Manzanar National Historic Site, site of World War Two-era internment camp for Japanese-Americans, guard tower

Getty Images

Manzanar National Historic Site

Top choice in Eastern Sierra

A stark wooden guard tower alerts drivers to one of US history's darkest chapters, which unfolded on a barren, windy sweep of land some 5 miles south of Independence. Little remains of the infamous war concentration camp, a dusty square mile where more than 10,000 people of Japanese ancestry were corralled during WWII. The camp’s lone remaining building, the former high-school auditorium, houses a superb interpretive center. A visit is one of California's historical highlights and should not be missed.

Watch the 22-minute documentary, then explore the thought-provoking exhibits chronicling the stories of the families who languished here yet built a vibrant community. A self-guided 3.2-mile driving tour around the grounds usually includes a recreated mess hall and barracks, vestiges of buildings and gardens, and the haunting camp cemetery. Sites are all accessible by foot or an auto road tour.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Eastern Sierra attractions

1. Mary Austin's House


Fans of Mary Austin (1868–1934), renowned author of The Land of Little Rain and vocal foe of the desertification of the Owens Valley, can follow signs…

2. Eastern California Museum

6.16 MILES

This museum contains one of the most complete collections of Paiute and Shoshone baskets in the country, as well as artifacts from the Manzanar National…

3. Alabama Hills

8.81 MILES

The setting for countless ride-‘em-out movies, the popular Lone Ranger TV series and, more recently, parts of Iron Man (Jon Favreau, 2008) and Quentin…

4. Museum of Western Film History

9.81 MILES

More than 400 movies, not to mention numerous commercials (mostly for rugged SUVs and Jeeps), have been shot in the area. This fascinating museum contains…

5. Mt Whitney

13.36 MILES

West of Lone Pine, the jagged incisors of the Sierra surge skyward in all their raw and fierce glory. Cradled by scores of smaller pinnacles, Mt Whitney…

6. Mist Falls

23.23 MILES

One of the most popular destinations for a day hike from the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon, Mist Falls is an Edenic spot, with massive boulders,…

7. Roads End

24.79 MILES

Six miles east of Cedar Grove Village is the end of the road for cars. A seasonal ranger station issues wilderness permits, sells maps and hiking guides,…

8. Muir Rock

24.83 MILES

On excursions to Kings Canyon, John Muir would allegedly give talks on this large, flat river boulder, a short walk from the Road's End parking lot and…