Highway 395 is the main highway into the lonely portions of eastern California, and western Nevada. It starts at a junction with highway 15, north of the Cajon Pass. After this, it crosses many miles of desert, then joins with highway 14 and travels north with mountains of increasing height to its west. After you go around a bend, near Owens Lake, you are thrust right to the base of the Eastern Sierras, a 10,000 foot high wall of snowy granite. Near Lone Pine you can see Mt. Whitney, just a little insignificant pinnacle in the vast wall. The highway travels north through the Owens Valley, turning west out of Bishop to traverse the green, verdant Round Valley below Buttermilk Country.

The road then heaves up a long pass, climbing over piles of volcanic debris. At the top of this, a vast valley opens up - a valley which is actually a huge caldera, the Long Valley Caldera. This caldera is one of the most unsettled volcanos in the United States. The road then passes Mammoth Mountain, home of backpacking, hiking, horseback riding, skiing, and a potentially active volcano. After this the road travels through the largest continuous Jeffrey Pine forest in the world, and reaches 8000 feet. Then it drops down to Mono Lake before thrusting up again to its highest point, well above 8000 feet again.

After this point, the highway travels through Bridgeport, and down the Walker River valley, home to more than a few violent summer thunderstorms. After a few more low passes, and several lonely desert valleys the highway reaches Reno. Beyond this it continues north, to Honey Lake and points unknown. I have never been north of Reno on this highway, but I hope to see these new places before another summer passes.

For some stupid reason, Caltrans seems to enjoy creating signs that label this as California 395. Uh...no, it may go through California, but it ends in Laurier, Washington!

US Route 395 Facts:

  • Southern End: Hesperia, California
  • Northern End: Laurier, Washington

US Route 395 used to go all the way to San Diego and was cosigned from Mojave to Bishop with US Highway 6, but in the California Route Renumbering of July 1964, it was shortened to its current terminus. Today, it's known as the route for Southern California skiers use to get to mountain resorts and the backdoor to the High Sierra.

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