This is a family-friendly 6-day road trip itinerary through Central and Eastern California. It features activities in Sequoia National Park (1 day), Yosemite National Park (3 days), Mammoth Lakes (1 day) and the Eastern Sierra valley (1 day). All the hikes included are easy to moderate.
Sequoia National Park The entrance fee into Sequoia National Park is $35 for private vehicles and it is valid for 7 days. Reservations are NOT required for entry, but they are required for camping. For more information, visit National Park Service's website.
Yosemite National Park Due to COVID-19, advanced reservations ARE required for entry into the park in order to limit capacity. Unless you have reserved accommodations INSIDE the gates of the park, you will need to purchase a day pass. The day pass is $35 per vehicle and is valid for 7 consecutive days. You must arrive on the day reserved! For more information, visit the National Park Service's website.
Although most of the activities in this itinerary are outdoors, some are popular tourist attractions and can get crowded. Please protect yourself and others by wearing a face mask in public areas and practice social distancing.
Day 1 Stop 1: Moro Rock
Moro rock is a granite dome that you can climb up on a narrow path and stairway with approximately 350 steps. It is a short but somewhat strenuous climb. Although there are railings, there are some steep dropoffs so if you are afraid of heights, be warned! Once at the top, you are rewarded with gorgeous panoramic views of San Joaquin Valley on one side and the snowcapped mountains of the Great Western Divide on the other.
Day 1 Stop 2: Crescent Meadow and Tharp's Log
This is a great spot to stop for lunch - there are some picnic tables and benches near the parking lot. Afterwards, go on an easy 2-mile loop around Crescent Meadow in the cool shade under the canopy of giant trees.
Day 1 Stop 3: Tunnel Log
Drive, walk, bike, skateboard through tunnel log! This giant sequoia tree straddling both sides of Crescent Meadow Road fell in 1937 and a tunnel was made from it the following summer. It has since become a famous tourist attraction in the park.
Day 1 Stop 4: Big Trees Trail
Easy 1.4 mile loop through giant sequoias. Take in the sight and smell of the forest :)
Day 1 Stop 5: General Sherman Tree
No visit to Sequoia National Park is complete without seeing the General Sherman Tree. Measuring 275 feet in height and 36 feet in diameter at the base, the General Sherman is the world's largest tree and it is believed to be older than 2,000 years old! From the parking lot, it is a 0.8-mile paved trail down to the General Sherman Tree.
After visiting Sequoia, we drove up to Yosemite National Park in the evening and spent the next 3 days there.
Bike rentals Yosemite Valley is a great place to explore on a bike! There are designated bike lanes in most of the valley and it is fairly flat. When we visited Yosemite at the end of July 2020, there was a Yosemite bike-share program where you could rent sanitized bikes for free! You should be able to find some in the Yosemite Village Visitor Center parking lot.
Otherwise, there are bike rentals in Yosemite Valley Lodge and Curry Village for a fee.
Day 2 Stop 1: Swinging Bridge
[Wheelchair Accessible to bridge]
This is a wooden bridge spanning the crystal-clear Merced river, but prior to 1965, there was an actual swinging bridge in its place, hence the name. This is an easy 1.5-mile out-and-back hike with picturesque views of Yosemite Falls, Sentinel rock and the Merced river! This is a great place for photos and if you have your swimsuit handy, cool off and take a dip in the Merced river.
Day 2 Stop 2: Cook's Meadow Loop
Walk or bike around this beautiful meadow and soak in the breathtaking views!
Day 2 Stop 3: Yosemite Falls
[Wheelchair Accessible to base of lower Yosemite Falls]
Did you know that Yosemite Falls is North America's tallest waterfall? This trail offers stunning views of lower Yosemite Falls, and you can see both the lower and upper falls near the entrance by the bathrooms along the western trail. The Lower Yosemite Falls trail is an easy 1-mile loop on a paved path.
Day 2 Stop 4: The Ansel Adams Gallery
[Face masks required for entry]
Marvel at the incredible photos of Yosemite and pick up some souvenirs from the Ansel Adams Gallery.
Day 2 Stop 5: Mirror Lake
Enjoy a dip in the calm waters of mirror lake (though the lake may dry up in late summer) while admiring the majestic beauty of Half Dome up above. This is a 2-mile round-trip trail on a paved road, so you can also bike along the path and there are places to park your bike as you approach the lake.
Day 2 Stop 6: Bridalveil Falls
The trail itself is closed for construction until end of 2020, but you can still see Bridalveil falls from parts of Southside/ Northside Drive and it is beautiful at sunset!
See and explore Yosemite from up high! Glacier Point Road is usually closed from November to late May and it is scheduled to close for construction in 2021, so please check if it is open before embarking on your journey.
Caution: winding mountain roads.
Day 3 Stop 1: Tunnel View
No hiking required - Lookout point with views of El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Fall.
Day 3 Stop 2: Sentinel Dome & Taft Point
Moderate 5-mile loop with majestic views of El Capitan and Half Dome
Day 3 Stop 3: Washburn Point
No hiking required - this sight offers incredible views of Yosemite from a more southerly perspective compared to that of Glacier Point (next stop). From here, you'll see Half Dome edge-on and Illilouette Falls.
Day 3 Stop 4: Glacier Point
A short 10-minute walk from parking lot will bring you to a spectacular viewpoint. Watch sunset at this overlook with spectacular views of Yosemite Valley and Half Dome.
After exploring Yosemite from both up high on Glacier Point Road and down below in Yosemite Valley, we packed up our bags and drove from Yosemite to Mammoth Lakes along Tioga Road. Tioga Road is California's highest highway pass and reaches an elevation of over 9,000 feet above sea level! The drive is beautiful with broad vistas of deep valleys and forests, but there are also many twisty turns, so be careful and pay close attention when driving!
Caution: winding mountain roads and high altitude.
Day 4 Stop 1: Olmstead Point
Olmstead Point is an overlook with views of Cloud's Rest and Half Dome. The overlook is by the parking lot and the view is breathtaking!
Day 4 Stop 2: Tenaya Lake
Take a dip in the crystal-clear alpine waters of Tenaya Lake! This is a great spot to stop for a lunch picnic.
Tioga Road Scenery
Part of the drive along Tioga Road runs parallel to a beautiful stream - keep your eyes open for beautiful streams and meadows.
Once you reach Yosemite's Tioga Pass Entrance, you will see a beautiful glacial lake - the Tioga Lake.
Day 4 Stop 3: Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve
Mono Lake is an ancient lake over 750,000 years old! Dissolved salts and calciums in the runoff water from the mountains accumulate in this basin, making its waters over three times more salty than the ocean.
After our final stop at Mono Lake, we drove to Mammoth Lakes for the next part of our road trip!
Day 5 Stop 1: Convict Lake
Convict lake is an easy drive off of Highway 395 and it is a popular spot for fishing, hiking and watersports. It is a serene lake with crystal-clear waters and reaches a depth of up to 140 feet. If you fancy doing some watersports, you can rent a kayak/ paddleboard from Convict Lake Resort!
Day 5 Stop 2: Twin Lakes
This picturesque spot is another popular location for fishing in the summer. There is a family of ~30 black bears that live in the area, so don't leave any scented items or food in your car!
Day 5 Stop 3: Devil's Postpile National Monument
At Devil's Postpile, you will see exposed columnar basalt formed almost 100,000 years ago when lava erupted in the valley. From the parking lot, it is a 1-mile roundtrip hike to the base of Devil's Postpile, but you can also continue hiking to get to Rainbow Falls (see next sight). This site is closed in the winter to cars, and in the summer, the parking lot can fill up quickly.
Day 5 Stop 4: Rainbow Falls
After seeing Devil's Postpile, you can continue to this beautiful waterfall on an additional 5-mile out-and-back trail. This trail is suitable for all levels and dogs kept on leash are allowed.
Day 5 Stop 5: Minaret Vista
Visitors can drive up to Minaret Vista in the summer for a breathtaking panoramic view of surrounding peaks. This vista offers views of the Minarets, the White Mountains and Mammoth Mountain. It is a fantastic spot to view sunset and for stargazing at night!
On the drive back from Mammoth Lakes to LA/ SoCal area, you will pass by these sights in the Eastern Sierra valley. The itinerary includes short hikes to help you stretch your legs to break up the 5-hour drive from Mammoth to LA. Beware that temperatures in the Eastern Sierra valley can reach over 90 degrees Fahrenheit/ 35 Celsius during the day in the summer!
Day 6 Stop 1: Erick Schat's Bakkery
Famous for its Original Sheepherder Bread, this bakery has a great selection of bread, pastries, donuts, sandwiches and more! Because of the pandemic, the bakery has limited the number of people in the bakery at a given time, so be prepared to wait in line to enter but it is well worth it if you love bread!
Day 6 Stop 2: Manzanar National Historic Site
This site was one of the ten camps where Japanese Americans were held in detention during World War II. The visitor center and exhibits are closed during COVID-19, but the self-driving tour path and parking lots are open. Given the extreme summer heat, it is probably easiest to drive around the grounds and do the auto tour.
Day 6 Stop 3: Mobius Arch Loop Trail
This easy 0.6-mile loop trail is located in the Alabama Hills Recreation Area. It offers scenic views of Mount Whitney and has many interesting rock formations, including a natural rock arch. This is a popular location for filming, notable films shot here include Gladiator, Iron Man and The Lone Ranger. Be warned that the drive includes an unpaved dirt road for the last mile or so.
Day 6 Stop 4: Cottonwood Creek Charcoal Kilns
Back in the 1870s, these kilns made of clay bricks were used to produce charcoal for silver miners in Cerro Gordo near Lone Pine. This is just off of Highway 395. where you drive down a mile or so of unpaved dirt roads.
Day 6 Stop 5: Hagen Canyon Nature Trail
This easy 1.2-mile loop trail is right off of Highway 14 and runs alongside colorful red cliffs. This was also a popular filming destination for notable films including Jurassic Park!
From this destination, it is a 2-hour drive back to LA. This concludes the end of our 6-day roadtrip itinerary from LA to Central and Eastern California!
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