Directions to June Lake, Calif., go something like this: "Go past Half Dome and hang a right," or "You'll pass Mammoth, then go left." It's tough to make a name for yourself when your Sierra Nevada sisters are such tourist-drawing bullies. Sandwiched between Yosemite National Park to the north and Mammoth Mountain Ski Area to the south, June Lake may not be a household name, but a detour into its wondrous mountainscape proves that the road less traveled is worth the effort.
Your journey on the 18-mile June Lake Loop, home to June Mountain ski resort, encompasses four crystal-blue lakes, countless snowy peaks and stand after stand of quaking aspens. But it begins with a simple word: "Oh!" The exclamation escapes so frequently from visitors that the naming of Oh! Ridge was a no-brainer.
Your first stop is June Lake Village, aptly nicknamed "Little Switzerland." Perhaps living in a picturesque hamlet with your own ski resort puts you in a good mood. Or maybe it's the blue-ribbon trout fishing and world-class rock climbing. Whatever the case, the 600 or so inhabitants are some of the friendliest folk you'll ever meet. In summer, join them for street fairs, local artisan shows and, of course, Ernie's Monster Trout Contest.
Stocked twice monthly with German brown, brook and rainbow trout, the Loop's lakes are havens for both bait- and fly-fishing. Ernie's contest winners perennially weigh in at 10 to 16 pounds, and even novice fishermen bag strings of 16-inchers. Back in town, you can have the trout you caught before breakfast cooked for dinner at the Sierra Inn Restaurant.
On the Loop, each lake has its own specialty. For sailboarding, picnicking or volleyball, try the sandy beaches of June Lake. Tent campers flock to Gull Lake for shoreline views. On Silver Lake, the rustic Silver Lake Resort has drawn trout-seeking fisherman since the Twenties, while the Double Eagle Resort welcomes serenity seekers to its classy spa. Adrenaline junkies get their fix on the ample Grant Lake, where waterskiing, jetskiing and wakeboarding are the order of the afternoon.
Whatever your activity, the most crucial travel companion in this land of Ansel Adams is a sturdy camera. Just don't show anyone your photos, and this will be our little secret. ¿Alyssa McCornock