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.
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.
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.
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.
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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– 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.