Aerial vie of Mammoth Lakes and town. Image credit Dragos Ness via Shutterstock.

These Towns in California's Sierra Nevada Have The Best Main Streets

Sierra Nevada is a 400-mile mountain range in California that is home to a beautiful and diverse region. This stunning mountain range, often referred to as the “Range of Light,” stretches from the Great Basin to the Central Valley in California. During the 1800s, the region played an important role in the California Gold Rush, which is still visible when taking a stroll or drive through several towns in this region. In fact, these seven small towns in California’s Sierra Nevada have the best main streets due to their history and natural beauty. These towns offer their own unique charm, outdoor activities, and breathtaking views of nature. From swimming in Lake Tahoe and fishing in Owens River, to skiing down the mountain peaks in the High Sierras, these towns and their main streets are worth a visit.


Main Street of Bishop, California looking north
Main Street in Bishop, California. Image credit Michael Kaercher via Shutterstock.

With the mountains nearby, it is no surprise that Bishop is known as a small town with a big backyard. Located in Owens Valley, the charming town is known for its stunning views, outdoor adventures, and museums. For train lovers and history buffs, a stop at the 11-acre Laws Railroad Museum provides a unique look at an 1883 train depot and other buildings along the train route. Visitors can also learn more about the history of the area’s first people at the Paiute-Shoshone Cultural Center Museum. Along the town’s Main Street, there are several options for local restaurants, shops, and the town’s Bishop City Park. For those looking for more outdoor adventures, Owens River offers a great place to fish for wild trout. The area is also a popular destination for trail running, rock climbing, and mountain biking.


Italianate-style Mono county courthouse built in 1880 in Bridgeport, California
Mono County Courthouse in Bridgeport. Image credit Natalia Bratslavsky via Shutterstock.

Located in the heart of the Eastern Sierra, Bridgeport offers something for anyone looking to relax, discover hidden gems, or explore the great outdoors. The town’s Main Street provides a look at Bridgeport’s gold rush history, as well as a place to enjoy a great bite to eat or local items to purchase. Visitors can also take a walking tour of the historic downtown, featuring the Mono County Courthouse, Mono County Museum, and Mono County Jail from the 1800s. For those looking for something different, a visit to Sierra Strange provides a look at works by local artists and other great novelty items. The area is also home to Travertine Hot Spring, where visitors enjoy soaking in the warm waters, hiking on the short trail, or simply taking in the great outdoors. For nature lovers, Twin Lakes, Bridgeport Reservoir, and Virginia Lakes are great sites for fishing, camping, and hiking.

Lee Vining

Sunny view of the Lee Vining Creek at California.
Sunny view of the Lee Vining Creek in California. Image credit Kit Leong via Shutterstock. 

The friendly town of Lee Vining offers visitors a haven along the picturesque Mono Lake. Although the main street primarily offers lodging options and local restaurants, it also provides stunning views of the mountains and water surrounding the town. A visit to Lee Vining must include a visit to the ancient Mono Lake. At over one million years old, the lake is one of the oldest in North America. Visitors enjoy birdwatching, hiking, and kayaking at Mono Lake Park, Navy Beach, and the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve. 

Mammoth Lakes

Boats sit at dock at Lake George under the watchful eye of the Crystal Crag peak. This peak is in Mammoth Lakes in Central California, in Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Boats docked on the gorgeous Mammoth Lakes. Image credit Patricia Elaine Thomas via Shutterstock.

It is not surprising that one of the most popular towns in the Sierra Nevada is Mammoth Lakes. Nestled in the heart of the mountains, this small town offers outdoor adventures year-round. In the winter, Mammoth Lakes serves as a ski resort town perfect for skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing on Mammoth Mountain. In the summer, outdoor enthusiasts enjoy swimming, fishing, and kayaking in the town's many lakes, including Lake George, Mamie Lake, Horseshoe Lake, Twin Lakes, and Lake Mary. Although the outdoor activities are endless, this charming town also offers a charming Main Street with tree-lined streets, local restaurants, and stunning mountain views. With the breathtaking scenery and outdoor adventures during every season, the time is always right to visit Mammoth Lakes.

Nevada City

Broad St. City Hall with Art Deco façade attributable to Works Progress Administration projects.
Broad Street City Hall in Nevada City. Image credit EWY Media via Shutterstock.

In the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains is the charming town of Nevada City. The town was home to the indigenous Nisenan for thousands of years and settled as a mining town in 1849. Main Street tells some of the city’s history with its historic buildings, local shops, and restaurants. In fact, the entire downtown is a national historic landmark. Take a walk downtown to see the state’s oldest continuously-running hotel, The National Hotel, which was built in 1854. The Nevada Theater, built in 1865, is the oldest theater building in California. Although there is much history to explore, there are even more outdoor adventures. The town is the gateway to the Tahoe National Forest, where people enjoy hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, and skiing. The town also has several tributaries of the South Yuba River and great hiking trailheads downtown.

South Lake Tahoe

Aerial View of South Lake Tahoe which is on the California Nevada Stateline
Aerial View of South Lake Tahoe on the California/Nevada state line. Image credit Jacob Boomsma via Shutterstock.

Located on the southern shore of the 80-by-50-mile Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe is a year-round destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The resort town is famous for both its ski resorts and beaches. When entering the town on its main street, one immediately realizes they are in a mountain town. With cabins and trees lining the street, there are plenty of local shops, restaurants, and views to enjoy. In the winter, visitors ski, snowboard, and sled on the mountain peaks in the Nevada Sierra. During the summer months, visitors enjoy boating, swimming, and sunbathing at the town’s pristine Pope Beach and other beachfront areas along the southern edge of Lake Tahoe. Tourists can also hike, mountain bike, or take in the beauty of nature along the trails at Tahoe Mountain.


Truckee River flowing in the countryside in Truckee, California.
Truckee River flowing in the countryside in Truckee, California. Image credit Ed Carrasco via Shutterstock.

Truckee is a historic town that offers visitors a glimpse at the Old West. Although the area was originally home to Washoe, Maidu, and Paiute tribes, Truckee became a mining town in the 1860s. A stop at the Donner Memorial State Park Visitor Center provides information about the town’s history, the Emigrant Experience, and the Donner Party. In the town’s historic district, take a walking tour and view buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s, including the Old Jail Museum and Railroad Museum located in a Southern Pacific Railroad caboose. For outdoor enthusiasts, the town offers several activities throughout the year. The tranquil water at Donner Lake provides the perfect place for fishing, boating, and swimming, as well as hiking in Donner Memorial State Park. During the winter, skiers and snow explorers love the town’s proximity to several mountain peaks in the High Sierras.


Whether looking to escape urban life, enjoy stunning views of nature, or learn more about the California Gold Rush, the Sierra Nevada region is the perfect place to visit. With its stunning scenery, abundance of outdoor activities, and rich history along historic main streets, these towns in the Sierra Nevada are great places to visit any time of year. From skiing and snowboarding in the winter, to fishing and boating in the summer and exploring historical museums throughout the year, there is something for everyone in these seven small towns!

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