HWY 120



Alberta Newspaper Group



Along the way, be sure to stop at the day use picnic area of Yosemite Creek along the road, to see Yosemite Falls - before it falls! - at Olmstead Point for the view of Half Dome from the side and rear, and at Tuolumne Meadows to stretch your legs a bit. Pristine alpine lakes, meadows awash with wild flowers, granite expanses swept clear by the glacial age, abundant wildlife, fast moving rivers and streams, snow covered mountain peaks and wide open vistas are just a taste of what Yosemite has to offer during your Highway 120 Adventure. When you exit the park’s eastern gate, State Highway 120 resumes and drops quickly in elevation down to the town of Lee Vining on Highway 395. Be sure to visit the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve at the south end of Mono Lake, where you can see the world famous tufa towers. Also plan on stopping at the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area Visitor Center at the north end of Lee Vining, which offers movies about the Mono Basin, a bookstore and gift shop, and many excellent exhibits. Keep going north on Highway 395 for a half day side trip to the ghost town of Bodie, which is maintained in a “state of arrested decay” by California State Parks and is considered the best, most well preserved historic ghost town in the United States, attracting visitors from all over the world. Towards the south end of Lee Vining, you will find the Chamber of Commerce and Mono Lake Committee Information Center, with a picnic area outside, a film about Mono Lake, and a great selection of local books, artwork and souvenirs. Stroll the main street of Lee Vining to stretch your legs, have a bite to eat and do some souvenir shopping, before heading on to the last leg of your Highway 120 Adventure. Highway 120 makes a left turn, just a few miles south of Lee Vining, shortly after one end of the June Lake Loop intersects with Highway 395 on the right. If you have an extra hour or two to take in the June Lake Loop, it is a lovely drive especially in autumn for the fall colors. This road, Highway 158, is also closed in winter. As you go east on Highway 120 - again subject to winter closures - be sure to stop at South Tufa, where you can see Mono Lake’s tufa rock formations, and if you have time, visit Panum Crater, which offers interesting geology and a great view of Mono Lake. Further along Highway 120 going east, you enter into the largest stand of Jeffrey pine trees in the world. There is a top notch informational display about this forest and the old lumber mill that stood near the road and provided wood for Bodie back in the mining days. Remember to “stop and smell the trees” because the cracks in the bark of a Jeffrey pine smell like butterscotch (some people say vanilla), before you continue on to the historical town of Benton Hot Springs - population 13 1⁄2, according to historical marker as you enter town. Once a thriving town of 5,000 or more inhabitants, the natural mineral springs provided relief for the aches and pains of mining work, and today’s travelers can still enjoy a good hot soak, complete with lodging and campsites, at the Inn at Benton Hot Springs. And then finally we reach the eastern terminus of Highway 120, at the town of Benton, also known as Benton Station, where the road meets Highway 6 on the way to and from Las Vegas. And there you have it, Highway 120 from end to end. You can see that it has much to offer, including a wide range of geography and history, a vast array of recreational activities to satisfy the young as well as the young at heart, something for the outdoors enthusiast or those seeking a spot for quiet contemplation, not to mention anyone who enjoys great food, wine tasting, and some spa-style pampering. Let us remind you to really take your time as you travel Highway 120 across central and eastern California, through the farm and ranch lands of the Central Valley, the Gold Rush towns in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, the high mountain roads of Yosemite National Park, and the stark and unique landscape of the eastern Sierra and high desert area. So, take a few days or a few weeks, visit during every season, and come back again and again over the years. Your Highway 120 Adventure awaits. For more information about Highway 120 in Tuolumne County, contact the Yosemite Highway 120 Chamber of Commerce at 9620429 (www.groveland.org) or the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau at 533-4420 (www. tcvb.com.)