Big Pine might be well known to skiers making the run up from Los Angeles to Mammoth but this out-of-the-way spot in the eastern Sierra Nevadas has a lot more to offer than just one more coffee stop before dipping into the ski scene or one of the several national forests that drape the landscape. And, coming from San Francisco, the drive down through the High Sierras, past Yosemite National Park and a series of national forests is unparalleled.
Once settled, you can flip a coin in Big Pine to choose which direction to head out and you're sure to find amazing outdoor adventure. Big Pine is a centrally located hub for hot springs, hiking, history and, well, too much to list.
Big Pine is about six hours from San Francisco and you’ll love the change of pace and the beautiful scenery both at your destination and along the way. Head east on I-80 and follow the signs for I-80BLE/US-50E/Capital City Freeway, then 1-80 Business/Sacramento/South Lake Tahoe. Continue on US 50 E/El Dorado Freeway past South Lake Tahoe and then swing a right onto CA-89 S.
After about 11 miles, you’ll make a left turn onto CA-88 E/CA-89 S before continuing on to NV-88 N. The scenery here is breathtaking as you head through Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park. It’s just a hint of things to come.
Make a quick right on NV-756 E/Centreville Lane and then continue straight onto Dresslerville Road. After about 1.4 miles, you’ll continue on Dresslerville Road, then Riverview Drive, and make a right on US-395S. Keep on truckin’ till you hit Big Pine a couple hours later.
The Starlight Motel has the comforts of home -- flat-screen TV, free Wi-Fi, small fridge -- and, if you're out there to snag some fish, there's a special fish-cleaning station onsite at the motel. Starlight is one hour from Mount Whitney and the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, and only 10 minutes from Keough's Hot Springs when the rugged day's fun is done.
The Hostel California in nearby Bishop is the place to be for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts on a budget. The friendly staff and shared accommodations make it easy to partner up for your big adventure. Staying here is like staying with family. The centrally located, charming bungalow features a spacious porch, fully-equipped kitchen, and a plethora of books celebrating the region. Parking is free, so leave your car and take advantage of the free bicycle rentals for a quick jaunt into town.
The Bristlecone Motel is kind of a one-stop shop. The gas station, supplies store for snacks and sporting goods ... it's all here, whatever you need for revving up your adventure. The motel rooms have your basic comforts in place, including free Wi-Fi and a microwave to heat up last night's pizza.
The name Coppertop BBQ says all you need: meats served hot and saucy. This is a mainstay stop for locals and passers-through alike. Pull up a bench at an outdoor table and tuck into some finger-drenching BBQ yums. You can't go wrong here.
Pupfish is a charming café in nearby Bishop that serves up creative, healthy comfort food in paper-lined baskets. The café is nestled in the rear of the Spellbinder Bookstore and opens early for the breakfast crowd. Their coffee is phenomenal, and the sandwiches are tasty and filling. Locals rave about the waffles, which are an indulgent treat on their own but can be jazzed up with a variety of toppings. Open weekdays 7:30 am – 2:30 pm and 8 am – 2 pm on weekends. Dogs welcome.
The Country Kitchen is a local joint that serves hot off the grill whatever you're calling for. Sandwiches, burgers, cold drinks and warm apple pie hit the spot. It's diner food, casual and charming. The staff is friendly and this is a spot you have to hit when in Big Pine, no two ways about it.
Rock Creek Pack Station is a wilderness outfitter that has been offering wilderness treks in the Eastern Sierras for over 70 years. They offer packages as long as 30 days, but casual visitors can still get in on the adventure with a day trip. In season, there are two-hour rides leaving on schedule twice daily, and half-day and all-day rides offered any day of the week. Choose from a trek above the waterfalls of Rock Creek Lake, a trip to Hilton Lake for excellent fly fishing, or a ride to Overlook of Little Lakes Valley to enjoy the mesmerizing views. Prices start as low as $95.
Bristlecone pines are the oldest living trees on Earth. The most ancient is found on Methuselah trail and has survived an estimated 4,743 years. The full hike will take about 3-4 hours with plenty of stops to admire the breathtaking views. Even the most seasoned hikers walk away in awe of the majestic power of the Bristlecone pines. Just getting there is a journey in itself – it’s a treacherous hour drive along winding roads that end at an elevation over 10,000 feet. Once you’re acclimated, choose from 3 trails. There’s a visitor’s center but don’t forget to pack a lunch.
The Buttermilk Country Loop Trail is designed for day hikers, mountain bikers, and 4WD vehicles. Back in the days when this was mining territory, the area was home to a dairy that supplied fresh buttermilk to the mining camps. Here, you’ll find the famous Peabody Boulders, massive stones that rise 55’ into the air and attract climbers from all over the world. The terrain is rugged but accessible. Facilities are lacking, so be sure to pack in plenty of water. Watch out for rattlesnakes, especially in the warmer months!
History is full of tremendous ups and downs, and lessons not to be forgotten. The Manzanar National Historic Site marks the history of the World War Two internment camps, where Japanese Americans -- men, women and children -- were uprooted from their homes and placed during the war. The Manzanar War Relocation Center was one of 10 such camps in the U.S. during the 1940s.
If the Hollywood history and big-name stars who have steeped nearby Lone Pine in big- and small-screen fame is your focus, head out on Movie Road and take in the scenes. (A stop at the Museum of Western Film History in Lone Pine first will serve you well.)