Lee Vining Town: High Desert “Main Street USA”

This small high desert community is located just outside Yosemite, on the southwest end of scenic Mono Lake. Although it looks like a real southwestern landscape, in fact it’s situated at 6,700ft, and gets plenty of snow in the winter! While the population is 200 now, it was double that in 2000. Here are some photo of Lee Vining Town.

American flag flying at Mono Basin Historical Society - Photos of Lee Vining Town
Museum in Lee Vining

This American flag flies on the front porch of the quaint Mono Basin Historical Society. It’s a museum dedicated to this unique, eastern Sierra town. For many Yosemite enthusiasts, nearby Whoa Nellie Deli is an awesome place to grab a drink, a sandwich, and possibly enjoy some live music.

Upside down house of Nellie Bly O'Bryan - Lee Vining Town Tourism
Yes, that’s an upside down house”

Lee Vining Town History: Nellie Bly O’Bryan

What I found interesting is that the woman who made this area famous was named Nellie Bly O’Bryan. She is the creator of the famous “upside down house” in the picture above. She left her glamorous life in Hollywood to seek out adventure in the Sierra Nevada.

However, Whoa Nellie Deli was apparently not named after her! This coincidence was a bit hard to believe, given the nature of this tiny town. The story goes that people were driving down the steep grade of Tioga Road back in the day. They may have lost their brakes somehow, and are said to have exclaimed “Whoa Nellie!” as they sped toward the location of the modern day deli.

Vintage Lee Vining Motel Sign, on main street (HWY 395)
Classic Tourist Motel Sign

Anyhow, there is no shortage of charm and character in this little mountain town. On the stretch of “Main Street USA”, you’ll find all manor of vintage motels, gifts, sporting goods, and eateries, albeit on a small scale.

Beaver's rustic sporting goods store
Supplies for outdoor enthusiasts

Note: Though you can access Lee Vining Town from the west (Yosemite), Tioga Road closes each year in wintertime. For more destination in the areas surrounding the park, check out my nearby Yosemite gallery.

Looking for lodging? Check out my Yosemite Hotels page.

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About My Photos

The images on this website are available for licensing and/or sale as framed prints. If you’d like to purchase them for a blog, news article, or gift, feel free to contact me with the specifics. This way you’re supporting photographers such as me directly (as opposed to buying from a faceless stock photo corporation).

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– Nathan Allen

About Me

Photographer Nathan Allen

I’m Nathan Allen, photographer / creator of YosemiteParkPhotos.com (Yosemite Photos) and international travel site I Dreamed Of This. In truth, I lived in San Francisco, New York, & Singapore…but nothing compares to life in the mountains. I share my experiences HERE.