Tonight Matt LeBlanc and Chris Harris embark on an all-season US road trip in the latest convertible supercars from Lamborghini and Porsche, journeying from broiling desert to snowy mountain.
Forget the cars; it’s the scenery that blew us away. One place in particular caught our eye as they race along: Mammoth Lakes.
That’s an epic name and it turns out this Californian town lives up to its mighty name. Here are 10 reasons to make it a stop on your next US road trip, even if you can’t afford a supercar.
1. The highway leading into Mammoth Lakes, the 395, is a spectacular drive: dramatic mountain ridges on one side and plains on the other. It has been used as the backdrop for many Western films. If you are coming from the Las Vegas direction, you will also drive through Death Valley, the famous desert that is known as one of the hottest places on earth in summertime.
2. Mammoth Lakes is home to the highest-elevation brewery on the West Coast of the US: Mammoth Brewing Company has won awards for its IPAs.
3. Mammoth Lakes is a year-round destination. In summertime, it’s paradise for mountain-bikers, while in winter Mammoth Mountain turns into a popular ski resort. You can enjoy the roads in winter or summer, but you’ll need a bigger vehicle when there’s snow on the ground.
4. This January has been the snowiest on record so the ski season will last until the 4th of July.
5. While most people make it a sport to come down Mammoth Mountain, locals like to change it up and challenge people to get to the top of the mountain as quick as they can. The annual Ezakimak Challenge (“kamikaze” spelled backwards) sees people on skis, snowshoes and fat bike heading up the 3,200 metre summit.
6. A short drive away from Mammoth Lakes, you can find a salt lake named Mono Lake. The rock pillars form an eerie backdrop and make you feel as if you are on a different planet.
7. If you like a good ghost story, make sure to stop by Bodie State Historic Park, a gold-mining ghost town. The town had a population of 10,000 until everybody packed up and left, leaving a nearly intact ghost town behind (the textbooks are still on the desk in the school).
Who needs a supercar? The gondola to the top of Mammoth Mountain operates year-round for a panoramic view of the Sierra Nevada peaks and San Joaquin River Valley below
8. Mammoth Lakes lies on the edge of the Long Valley Caldera. The depression is geologically active and countless hot springs can be found – the perfect way to relax after a long day on the slopes.
9. Top Gear isn’t the first camera crew to use Mammoth Lakes as a backdrop; the films Oblivion, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Scorpion King, Star Trek IX: Insurrection and True Grit were also shot here.
10. Mammoth Mountain is the training ground for many Olympians. The town has high hopes locals such as Chloe Kim and Shaun White will score big during the next Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.
America’s Golden West, 14 nights from £1,999pp. Discover America’s glorious western states on this fantastic escorted tour. Californian sunshine, stunning Pacific coastlines and visits to three of America’s most iconic cities – cosmopolitan San Francisco, starstruck Los Angeles and glitzy Vegas – as well as to the awesome Grand Canyon and stunning Yosemite. What’s included:
Spend two nights in glittering Los Angeles
Enjoy two days in the Southern California gem of San Diego
Non-stop, 24-hour Las Vegas – the world’s most extraordinary playground
A full-day visit to the Grand Canyon, one of the most extraordinary sights on Earth
Yosemite National Park is one of America’s natural wonders
Explore San Francisco, the ‘City by the Bay’
Call at Steinbeck’s Monterey and exquisite Carmel-by-the-Sea
Stay overnight in the classic Californian coast resort of Pismo Beach
Visit Hollywood – the movie capital of the world
Spend two days in sunny San Diego
14 nights’ room-only accommodation at a series of good-quality hotels in Los Angeles (2 nights), San Diego (2), Las Vegas (3), Laughlin (2), Visalia (1), Tuolumne (1), San Francisco (2) and Pismo Beach (1)