The ultimate guide to the coziest, most charming ski town in the Sierra Nevadas.
Do you prefer small town vibes to the ambiance of a trendy ski resort? Would you rather post up in a cozy cabin than book a room in a chic hotel? If you’re nodding, you should head to June Lake, California. This laid back ski town is often overlooked - because it’s less than 30-minutes from the world-renowned Mammoth Mountain – but is a sweet spot for families looking for a slower speed, literally.
While Mammoth is packed with an endless tapestry of slopes (many of which provide adrenaline-soaked thrills), June Mountain is a much smaller alternative that’s easy to navigate, beautifully maintained, and provides a platter of accommodations for kids. For example, kids 12 and under ski or ride for free, they offer lessons with super skilled, patient instructors, and have a great area for kids to play around in the snow when they’re no longer buying your bribe of candy for trying “just a few more runs.” (I’m looking at myself.)
To ensure your June Lake adventure is an ideal balance of fun, comfort, and affordability we’ve pulled together a list of our top spots for eating, sleeping, and playing in this fabulously slow paced mountain hamlet
One of the newest eateries in June Lake, this pizzeria provides a simple, yet delicious assortment of New York style pizzas that are made with homemade dough and sauce, and fresh ingredients. The goods are cooked in a rotating deck stone oven, which allows the crust to come out light and flavorful. And I don’t know about you, but we’re all about that crust. This is a primo choice if you’re dragging hangry kids off the slopes and would rather do a naked snow angel than cook.
This is the place to score a big ole greasy burger, with a side of cold beer and pool. It’s also the best place to people watch, as it’s a popular haunt for locals. Because almost every menu item will stick to your ribs, Tiger Bar is an excellent choice after a rigorous day on the slopes. Get ready to indulge in guilty-pleasure goodies like overflowing sandwiches and nachos, and a dessert menu you’re not allowed to skip.
Eagle’s Landing Restaurant
Although many consider this one of the classier eateries around June Lake, you can still feel free to rock up in your snow gear without fear of getting side-eye. This is where you go if you want classic mountain decor, a massive fire, and the creamiest, choclate-iest of hot chocolate. And there’s also food. While the menu is simple, all the comfort food faves are offered, and the quality is high.
June Lake General Store
While nothing spectacular, the June Lake General Store provides the basics for those wanting to whip up their own fare. I also bought one of the tastiest chocolate on chocolate on chocolate Sara Lee pies I’ve ever had at this spot. So keep an eye out for hidden treasures!
Yosemite Gateway Chalet
This chalet is what most people envision when thinking of a log cabin in the snow. It fills you with the warm and fuzzies - which is why it’s our top pick when visiting June with our extended tribe in tow (max occupancy is 8.) In addition to being the epitome of cozy-quaint, the house is offered at an affordable rate, and is only three-minutes from June Mountain - our preferred mountain for family ski sessions.
If you’re visiting June Lake in the spring or summer you’re still in for a treat, as the property is surrounded by a large manicured lawn, and sprinkled with aspen and cottonwood trees. There’s also a small creek and adorable mini-bridges winding through the property. Book this gem if you’re yearning for a welcoming snow-shelter, or wanting a home base while you explore the beauty of Yosemite National Park and Mono County.
Double Eagle Lodge
Our go-to when it’s just the three of us heading to June Lake, Double Eagle Lodge gives the housing rentals and hotels in Mammoth a run for their money - without charging the same amount of money.
You can expect plush beds in spacious rooms, stellar views of the mountains (set your alarm for sunrise, and bundle up for star gazing), and a spa that is the perfect remedy for stiff joints. Speaking of the spa, it’s super retro, but in a way that works, especially if you’re a kid that thinks a massive indoor pool and hot tub is pretty much the best thing ever. Oh, and they provide fresh chocolate chip cookies upon check in. I mean…
Ski or Snowboard
June Mountain has the best family-friendly slopes we’ve ever slid down. It’s never crowded (even on holiday weekends!), has lift ticket rates that don’t make you want to cry, and provides enough runs to create variety, without being overwhelming (here’s looking at you Mammoth.) If you’re in it for the big thrills, head to Mammoth Mountain, but if you’re cool with a mellow day cruising the slopes with your littles, we can almost guarantee you’ll fall in love.
Party at T-Bar Social Club
Most don’t think of June Lake as having a happening nightlife, but T-Bar Social Club is changing that. This updated music venue provides quality drinks and food (June Pie is upstairs), and features acts that range from funk, cover bands, jam bands, and reggae, to acoustic, outlaw country, and more. They’ve recently started upping their game with promotions and bookings, so you can expect bigger and bigger names to start gracing their modest stage.
SUP on June Lake
What June Lake lacks in size, it makes up for in mind-bending beauty. This tranquil, shockingly clear expanse of water is The Spot to go on a warm day, especially if you have access to a stand up paddleboard. If you’re staying in the Yosemite Gateway Chalet we mentioned above you’ll have all the needed gear. If not, you can rent boards from Mammoth Kayak.
Get Your Mind Blown at Hot Creek
If you’re into the idea of witnessing milky blue water bubbling up from the bowels of the earth into small pools ringed with layers of travertine, go to Hot Creek. This otherworldly sight is about 30-minutes from June Lake and is a win for geology lovers, or really, anyone with an appreciation for astonishing natural phenomena. The water is heated by magma about three-miles beneath the Earth’s surface, and is surrounded by steam that has spent about 1,000 years traveling through an elaborate underground “plumbing” system.
This sight is located off a dirt road (so you can only access it in the warmer months when the road isn’t covered by snow), and is a short walk from the parking lot above Hot Creek Gorge.
As you walk down the paved path, don’t be scared off by the ominous signs highlighting the area’s death count. Despite an exhaustive amount of warning, people still swim across the Owens River to walk the perimeters of the pools of boiling water. Sometimes, these people slip in and the results are not great. In addition, geyser eruptions and small earthquakes are not uncommon. But as long as you stay on the approved side of the river, you’ll be good. And don’t worry, the views from the safe side are still spectacular.
Soak in Natural Hot Springs
Because none of the springs are secret, minimize your wait time by making a trip on a weekday, or before 4pm. However, if the pool’s full when you arrive, take heart. People are often courteous and clear out after a reasonable amount of time. And even if someone’s not courteous, most can’t stay in super hot water more than 10-15 minutes anyways. While you wait, take in the mountain vistas and make friends. We’ve heard some of the best travel stories from half-naked strangers we’ve met at these pools.
Explore Mono Lake
If you’re visiting June Lake in the spring or summer, be sure to check out this 695-square mile inland sea that’s sprinkled with tufa towers that look like they were beamed down from an alien nation. The far-flung ambiance of this briny lake, coupled with the copious bird watching opportunities, hiking trails that snake around the perimeter of the lake, and kayak rentals makes it a destination you could explore for days.