Complete Guide to June Lakes: Loop Drive, Hikes, & Things to Do

Cover photo for a comprehensive June Lakes Loop guide featuring Grant Lake.

The June Lakes Loop is a scenic excursion through an idyllic stretch of the Eastern Sierras. It is a short, beautiful detour on any California road trip itinerary that includes stops at Yosemite National Park and Mammoth Lakes.  

The scenic drive first became popular after being discovered by Hollywood in the 1920s.

Whether you have a week to enjoy its alpine beauty or just a few spare hours, it is worth making the turn off of Hwy 395 for a look at the blue, emerald, and turquoise waters of the June Lakes.

June Lakes Loop Overview

June Lakes Loop drone photography featuring June Lake Beach from above.
Whether vacationing or just driving through, expect endless scenic views along the June Lakes Loop.

What is the June Lakes Loop?

Also known as California Hwy 158, the June Lakes Loop is both a destination and a scenic drive that detours slightly from Hwy 395 before reconnecting. It is a 15.7-mile loop road located between Yosemite National Park and Mammoth Lakes / Lee Vining.

You can begin the loop road at either June Lakes Junction (from the South) or near Rush Creek (from the North). Along this scenic stretch of roads are four incredible alpine lakes tucked into the Eastern Sierra Mountains.

What is there to see on the June Lakes Loop drive?

The most popular attractions and must-see destinations are Gull Lake, June Lake, Silver Lake, and Grant Lake. There is also a ski resort, horse tours, and a variety of hiking trails available for those with the time for deeper exploration.

More information on all of these possibilities is found in the next section.

Seasonal Considerations for driving the June Lakes Loop

Winter: June Lakes and June Mountain Ski Area remain open year round, but you will be unable to drive this as a loop during the winter months. Out and back adventures are an option from both directions, meaning you will always be able to visit all of the lakes and the ski resort. However, the section of CA-158 that connects Silver Lake and Grant Lake is closed in the winter! If you use our interactive map below, it will indicate when road closures exist.

Summer: If you are visiting in the warmer months, expect your nose to be glued to the car window throughout the journey! This is one of the most beautiful drives in all of California. Make time for some swimming to beat the heat at at one of the four lakes along the June Lakes Loop. There are four lakes on the June Lakes Loop, including Grant Lake, Silver Lake, Gull Lake, and June Lake.

How much time is enough for June Lakes Loop?

Driving the June Lakes Loop takes only 20-25 minutes without stops. However, most visitors will want at least a few hours to get out, take photos, and enjoy the views on their way to Yosemite or Lee Vining. If possible, at least one full day is recommended if you hope to swim or partake in any water activities.

June Lakes is also a popular place to spend an entire weekend or even a week-long getaway! It is a favorite destination for both ski weekends and summer holidays.

Directions to the June Lakes Loop

The June Lakes Loop is located South of Lee Vining and North of Mammoth Lakes. You will see significant signage that indicates the detour to Highway CA-158 while driving Hwy 395 in either direction.

June Lake to Yosemite Directions

The view from Olmsted Point on the Tioga Pass connecting June Lake to Yosemite NP.
The view from Olmsted Point on the Tioga Pass connecting June Lake to Yosemite NP.

If you are driving north along Highway 395 on a California road trip, your itinerary will likely include a stop at Mammoth Lakes (check out the Hot Springs!) before driving from June Lake to Yosemite. You will turn left onto Hwy 158 at the June Lake Junction. When roads are open, simply continue driving the 15.8-mile loop and continue onward toward Yosemite National Park.

In winter months, too many roads are closed for the season to navigate this route effectively. Specifically, the Tioga Pass Road connecting June Lake to Yosemite is typically closed between late-November and late-April. Plowing does not usually begin until April 15 at the earliest.

June Lake to Mammoth Lakes

If you are driving from Yosemite to Mammoth Lakes, your detour to June Lakes will be a right onto Hwy 158 at Rush Creek. Be aware that this road is typically closed just a few miles up in the winter. If you encounter road closures at Rush Creek, drive instead to June Lake Junction and explore the loop as an out-and-back adventure.

Pro Tip: Before driving to Mammoth Lakes, consider a short detour to the Travertine Hot Springs and Buckeye Hot Springs near Bridgeport! A cathartic soak in these free and natural heated pools is well worth the time!

Map of June Lakes Loop

Map of the driving route for June Lake Loop scenic drive.
Map of the driving route for June Lake Loop scenic drive.

This interactive map of the June Lake region shows the driving directions, times, and distances between all of the lakes on the June Lake Loop drive. It uses real-time traffic and road condition information whenever you open it.

Understand that if the driving route is solid blue as indicated in the photo, it means the entire road is open! If it instead is presented with gaps, it means a section of Hwy 158 is closed.

Click here or on the image above to open the Google Map with full information and directions in a new tab.

What to See on the June Lakes Loop

Vibrant blue waters framed by pine trees and set against a mountain backdrop at June Lake
Expect spectacular views over vibrant blue waters set against a mountain backdrop on the June Lakes Loop!

Unsurprisingly, the main attractions of the June Lakes Loop are the idyllic, mountainside lakes! There are four in total and each is worth a short visit if time permits.

We have listed the lakes in the order in which you will encounter them if coming from the north. If you are driving up from the south, expect to discover them in the opposite order!

Grant Lake

Grant Lake is the largest and first stop on the June Lakes Loop drive.
Grant Lake is the largest and first stop on the June Lakes Loop drive.

As you begin the June Lakes Loop, you will climb some elevation and almost immediately be rewarded with a view worthy to appear on any postcard. Grant Lake, tucked into Reversed Peak Mountain, is the largest and arguably most beautiful of the four lakes you will visit on your drive.

There is a campground and many places for fishing, as well as a marina, but otherwise no amenities at Grant Lake. This is a popular location for photographers, anglers, and RVers to spend the day basking in the California sunshine and enjoying the views.

Silver Lake

Kayakers flock to Silver Lake for a day on the water with breathtaking views of the Sierras.
Kayakers flock to Silver Lake for a day on the water with breathtaking views of the Sierras.

Up the road from Grant Lake is the slightly busier but equally pristine Silver Lake. Though the lake is much smaller, it is popular amongst visitors for kayaking, boating, paddleboarding, and camping. Surrounded by pine trees and alpine beauty, this hidden treasure is sure to steal more than a gaze on your way through.

If you fancy a meal with a view, consider grabbing a bite at Silver Lake Cafe. The ample outdoor seating and pleasant atmosphere provide the perfect complement to the unbeatable scenery.

In addition to the cafe, you will find campgrounds and a resort right at the lakeside. You will need to drive a couple of miles further toward Gull Lake, however, to find more amenities and lodging. About 2 miles from the boat ramp is a wide variety of accommodation options and services.

Gull Lake

Gull Lake and breathtaking views of mountainside lagoons on the June Lakes Loop drive.
Expect breathtaking views of mountainside lagoons throughout the June Lakes Loop drive.

The third and smallest lake on the June Lakes Loop, just past the June Mountain Ski Area, is Gull Lake. This impossibly-blue lagoon is a popular choice for visitors who want to stay in the village nearby and avoid the larger crowds of June Lake.

If you are looking to spend a weekend nearby, consider looking for accommodation near Gull Lake. The lakeside village has everything from cafes to breweries to bars. Because it borders June Lake, this will be the most popular and busiest area.

June Lake

Gazing out at the inviting waters of June Lakes from a roadside viewpoint.
Gazing out at the inviting waters of June Lakes from a roadside viewpoint.

Whether you want to spend a day in the sand, on the water, or admiring the views from the roadside, June Lake is the place! Passersby can simply stop to admire the vistas, grab some food or a brew with a view in town, or take a night off at one of many local accommodation options. Those with weekend or week-long plans will find the widest variety of services, amenities, and accommodation here.

As you might expect, June Lake is the busiest of the four lakes on the scenic loop drive. Only June Lake and Grant Lake have beaches, but the sand is much finer and more enjoyable at June Lake Beach.

Consider staying at June Lake if you are traveling with a family or prefer nearby amenities to solitude. If tranquility is your priority, you might prefer camping at Grant Lake instead.

Top 10 Things to do on the June Lakes Loop

There is so much to do beyond enjoying the alpine beauty of the June Lakes Loop for those who have the time to adventure a bit. In the summer, when temperatures are reasonable and all roads are open, visitors frequent the area to enjoy world-class paddle boarding, fishing, kayaking, and more. Of course, most people simply come to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy a vacation in the mountains.

Below is a list of the most popular activities and resources for arranging them.

1. Explore All 4 June Lakes

The best thing to do in June Lakes is to explore all of the lakes themselves! These include June Lake, Gull Lake, Silver Lake, and Grant Lake. Each one is photogenic in its own distinct way and offers a unique experience.

Summer visitors will have no trouble driving the loop and scouting each one as they go. If you are visiting in the snowy months, visiting Grant Lake requires you to return to Hwy 395 and go the long way around, which may not be worth the commute for those with only a passive interest.

2. Fish for Alpers Trout

Fishermen flock to the June Lakes Loop for a chance at tropy-size alpers trout.
A fisherman waits patiently for a bite at Gull Lake.

All four of the lakes along the June Lakes loop are flush with trophy-size Alpers trout, making this a world-class destination for anglers. There are boats and rafts available for rent nearby, as well as local fishing and tackle guides if desired.

If fly fishing is your thing, Rush Creek is a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike.

3. Go horse riding in the June Lakes Backcountry

Horses at Frontier Pack Train wait to be booked for an adventure through the backcountry of the Eastern Sierras.
Consider a horseback adventure into the Eastern Sierra backcountry for an unforgettable experience.

If you are looking for a way to see the unspoiled wilderness of the June Lakes region, consider a horse riding adventure into the wild backcountry.

The Dohnels are a local family that operate Frontier Pack Train. They have been guiding horseback visitors on unforgettable tours through the Sierra wilderness for years and personally attend to your itinerary, safety, and comfort.

4 Hit the water by boat, kayak, or paddle board

Boating is one of the most popular reasons to visit the June Lakes Loop in the summer.
Boating is one of the most popular reasons to head for the June Lakes Loop in the summer.

The inviting blue waters of the June Lakes loop are not just eye candy! If the sun is shining and the temperatures are reasonable, there is no better way to spend a day than getting lost in daydreams while paddling about any one of the four lakes.

Each lake has a boat ramp and ample shoreline to launch from. Bring your own vessel or easily find one for rent at any of the local shops.

5. Enjoy a day on the beach of June Lake

A distant view of June Lake Beach, dotted with families enjoying a day in the sand.
A distant view of June Lake Beach, dotted with families enjoying a day in the sand.

Grab your partner, the whole family, or just a refreshing beverage and hit the June Lake Beach for a well-earned day of respite! Once parked, soft sand and blissful views await you on the shores of June Lake. Don’t forget to bring your sunscreen! We recommend a biodegradable, reef-safe sunscreen such as Stream 2 Sea to help protect the aquatic environment.

6. Hit the slopes of June Mountain

Skiiing in one of the best things to do in June Lakes

If you’re visiting in the winter, June Mountain Ski Area offers 1500 acres of mountains for skiing and snowboarding. Whether you’re a beginner and looking to take lessons or an advanced winter sports enthusiast ready to hit the backcountry, you’ll find ample opportunity to enjoy the powder.

7. Go on a hike

Gull Lake is quiet, smaller lake and a favorite thing to do in June Lakes Loop for fishing enthusiasts.
Go on a hike around Gull Lake or one of the many other stunning nature trails in the area.

There are a number of beautiful hikes and walks throughout the June Lakes region. If you have the time, it is well worth exploring some of these trails. Below are some of the most popular hikes in the area:

  • Yost Lake Trail: 6 mile round trip, moderate hike
  • Fern Lake Trail: 3.4 mile round trip, strenuous hike with 1500ft elevation gain
  • Gull Lake Trail: 2 mile round trip, easy hike
  • Parker Lake Trail: 4 mile round trip, easy/moderate hike
  • Reversed Peak Trail: Varied length up to 6 mile round trip, moderate hike
  • Walker Lake Trail: 2 mile round trip, difficult hike with 800ft elevation gain
  • Rush Creek Trail / Agnew Lake: 2 miles to Agnew Lake, this trail joins longer hikes including the John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail

8. Sample some craft beers at June Lake Brewing

Want a brew with a view? Look no further than June Lake Brewing, located in the village between Gull Lake and June Lake. You can sample a variety of hand-crafted beers made right on-site and sip with a view you won’t soon forget.

9. Soak in a natural hot spring

Soaking in the hot springs nearby is one of the best things to do in June Lakes Loop.
Explore natural hot springs nearby including Buckeye Hot Springs.

Within Mono County, you’ll discover many natural and completely free hot springs to enjoy! After a long day, there’s no better thing to do near June Lakes than soaking your weary muscles in thermal mineral water touted for its rejuvenating properties.

Just 30 minutes south of June Lake, you’ll find a wide variety of free, natural hot springs in Mammoth Lakes. Or, venture 45 minutes north for magical soaks at either Travertine Hot Springs or Buckeye Hot Springs.

10. Summit Carson Peak

Hiking enthusiasts visiting June Lakes in the summer can trek to the top of Carson Peak for unbeatable views of the area. This undertaking requires a 10.5-mile out and back climb beginning at the Rush Creek Trail.

Be prepared for imperfect conditions as this trail is not particularly well maintained. In addition to superior vistas, you will also pass through the picturesque Agnew Lake along the voyage.

June Lakes Loop Accommodation and Services

The town of June Lakes has all amenities you might expect, including a picturesque park to enjoy a summer afternoon picnic.
The town of June Lakes has all amenities you might expect, including a picturesque park to enjoy a summer afternoon picnic.

Gas, lodging, restaurants, and bars are all available on the June Lakes Loop… but be prepared to spend a little extra!

The small town at June Lake is the largest on the drive and is open year-round. There are a wide variety of accommodation options, ranging from RV parks to rustic cabins, as well as standard motels and lodges. Among them, the Double Eagle Resort and Silver Lake Resort are the most popular. Click here to check for current options, availability, and prices of accommodation at June Lake.

The nightlife is pretty minimal as one might expect, but the Tiger Bar and June Lake Brewing are popular spots for a late-night beverage.

If you need a bite to eat, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes in town. Groceries, however, can only be purchased at the June Lake General Store.

There are no gas stations in town, but there is a Shell station as you enter (or exit) at June Lakes Junction.

Other Things to See Near June Lakes

Sunrise at Glacier Point in Yosemite NP.
Find a variety of useful guides for Yosemite National Park below!

There is a ton to see in the Sierra region of Eastern California if you have time for more stops on your road trip! Mammoth Lakes is a city that stole our hearts with its vibrant scene, wildlife, and countless hot springs. Meanwhile, it is only a short drive from June Lake to Yosemite when the Tioga Pass is open!

Below is a list of recommended stops, destinations, and sights nearby.

Mammoth Lakes and Bridgeport Guides

Yosemite National Park Guides

Southern California Guides

Northern California Guides

June Lakes Loop FAQs

Below are quick answers to the most frequently asked questions for visiting the June Lakes Loop.

Is June Lake safe to swim in?

Yes, it is safe for all ages to swim in June Lake with a shallow shore and no underwater dangers. The alpine water can be very cold, however!

Is June Lake Loop open?

The town of June Lake and June Mountain Ski Area are open year round! However, a section of Hwy 158 that connects the June Lake Loop is closed in winter months from late-November to late-April or early-May. Google Maps will re-route you past any road closures in the area.

How long does it take to do the June Lake Loop?

Driving the June Lakes Loop takes only 20-25 minutes (without stops). However, most visitors will want at least a few hours to get out, take photos, and enjoy the views.

Is June Lake Worth Visiting?

The June Lake region is absolutely worth visiting when conditions allow! The entire area of the Eastern Sierra Mountains is one of the most beautiful and overlooked destinations in California. Travelers driving between Yosemite and Mammoth Lakes should especially consider the short detour for the scenic June Lakes Loop drive.

Can you hike near June Lake?

There are a handful of hiking trails along the June Lake Loop that range in difficulty and reward. The most popular trails near June Lake include:

  • Yost Lake Trail: 6 mile round trip, moderate hike
  • Fern Lake Trail: 3.4 mile round trip, strenuous hike with 1500ft elevation gain
  • Gull Lake Trail: 2 mile round trip, easy hike
  • Parker Lake Trail: 4 mile round trip, easy/moderate hike
  • Reversed Peak Trail: Varied length up to 6 mile round trip, moderate hike
  • Walker Lake Trail: 2 mile round trip, difficult hike with 800ft elevation gain
  • Rush Creek Trail / Agnew Lake: 2 miles to Agnew Lake, this trail joins longer hikes including the John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail

Final Thoughts on the June Lakes Loop

Photography from Grant Lake on the June Lakes Loop scenic drive.

Our one regret on our adventure on the June Lakes Loop is that we did not allow more time to truly enjoy everything there is on offer! The opportunities for photography are endless, even without hitting the backcountry or hiking trails!

We hope you found this guide useful for planning your vacation or short drive. If you found anything inaccurate or omitted, help us improve by leaving your feedback in the comments! Likewise, let us know if you found this helpful!

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