Awesome stops and detours between SoCal and Mammoth

Road trip to Mammoth
Stop and smell the wildflowers on your next road trip to Mammoth Mountain. Photo: a_nikon_girl/Twenty20

We’ve been there: racing up to Mammoth from SoCal, trying to get there as quickly as possible, just stopping for gas and a bathroom break along the way. But, if you stop to smell the wildflowers, there’s a lot of fun to be had between home and Mammoth’s epic trails.

When you’re cruising the 395 highway in the Eastern Sierra, the journey ain’t always ’bout the destination: it’s about the high octane beer, history and award-winning BBQ along the way. And the amazing scenery, just hidden a few minutes off the beaten path, isn’t bad either.

Indian Wells Brewing

A sign adjacent to the picnic area at Indian Wells Brewing. Photo: Krcmar.
A sign adjacent to the picnic area at Indian Wells Brewing. Photo: Krcmar
Roughly equidistant from LA and Mammoth, Indian Wells Brewing is fun for all ages.

Outside, there’s a picnic area looking over the Ridgecrest area. Inside, there’s a small tasting bar that includes many of the beers as well as a few sodas they make on the premises. We suggest the Lobotomy doppelbock, but tread lightly because the 10.5 ABV packs a cranium-crushing punch.

For the kids, there are lots of soda flavors you won’t find anywhere else (bacon, Alien Poop, Ranch dressing, and peanut-butter-and-jelly) as well as more traditional colas. And most are sweetened with cane sugar instead of corn syrup. Candy (think penny candy) is also available.

And if you’re curious, there are also windows into the plant where they make and bottle their wares.

Fossil Falls

A dog stretching out his legs at Fossil Falls. Photo: Flickr.
A dog stretching out his legs at Fossil Falls. Photo: Flickr.
Fossil Falls is a fun and surreal formation that’s the product of volcanic rock about 22 miles north of Indian Wells.

You’ll have to hop off the highway as the parking lot for the falls is just a few minutes off the 395. Although the road is rough, it’s passable for all but the lowest lowriders.

If you want a quick hike, you can easily be back on the highway in less than 30 minutes. But for the full experience, plan to spend about 45 minutes to an hour on this detour.


The reconstructed mess hall at Manzanar. Photo: Flickr.
The reconstructed mess hall at Manzanar. Photo: Flickr.
Located between Lone Pine and Independence, Manzanar is a former concentration camp that held more than 11,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II.

A Guantanamo (on steroids) of its day, the museum is a sobering look at a massive injustice perpetrated during wartime under the guise of protecting national security.

Good for a short to medium stop, the museum is free and, on hot days, the A/C is awesome.

Lone Pine Film History Museum

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Lone Pine Film History Museum is packed with dozens of Westerns and scenes in non-Westerns. Gladiator, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Iron Man — to name a few — were all shot in the nearby Alabama Hills.

Pop in to see stills and clips from actors like John Wayne, Bing Crosby, Robert Downey, Jr. and Jeff Bridges. There’s also oodles of cool props and costumes as well as a movie theater.

Plus, this stop is right off the main drag, so no detour needed.

Coppertop BBQ

Copper Top BBQ
Copper Top BBQ is a Yelp favorite. Photo: Copper Top BBQ
Ranked #1 in Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S. for 2015, Coppertop BBQ is the spot for those who want some tasty bits and don’t care about the drought. Just kidding … mostly.

As indicated by the first place title on Yelp, folks rave about this place. It’s also another spot right off the 395.

Eastern California Museum

An old car outside of the Eastern California Museum. Photo: Flickr.
An old car outside of the Eastern California Museum. Photo: Flickr.
Founded in 1928, the Eastern California Museum covers the rich history of the areas between Death Valley and Mono Lake.

The museum has more than 27,000 historic photographs and thousands of artifacts in its collection. And the modest museum cycles through its collection in different displays.

The last time we were there they had cowboy dentures made from coyote teeth. Admission is free.

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