June Lake is one of the most beautiful areas in the Eastern Sierra. It is nicknamed the “Switzerland of California” for its glistening blue lakes, lush greenery, and breathtaking mountain visits. But it’s not just the landscape that makes June Lake so appealing. There are tons of things to do here, from canoeing and jet skiing in the summer to skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.
So, whether you’re taking a road trip through California or looking for a short nature break, you won’t regret a trip to June Lake. This part of Mono County is also just a few hours from California’s top national parks; Yosemite, Death Valley, and Sequoia. So, why not extend your trip and visit June Lake as an additional stop?
This article will share how you can best explore this picturesque area via the iconic June Lake Loop drive, helping you plan the perfect day trip.
Stops on the June Lake Loop Drive
On the 16-mile June Lake scenic loop, you’ll pass four lakes, numerous beaches, and trailheads for blissful nature walks. Although you can start the drive from either direction, this itinerary will follow the route from the north end, close to Mono Lake.
Parker Lake Trail
There are many beautiful places to go hiking in June Lake, but if you’re visiting in the summer, it will be too hot for long walks in the middle of the day. However, as one of the best trails is close to the north end of the loop, tackling this short but moderately challenging trek first thing makes sense.
The Parker Lake Trail is a 3.6-mile (5.8 km) route that begins from the end of Parker Lake Road, one of the first turn-offs on the loop. It goes above the canyon and leads through a gorgeous forest of Aspen and Pines trees until opening out to the small lake. Because Parker Lake sits at 8,300 ft. elevation, you can expect to find some of the best views in the area here!
You’ll most likely finish the Parker Lake hike around mid-morning, which is the perfect time to head to the next stop. The artificial Grant Lake is the biggest one in the area, spanning 1,100-acres and measuring over three miles long. Because of its size, boating is extremely popular, and you can rent various types of boats from the marina.
However, suppose you want to add a thrilling activity to your trip. In that case, you can rent a jet ski or try water skiing or flyboarding instead. The lake’s speed limit is lifted after 10am each day, permitting fast-moving watercraft for these activities.
You’ll surely be hungry after your morning hike and thrilling (or relaxing) stop at Grant Lake. Luckily, the next stop, Silver Lake, is the perfect place to stop for lunch. If you bring your own, you can enjoy a picnic with a view along the shore. Alternatively, you can buy something from the cafe at Silver Lake Resort. Their lunch menu has a vast selection of burgers, sandwiches, and salads, which you can wash down with a cold beverage.
Once you’ve regained your energy, you’ll be ready for some more exploring. Just south of Silver Lake is the beautiful Horsetail Waterfall. Horsetail is the biggest waterfall in June Lake, gushing 270 feet from Agnew Lake to the valley floor.
It’s at its best in late spring and early summer, and during this time, you can usually see it from the road. Still, you can get closer on foot if you follow the tram line from the powerplant on Powerhouse Road. It is also a stop on the 4.2-mile (6.7 km) Rush Creek to Agnew Lake Trail that starts from Silver Lake Campground. However, with so many things to do in June Lake, I recommend seeing it from the road or following the tram line.
The small but pretty Gull Lake will be the next lake you’ll come to on this scenic loop. It’s a lovely place to relax or take a leisurely stroll. A 2-mile (3.2 km) hiking trail loops around Gull Lake, hugging the shoreline. The trail is flat and takes less than an hour to complete. Plus, it’s incredibly scenic no matter the season. So in the spring and summer, you’ll enjoy the vibrant wildflower meadows, and in the fall, you’ll witness gorgeous foliage.
June Lake Beach
If the weather is good, you can spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the beach. June Lake Beach is situated on the lake’s northern shore and is the best spot to access the water and swim in the lake as it is very shallow. You can also rent a SUP or kayak and paddle around the 320-acre lake.
If it’s a hot day, you can enjoy the cool breeze from the mountains. However, as there is no shade here, pack a sun umbrella, sunscreen, and plenty of water.
June Lake Overlook
Leave June Lake Beach just before sunset and head to one of the best viewpoints on the loop. To reach the June Lake Overlook, you’ll need to drive up a short hill. Here you’ll enjoy incredible views of the deep blue lake and the mountain backdrop. Park up and find a quiet spot to sit and watch the sunset. But leave just before twilight as the last stop on your itinerary is another viewpoint!
West Portal Scenic View Point
As you head back onto the section of the loop that is part of California Highway 158, you’ll pass the West Portal Scenic View Point on the right-hand side. Park up here to see the changing colors of the sky just before night falls.
It’s an incredible sight at twilight as the viewpoint is amongst wildflower meadows with Crater Mountain behind. If you catch the sun setting behind the mountain, you’ll see beams of orange light illuminating the fields; a picture-perfect moment to end your June Lake trip.
Where to Stay in June Lake
Most people who take a weekend trip to June Lake opt to stay in town. June Lake town is located just south of the lake’s southern shore, making it an excellent spot for water activities. It’s also close to the June Mountain Ski Area, Silver Lake, and many popular hiking trails.
June Lake has an excellent range of lodging options, from resorts to inns to motels. There is something for every budget and preference, but accommodation here fills up quickly, so book in advance. There are also several campgrounds around for those looking to get closer to nature.
June Lake Lodging
- Double Eagle Resort and Spa – This 4-star resort close to Silver Lake offers cozy rooms and cottages with fireplaces, wooden furnishings, and spa baths. There is an indoor pool, hot tub, spa, restaurant, and bar on-site. As June Mountain Ski Area is very close, this resort is a popular choice in the winter.
- Heidelberg Inn – This comfortable inn is excellent for families and groups, with condos sleeping up to 4 or 6 people. Each room has a small kitchenette, dining and lounge area, and an en suite bathroom with a bathtub. You’ll also have access to the outdoor hot tub, BBQ area, and games room.
- Gull Lake Lodge: This budget motel is located in June Lake town and is a popular option for visitors looking to keep costs low. The rooms sleep up to 4 people and feature a fully-equipped kitchen, dining table, and separate lounge area.
June Lake Camping
- June Lake Campground is the closest camping site to the town center. It has 28 campsites and is ideal for those looking for easy access to the water.
- Silver Lake Campground sits on the edge of Silver Lake and boasts a tranquil ambiance. There are 63 campsites, and flush toilets and drinking water are available.
- Oh Ridge Campground has 164 campsites and is located just above the north shore of June Lake with stunning views of the surrounding peaks. Each site has a table, fire ring, grill, and food storage locker.
June Lake FAQs
The June Lake scenic loop is 16-miles long and takes just 30 minutes to complete if you’re driving without any stop-offs. However, if you add the suggested stops above, the drive will take between 6 to 10 hours, depending on how long you spend at each place. You can also emit stops to make it a half-day trip.
The town of June Lake is an all-year-round destination, but the loop itself is closed in the winter. The summer offers various water activities, from kayaking and paddleboarding to jetskiing. However, the fall is perhaps the best time to drive the June Lake Loop in terms of scenery, as you’ll witness the incredible warm hues of the fall foliage.
The closest airport to June Lake is Mammoth Yosemite Airport (MMH), just 22 miles away. Alaska Airlines runs flights from Los Angeles (LAX) all year long and seasonally from Burbank, San Diego, and San Francisco. In addition, Yosemite Area Regional Transportation operates a bus from Mammoth Lakes Park & Ride to June Lake Junction 158/395 twice a day. Alternatively, taxis are available direct from the airport.
It’s also possible to drive to June Lake from various California towns and cities. The closest big cities are San Francisco and Los Angeles, a 5 to 6-hour drive one way. Alternatively, you can make the 3 to 4-hour drive from Yosemite or Death Valley.
The town of June Lake is open during the winter months, but the June Lake Loop drive is too dangerous, so it remains closed until spring. However, June Lake is still worth visiting in the snowy season as the white landscape is an incredible sight. Plus, you can do plenty of winter activities, such as skiing and snowshoeing.