the gondola to the top of Mammoth Mountain to hike the 4 miles back down. The mountain itself looked sad and moonscaped. The trail zigzagged along the southern side of the mountain which was full of shale and dust. About half way down we made it to some trees but the beauty of the winter season does not carry through to Summer. The mountain looked sad and abused. Hikers were few but there were a ton of bikers zipping down the mountain. After this hike we said goodbye to my mom and Matthew and thanked them for joining us on our "hotel hiking trip"
DAY 6: Reds Meadows Pack Station, Trail Ride!
This was what the girls were looking forward to during the entire trip. This was my way of saying thank you for coming with me on all my hiking adventures. The tour left at 10 but they were adamant about getting there by 8 just in case. After arriving at 8am and checking in we hung out for a while and explored Reds Meadow. This place is really cool as the JMT and PCT travel right through it which is so COOL! I felt like I was gawking at all the thru hikers resupplying at the little store. I was eyeing their gear, looking at their food, and I felt awestruck. Some day I want to be just like them and thru hike all over California.
When it was time to start the ride they had us go first! I guess it does pay off to be 2 hours early. We got to go right behind the guide which was amazing as there were about 15 horses behind us. Our guide was so cool and my girls asked her all sorts of horse questions.
All in all, the trip was pretty amazing. The kids had fun, we were able to spend time with family, and I was able to share my favorite part of California with my 2 youngest daughters.