Independence is a quiet launch pad in Owens Valley, tucked between Kings Canyon, Sequoia and Death Valley national parks. Independence is only minutes from the dusty Sierra Nevada silver screen locations that Hollywood stars from Humphrey Bogart to Robert Downey, Jr., have frequented.
It's near Manzanar, a site of significant World War II history, and near Mt. Whitney, which reaches 14,500 feet into the clouds. Natural arches nearby welcome hikers and photographers, rock climbers, mountain bikers and those who dream of the iconic Wild West.
Your playlist will run seven hours deep for this road trip from San Francisco to Independence. You can make a loop on this getaway that will help you tally up the sights of a huge, huge chunk of central California.
South from San Francisco, take I-5 toward Bakersfield. Exit on 7th Standard Rd. to go east. Take CA-99 south to Bakersfield, where you'll bend east again on CA-58. That's your line until you turn northeast on CA-14 near California. This is your bend south around the giant Sequoia National Park. Catch US-395 north to Independence. You'll pass Death Valley on your right.
To the north from San Francisco, you can take I-80 to see the state's capitol in Sacramento as you cruise through and catch US-50 east. Take CA-88 east and north to get on US-395 S or you can turn southeast from CA-88 onto CA-89 to get US 395 at a lower point. Either way, US-395 is your line south all the way down to Independence, passing peak after peak and forest after forest, some of the country's finest.
The Winnedumah Hotel in Independence is full of historic charm. This nearly century-old hotel is yet another with Hollywood secrets and stories. Favorite names that come up at Winnedumah include Bing Crosby and Clark Gable. The personality of the hotel and owners, Frank and Celia, are raved about by guests who love the personal touches and history of this getaway.
The Independence Courthouse Inn is known for its clean and comfortable rooms and friendly staff -- and its burgers. The Independence Courthouse Inn offers breakfast and dinner, and the burgers get raves. Overall, the Courthouse Inn serves up great bang for your buck.
The Dow Villa Motel in nearby Lone Pine is steeped in Hollywood lore, with the likes of John Wayne and Errol Flynn creating history here. Guests tell of hearing cowboys' spurs jangling up and down the hallways at night. The Dow Villa is highly reviewed for its views, location and service.
Tacos Jalisco is a casual joint, one of those super low-key spots where it's all about the food and taking it easy. The quality and portions of authentic food and the friendly service make this every bit of what you're looking for, and nothing you're not.
The Still Life Cafe in Independence is an extraordinary hidden gem that is slowly becoming not so hidden. The food and wine go beyond expectations, as does the staff. It's a casual spot to enjoy fresh and hot lunch or dinner. Still Life opens at noon daily.
If you're looking for Chinese and American food in a fun and quirky environment, Margie's Merry Go Round is your place in nearby Lone Pine. The food is great, and the lively personality of the owners keeps you entertained.
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.
The exhibits, architecture and natural setting of the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery are spectacular. Situated in a picturesque landscape, our hatchery offers a glimpse into local history through a variety of engaging exhibits. The hatchery also serves as a model of what can be accomplished on behalf of nature with a committed community effort.
The Eastern California Museum in Independence was founded in 1928. Its collection of artifacts contains more than 15,550 records and the museum houses about 27,000 historic photographs of the Eastern Sierra region, the majority of which date from the late 1800s through the 1950s.
Alabama Hills is a natural paradise, with its rock formations and natural arches. Mobius Arch is one of the Alabama Hills National Recreation Area's highlights, and incredibly easy to access on a .25-mile loop trail off of Movie Road.