Laurel Lake trail is a challenging but not overwhelming road with breathtaking scenery located in the east side of the Sierra Nevada, a mountain range in the western United States, between the Central Valley of California and the Basin and Range Province, in Mono County. It’s one of the highest mountain roads of California.
The trail is located off highway 395 just outside Mammoth Lake California. It’s 8.5 miles long via Sherwin Creek Road and is accessible between April and November, weather permitting. Snow may block upper portion of trail well into July. It’s suitable for all stock, high-clearance 4-wheel-drive SUVs.
The trail climbs up to 3.065m (10,058ft). It's a narrow, steep and rocky shelf road. Avalanches, heavy snowfalls and landslides can occur anytime and can sometimes block some sections of the road. Good visibility of road ahead allows you to anticipate when passing will be necessary.
Due its unique location and the climb in elevation over thousands of feet, and passing through remote areas, it is important when driving in these conditions to be prepared. The lower few miles of the path has mid-sized rocks that require a slow pace as the slight climb leaves the shrubland zone. After a while the trail begins to smooth out as you enter Laurel Canyon. The path eventually leaves the first set of switchbacks and straightens out for a short distance. The portion that descends into the Lake area has a few sharp switchbacks that requires most long wheelbase vehicle to do a multi-point turn along steep terrain. This section of the trail follows a shelf path that may be intimidating for some drivers and passengers. Pictures really don’t do the terrain justice.
If you dare to take the risk and travel along this dusty and bumpy route, then make sure to be driven by someone who has experience of the road. Due to its location and length, this one way trail can be done easily in a day but because the lower section is very rocky and slow going, adjust your schedule to arrive early as possible. Besides, it’s easy to spend a good portion of the day shooting pictures so expect to add time for that alone. A day of fishing or just a picnic at Laurel Lakes rounds out the day nicely.
Proper preparation is essential to having a safe, enjoyable trip on this road. Due to the remoteness of the area, take special care to ensure that your vehicle is ready for the trip. The trail will test the condition of your tires due to the nature of the loose sharp rock that’s found here. Not only can it puncture a tire but the loose rock provides a limited grip as you travel. Your vehicle will produce a unique sound as it drives over this terrain. At the crest of the trail, one of the few pullouts will provide an excellent view of the lake.
The drive is definitely worth it. There are many excellent photo opportunities here. Don’t forget your camera! The views along the way are superb making this trail a fine scenic route into the high country. Fall is a great time to visit when the trees are turning color but springtime with its snow covered peaks is also a beautiful time to explore this region. Provided you have a vehicle capable of driving this terrain, the short drive to the LaurelLakes is well worth the time and effort.
Road suggested by http://autoramblings.com/
Pic: Robert Stellhorn