U.S. Route 395 in California - Route Description - Sierra Nevada

Sierra Nevada

US 395 scales the Sierra Nevada on a ridge between the canyons of the Owens River and Rock Creek. Sherwin Summit, at 7,000 feet (2,100 m), is the first of five mountain passes crossed by US 395 in the Sierra Nevada. The highway enters Mono County midway up the ascent, called the Sherwin Grade.

After cresting Sherwin Summit, the highway travels along the west shore of Crowley Lake. Crowley Lake is a reservoir for the City of Los Angeles's acqueduct, supplied by the Owens River. However US 395 does not resume following the river, instead cutting across the Long Valley Caldera to serve the ski resort area of Mammoth Lakes and Mammoth Mountain via SR 203, after paralleling the runway of the Mammoth Yosemite Airport.

Eight miles past the junction leading to Mammoth, the highway crests the second summit, Deadman Summit, at 8,036 feet (2,449 m). This summit separates the Owens River watershed from that of Mono Lake, a salt lake with approximately three times the concentration of salt as the Ocean.

Along the descent towards Mono Lake, the highway passes near the community of June Lake, a recreation area where there are several freshwater lakes famous for trout fishing, and the June Mountain Ski Area. The June Lake area is served from June Lake Junction by the June Lake Loop Road (SR 158)

Just before arriving at Mono Lake, US 395 has a brief concurrency with SR 120; the two routes separate at the southern end of Lee Vining. At this junction US 395 is 12 miles (19 km) from Tioga Pass, along route 120, the highest paved route in California, and the eastern boundary of Yosemite National Park.

Visible for miles, the highway finally passes Mono Lake, squeezed between the lake and the Sierra crest. The next geographic feature is Conway Summit. At 8,138 feet (2,480 m) in altitude, this is the highest point along US 395, and the highest point along a U.S. Highway in California. This Summit also separates the Mono Lake watershed from that of the East Walker River.

The highway descends Conway Summit via the tributaries of the East Walker River, heading towards Bridgeport and Bridgeport Reservoir. Along the descent the highway passes by Bodie, a ghost town which the state park system has preserved, including items still on the shelves in the abandoned stores.

The fourth summit crossed by US 395 in California is Devil's Gate Pass, elevation 7,519 feet (2,292 m), which separates the East and West Walker Rivers. The winding descent from Devil's Gate follows the West Walker River, exiting near the towns of Walker and Coleville in the Antelope Valley, a few miles south of Topaz Lake which is on the California-Nevada State Line.

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