Photogenic Route 395 – from California to Canada

Ok, so my bucket list may not be very imaginative. But after all, it’s my bucket list! One of the items on the list was to drive and photograph U.S. Route 395 from the southern terminus in Southern California to the northern U.S. point near Laurier, Washington at the Canadian border. The highway runs through California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington before changing to Highway 395 in Canada.  We had previously driven the portion of 395 in Southern California, so for this trip we wanted to see the rest of the highway starting from the Yosemite area north to the Canadian border.  Deciding to make a large loop so that we wouldn’t retrace our steps, we left Route 395 after reaching the border and headed west to the Puget Sound, down Highway 5 through eastern Washington and Oregon, and then back to Central California.

One of the more beautiful sections of 395 is along the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in California from Bishop to north of Topaz Lake  – what Yosemite locals call the ‘east side’.  The east side of the range is particularly beautiful during the Fall and Winter (OK, the Spring is lovely too)  with the snow-capped peaks towering over the east side favorite spots for photo ops.  But all along the highway there are opportunities for some interesting shots no matter the season.

east side house

The June Lake Loop area south of Mono Lake has four wonderful lakes for fishing, lodges and campgrounds for relaxation, winter sports, hiking, and year round photography.  This is always a must stop for Fall colors.
silver lake fishing
silver lake closed

Continuing north on 395 we avoided the urge to turn left onto Highway 120 through Tioga Pass and into Yosemite.  (Since at the time we lived close to Yosemite, we were able to continue on 395 with no guilt or fear of missing the beauty of Yosemite and spectacular scenery of Tioga Pass!)  Next stop – the always interesting Mono Lake.  The Lundy Lake area just north of Mono Lake has some beautiful scenery, but more interestingly some great beaver dams, and another great place for Fall color shots.
fall at lundy

As you drive north through the section of the highway that is in Nevada, the Shoe Tree is a popular stopping point for pictures and the occasional shoe toss.  This is a smaller version of a more famous shoe tree that stood about 125 miles east of Reno and that was chopped down by some unknown vandal in 2011.
shoe tree large
shoe tree shoe

Once you are in Oregon there are a lot of spots for a quick shot – Honey Lake, Goose Lake and in particular, Lake Albert are all worthy of a stop.  You might also find the occasional interesting barn and side trip through this part of 395.  And I found a quaint little church in John Day that I couldn’t resist.
Oregon barn
John Day church steeple
Route 395 through Washington state is just as interesting as it is in Oregon – lots of farm lands, state parks, barns and architecture.  From the beauty of Crystal Falls and state parks to the interesting steeple of St. Mary’s of the Rosary church in Chewelah and great metal artwork in an intersection of Coleville, we thoroughly enjoyed the drive.
Crystal Falls
St Marys Chewelah Wa
Coleville artwork
Once we reached the Canadian border, we retraced our steps south back to Highway 20 (almost to Coleville) and then turned west driving through the beautiful scenery of northern Washington to the Puget Sound and the coast.
lake in washington
One of the stops we made along the way was near Wauconda where the Pflug Mansion was built at great cost and effort and then abandoned in 1921 before John Pflug could finish building his dream house.
pflug mansion

Once we reached the coast, we enjoyed the sights of Puget Sound from Whidbey Island and on a ferry to Port Townsend for lunch.
Port Townsend
blue sail
watercolor sailboat

All in all a successful trip with some great sights, delicious food, exceptional photo opportunities, good road-trip company (if we do say so ourselves), and we got to spend some time with friends along the way.


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