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Mammoth Lakes is one of the most scenic, and tranquil places in California, with magnificent mountains, lakes, rivers, and waterfalls – the epitome of an outdoor paradise – with so many adventures to go on, Mammoth Lakes will keep you hostage for months. Choose from many activities that will most certainly involve, walking alongside natures unveiled, impeccable beauty. As its name insinuates, Mammoth Lakes has glorious mountains that are quite unforgettable once seen in person. The elevation at Mammoth Lakes is 7,880 feet but you can expect elevations to get as high as 11,053 at nearby lakes and mountains.
Where is Mammoth Lakes?
Mammoth Lakes is located in the Northern California area, known as the Eastern Sierras and tucked at the base of the Mammoth mountain. You will often hear of the town reffered to as Mammoth, Mammoth Mountain, Mammoth Lake or Mammoth Village. But Mammoth is just fine. Mammoth Lakes is the main town and the Village beside it is where you can access ski lifts. The town of Mammoth Lakes is part of the Mono County resting along the Long Valley Caldera and an earthquake fault line. Because of this, the earth around Mammoth is a geological nest, with lots of natural hot springs and intriguing grounds to see.
Why You Should Visit Mammoth Lakes?
With more than 100 lakes and streams visible from your peripheral vision, Mammoth Lakes is a popular resort town, skiing clearly being the most favoured activity during the winter season, and in the summer many visit for activities such as fly-fishing, climbing, hiking, kayaking, biking and more! While the heavy crowds tend to dissipate by the autumn months.
The best time to visit Mammoth Lakes depends mainly on what you plan to do, according to what you’d find both thrilling and enjoyable – only if that’s your cup of tea. For winter activities like skiing, and snowboarding, November through April would be your best bet. If you’d prefer to sit and gaze at the wildlife, do some golfing, or maybe some light fishing, then you might want to visit during the summer or autumn instead.
But even during the autumn months, Mammoth Lakes has lots to offer campers and thirsty adventurers. You’ll find no limitations when it comes to outdoor events, nor will you find the outdoor activities lacking in any way. The weather is mostly pleasant, with iridescent autumn colours surrounding you.
Best Time of Year to Visit Mammoth Lakes
With a great variety of camping grounds, outdoor activities, and annual events, Mammoth Lakes is undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist destinations in Central California. With warm and dry summers, and heavily snowy winters. Naturally Mammoth lakes would be rife with visitors during the summer months, while the winter months are still great for visiting, you won’t get caught up in the hustling and bustling that naturally occur during the warmer months.
From March to May, the temperature gradually starts to warm up, and the normally sub-zero weather clambers up to about 32 degrees Fahrenheit – still cold, but with clearer skies, and promises of the sun gracing us with its presence, the weather becomes a lot more bearable. Campers will notice specks of snow, already melting, particularly by April. But there are still areas where you can go skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing.
What would probably make summer the most popular season at Mammoth Lakes is the magnificent scenery paired with the abundance of outdoor activities, that can be enjoyed with families and friends. From June to August, temperatures at Mammoth Lakes would average from 75F to 85F degrees and would hardly ever dip to below 40F.
Summertime is the peak season for Mammoth Lakes, with pleasant weather and impeccable views, what’s not to like? From camping out with families, to a more casual activity consisting of fishing, kayaking, or hiking, to the more adventurous types who would enjoy extreme rock climbing or cross-country biking – there are lots for everyone to enjoy at Mammoth Lakes.
Essentials to Bring Along for Your Trip
Before taking the trip to the majestic, and serene Mammoth Lakes, there are some essentials you should consider bringing with you, especially with the high altitude, and weather conditions.
- Make sure to pack your food in bear-proof bags so they can’t smell what you have
- Fill your cars with enough petrol or diesel before heading out, as the petrol stations are either rare or too expensive
- Have a map of the area with you in case you lose wifi
- If you find a bathroom use it, as you may not see another for a while!
- Pack some lunch and bring snacks with you for the drive/or hikes in a bagpack
- To combat altitude sickness, drink lots of water, get plenty of rest, eliminate alcohol, and ease into some physical activity
- Carry with you a stainless steel water bottle that will keep your water colder for longer
- Have a wide sun hat, and extra sunscreen in case it is extremely sunny
Mammoth Lakes Annual Events
Although Mammoth Lakes is home to less than 8,000 residents, the yearly tourist visitation would mean that there are incredible events held during each season for locals and visitors to enjoy. Most weekends of the year have something fun going on, but if you’re planning to visit Mammoth Lakes soon, then take note of these particular events:
- Pond Skim
- Pamper Pedal
- 4th of July
- Mammoth Rocks
- Gran Fondo Fall Century
- Night of Lights
Mammoth Lakes usually hosts this annual festival in April, to wave goodbye to winter and the precious activities that come with it. During this legendary event, skiers and snowboarders dress up in the funniest of costumes, charge down a hill, and skid across the surface of two ice-cold ponds, before plummeting into their impending brain-iced demise. If you wish to participate then make sure you show up in the craziest of costumes!
The Pamper Pedal is one of Mammoth Lakes’ most unique and fun events of the entire year. Hosted in early June, this all-female bike ride begins from Mammoth Lakes to Bishop. This isn’t a race as many would assume, rather a relaxing bike ride, fit for all ages and ability levels. The best part is that you get to dress up in crazy funny costumes! Depending on the time of year, and theme that is chosen you might run into some tutus, superheroes, or heads decorated in flower crowns.
4th of July
Independence day is such a great time to be in Mammoth Lakes. Depending on the year, you might find yourself skiing down the slopes on the 4th of July! Amongst these activities, you can find Lion’s Club Pancake Breakfast, the Footloose Freedom Mile fun run, the parade, and the Pops in the Park concert. The entire town is alight, buzzing with energetic summer energy during that time of year.
Mammoth Lakes, really managed to hit the nail on the head, by combining the best of both worlds – decadent food, and vibrant live music! Like most of the festivals hosted in the Village at Mammoth, the VillageFest is free to attend. You’ll find local restaurants entering contests for the best ribs, chicken, chilli and burger; enjoying ribs for $2 or $3.
Classic rock fan? You can’t miss this festival! Every August Mammoth Lakes hosts a brilliant throwback festival – Mammoth Rocks is free to attend. If you’re a fan of rock music, you might find yourself immersed in the bands playing classic rock music that had been rife back in the 70s 80s and 90s.
Gran Fondo Fall Century
The Mammoth Gran Fondo, is a bike race through the panoramic Mammoth Lakes in early September. There are three optional distances – 102 miles, 70 miles, and 42 miles – for beginner, intermediate and advanced road bikers. Experience spine tingling views of mountainous scenery, even if you aren’t interested in taking part in the race, you can simply plop yourself down and cheer the riders on.
Night of Lights
Every December Mammoth Mountain celebrates the beginning of the holiday season with an incredible light show. Night of Lights is usually held during the second weekend of December. This free family friendly festival, features live music, a torchlight parade with many local kids, and amazing firework shows. It’s held outdoors so remember to wrap up warm, or opt for a paid ticket for the rooftop or indoor viewing area.
Things to do in Mammoth Lakes
Taking a walk along the path of natural beauty flirting with its tourists, Mammoth Lakes’ jaw-dropping perfection is almost impossible to ignore. With almost 150 trails cutting into Mammoth Mountain, it is one of the largest ski areas in the USA. Its variety of slopes attracts many skiers, and snowboarders, from amateurs to experts there certainly is no discrimination. With the four seasons containing they’re unique elements, that quickly follow one after the other, here are the many great things you can find yourself doing in Mammoth Lakes:
- Mammoth Lakes Welcome Centre
- Mammoth Mountain
- Convict Lake
- Rainbow Falls
- Devils Postpile National Monument
- Lake Mary
- Minaret Vista
- Hot Creek
- Crystal Lake Trail
- Mammoth Mountain Bike Park
- Obsidian Dome
- Mammoth Adventure Centre
- Tamarack Cross Country Ski Centre
- Horseshoe Lake
- Hot Creek Fish Hatchery
- Ground Up Climbing
- Mammoth Crest Trail
- McGee Creek
- Skelton Lake
- Wild Willy’s Hot Springs
- Crowley Lake
- Garnet Lake
- Mammoth Museum
Mammoth Lakes Welcome Centre
Mammoth Lakes is never short of fun activities, from hiking, biking and fishing to visiting local festivals and exploring the actual town. The Mammoth Lakes Welcome Centre is there to provide visitors with all the tools they acquire for them to experience the best visit possible. At Mammoth Lakes Welcome Centre, people can rent bear boxes and purchase back country permits for camping trips out in the beautifully daunting wild. They can also receive information, including hiking trails and campsites. The welcome centre also has a small shop where customers can find themselves distracted by the lovely souvenirs, and little trinkets pertaining to Mammoth Lakes and all its attractions. The Mammoth Lakes Welcome Centre is open daily from 8 to 5pm.
This magnificent mountain, is over 57,000 years old, formed by volcanic eruptions, yet today it is home to an amazing ski resort, located just west of Mammoth Lakes, that is open all year for activities. With over 3,500 acres of thick, white blanketed terrain, suitable for skiing and snowboarding, as well as thirty lifts to get patrons to the summit. Mammoth Mountains happens to have well-groomed slopes for skiers, snowboarders, snow tubes, and more. There’s a tube park and snow play area for the little adventurers, with snowmobile, and snowshoeing trails, terrain parks, and heated snowcat rides followed by a gondola that transports guests to the very top of the 11,053 foot high mountains peak, where they’ll find themselves flabbergasted by the exuberant views, a café with hot drinks to warm the soul, and an interpretive centre with fascinating exhibits about the mountain.
This oblong shaped lake, brimming with crystal clear waters offers great trout fishing, and hiking for folks who wish to access the high country. You could travel the entire globe, and you wouldn’t be able to find a more beautiful lake than convict, especially one with such simple accessibility. Located a couple of paved miles from Highway 395, Convict Lake is a drive-to lakes, with jagged mountainous views, bringing you closer to the edge of perfection.
With robust peaks, and Laurel Mountain rising almost 5,000 feet above the reflective Convict Lake, creating a picturesque view. Famous for its historic 1871 shootout that took place on these shores, the lake is the pinnacle of recreation destination. You’ll discover rainbow and brown trout thriving in its shimmering waters, easily luring fishermen to the water, and an easy hiking trail circles the lakes providing access to a variety of lovely beaches, as well as the Convict Canyon trail that leads into the John Muir Wilderness. You’ll find overnight parking with a public campground nearby, a day-use picnic area and a marina with boat rentals and launching. Convict Lake Resort has a store, restaurant, and cabins.
Rainbow Falls is a 101 foot high waterfall, who’s name is derived from the constant abundance of rainbows, that can be spotted through the mist. Rainbow falls holds the best views around noon, when the sun is resting at the highest point in the sky. At this time the rainbows are the clearest and brightest, the perfect time for picture taking.
Rainbow falls is encased by looming cliffs, and green trees; the water is a part of the San Joaquin River. Shuttles from Mammoth Adventure Centre can take visitors to the falls and personal vehicles can park at the trailhead car park, although it does fill fairly quickly. The hike to the falls is a short one, only about 1.3 miles each way, and the trail is sandy and often thick with other hikers and horseback riders.
Devil’s Postpile National Monument
The long, hexagonal columns of rock that make up the Devil’s Postpile were formed thousands of years ago by volcanic lava, which cooled and cracked to form the unique geological monument. This area is accessible during the summer months, and a mandatory shuffle offers visitors transportation to Devil’s Postpile and other Reds Meadow areas. Beginning with a 10-minute peaceful bus ride into the diverse river valley. With little pauses along the route, allowing you to soak the lush beauty of grassy meadows, rippling lakes, streams and gushing waterfalls.
Mammoth Lakes is home to an abundance of spectacular bodies of water, the largest of these lakes being Lake Mary. Located in the John Muir Wilderness at 8,900 feet elevation, and surrounded by glorious mountain peaks, paired with jaw-dropping scenery. Lake Mary is an incredible destination, known for fishing, and angling’ loaded with rainbow, brook and brown trout.
The campground at Lake Mary features four loops of closely situated camp sites, which feature rings and flush toilets in the vicinity. Many of the campsites are within view of the lake itself, creating a radiant glow of beauty first thing in the morning. Although there are no hiking trails that begin directly in the campsite, John Muir Wilderness and the area surrounding Lake Mary feature an affluence of amazing and beautiful hiking options.
Minaret Vista is a viewpoint that shows off one of the treasured gems of the Ritter Range, the rugged and dramatic Minarets. These jagged, rocky spires stand stall, almost piercing the sky, making them an iconic and easily recognisable trademark of Mammoth Lakes. From this impeccable viewpoint, visitors can also glimpse the two of the tallest peaks in the range – Mount Ritter (13,157 feet) and Banner Peak (12,945 feet), and after descends, Minaret Vista makes for an astounding spot to go stargazing.
You can choose to take a hike or drive to the Minaret Vista during the winter. The remote spot can be accessed throw snowshoes, cross country skiing, or through a snowcat tour from Mammoth Mountain Resort.
Hot Creek refers to a geological site in Mammoth Lakes that rests about three miles above the surface of an underground chamber of magma. The heat from the volcanic activity below the earth’s surface sends hot gas and boiling water foaming at the surface, adopting pressure and heat along the way, until it transforms to roaring steam when it meets the air.
The creek that arises is both fiery and foreboding, meaning that visitors are forbidden from entering the water; this doesn’t exclude the fact that it is a truly beautiful site to witness. With a frothing creek bed, occasional geyser eruptions, and angry steaming holes in the ground called fumaroles.
Crystal Lake Trail
This spectacular hike leads to a gorgeous cerulean lake that reflects the sky, bordering its edges with tall evergreen tress, and the rocky crags of the mountains the tower above. The hike in is not long at all, only about 1.75 miles, with an elevation gain of 900 feet, making it quite steep in some places, and very arduous, but with many appealing spots, to pause and rest along the way.
The hike to the lake should take about 1 to 1.5 hours to complete each way, but at the lake itself, there are an abundance of substantial places to wander and explore, including the lake itself, the enveloping rocks and trees, and a trail that slithers all the way around the edges of the lake that can be quite challenging for beginners, as it does include some bouldering and scrambling.
Mammoth Mountain Bike Park
During the winter, Mammoth Mountain is a spectacular ski resort on an immaculate mountain, but in the summer, this barbed terrain becomes a whole new playground for mountain biking. With over eighty miles of single-track trails, featuring jumps, drops, berms, and some stupendous natural beauty. Mammoth Mountain Bike Park is an incredible destination for mountain biking. Beginners and those looking for a little bit of light practise will adore the Discovery Zone, which has a wide beginner trails for bikers of all ages, and from there visitors can gradually progress to the intermediate and advanced trails, all of which include some great man-made and natural features.
Around the year 1350, Obsidian Dome, along with nearby Glass Creek Dome and Deadman Creek Dome, all erupted, and in the centuries that followed the aftermath of the magma, some incredibly unique geology has been left behind. To reach Obsidian Dome, visitors can drive about three miles on a road which also leads to Glass Creek Dome, to a parking spot with an easy walk up to the top. At Obsidian Dome, visitors will discover craters where magma once exploded from the ground, and some really unique rock formations, including several very different types of obsidian, identical to the vesicular rock found near the top of the dome, which is named for the bubbles in the obsidian caused by gas in the magma.
Mammoth Adventure Centre
The Mammoth Adventure Centre is an instantaneous attraction, that will be fun for the entire family. At the Adventure Centre, which is open during the summer season at Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort, guests can experience the thrill of a mountain bike park, ride to the Eleven53 Interpretive Centre in an out of this world gondola ride to the summit of the mountain, zip line from the top of the Mammoth Mountain, and learn to rock climb. A ropes course, treasure mining for kids, and shuttles to some of the natural attractions in the region will seal that experience.
Tamarack Cross Country Ski Centre
At the Tamarack Cross Country Ski Centre, visitors can glimpse the Mammoth Mountain in a way that no other can during the winter season. The centre is home to over 19 miles of perfectly groomed trails, which guests can explore through Nordic skis or snowshoes, and along those trails there are pristine alpine lakes, ancient and tranquil forests of trees covered in snow, and mountain vistas that will leave you breathless. Guests can choose to purchase either a single day pass or a multi-day pass for the cross country trails, and those who know they will be back again and again can take advantage of a season pass. Tamarack also offers guided tours, ski and snowshoe rental for those who didn’t bring their own, and lessons for newbies, or those who want to polish their skills.
Horseshoe Lake is not far from the town, and makes a great day trip for those who wish to visit the town of Mammoth Lakes. This alluring lake is the only body of water in the Mammoth Lakes Basin where visitors are permitted to go swimming, an opportunity that cannot be missed. Swimming in a lake surrounded by foreboding pines that seem to stretch forever, with rocky peaks of the Sierra Nevadas, is an incredible way to spend an afternoon. Visitors can also take advantage of the opportunity for hiking and mountain biking, as the lake is accessible via an easy 1.5 mile hike, and there is a 7 mile mountain biking loop that goes around Horseshoe Lake and is great for bikers of all abilities.
Hot Creek Fish Hatchery
Hot Creek Fish Hatchery is one of the biggest in the game, when it comes to breeding and producing trout for the state of California. Millions of rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout are hatched and raised each year at Hot Creek Fish Hatchery, and are distributed into bodies of water in both Inyo and Mono counties to supplement the population for fishing and maintenance of the ecosystem, as well as donated to local schools for use in a program. The hatchery is free and open to the public who can visit 7 days a week from 8am to 4pm, only closing when there is snow on the ground. Visitors can conduct self guided tour of the facilities and even feed the fish as they learn about the important role that hatcheries play in the California ecosystem.
Ground Up Climbing
For the adventure hungry mortals, rock climbing can be exhilarating, for others not so much. Whether you’re on the lookout for some real adventure, trying to get over your innate fear of heights, or just in the mood to conquer some cool new crags, Ground Up Climbing Guides, provides a way to get the most out of climbing excursion in and around Mammoth Lakes. Ground Up offers family climbs that are safe, fun and suitable for kids, and adults, Gym-to-Crag Transition climbs, Multi-Pitch climbing, Sport climbing, and even an Advanced Climbing Camp for 8 to 15 year olds.
Mammoth Crest Trail
Hiking along the Mammoth Crest Trail is a beautiful, riveting, and intriguing way to explore and see some of the lakes in the Mammoth Lakes Basin as well as get a close glimpse of the High Sierras. By starting near Lake George, the trail head will lead hikers up and down hills, mountain sides and switchbakes, all the way to Crystal Lake. There an open area above the timberline offers picturesque views of the surrounding region, following the ridge bordering the John Muir Wilderness Area, with access to loads more trails. There is opportunity for horseback riding along the trail, fishing and boating at Lake George and Crystal Lake, Camping at lake George and rock climbing at Crystal Crag.
Only a few miles south of Mammoth Lakes, right off of Highway 395, is McGee Creek, an astounding canyon that is part of the Eastern Sierras. The McGee Creek Trail follows the most inflated and active part of the river, a popular place to find an abundance of wildflowers during the spring and summer. There is also a campground at McGee Creek near the trailhead at 7600 feet elevation with 28 sites featuring picnic tables ad shelters, horseback riding, is permitted on the trail as well. The creek itself is popular for fishing, and many trout can be discovered in the waters of McGee Creek.
Skelton Lake doesn’t stretch as far as other lakes in Mammoth Lakes Basin, but it’s gorgeous nonetheless. The mini alpine lake in Inyo National Forest is a fragment of the Upper Lakes Basin, and a hike to Skelton Lake can easily be designed to include visiting any of the upper lakes such as, Crystal Lake, TJ Lake, McLeod Lake, or Barret Lake. The trailheads leading to Skelton Lake begin at the car park of Coldwater Creek, along the edge of Lake Mary and is about a 1.5 mile hike on the Duck Pass Trail. Backcountry camping is available at the shores of the lake, and rainbow trout can be discovered in the lake’s waters, with horseback riding being permitted on the trail.
Wild Willy’s Hot Springs
Located just off Highway 395, Wild Willy’s Hot Springs is an insanely fun attraction. After following a dirt road to the car park, visitors can trek on a very well maintained boardwalk, and trail for about 0.25 miles to the first pool of the hot springs, a natural pool about 10 feet wide, and 3 feet deep. The water is bone meltingly warm, safe for soaking an relaxing. There is another pool located 50 feet further, which is both deeper and hotter. At certain times of the year Wild Willy’s Hot Springs can get incredibly crowded with people trying to dip themselves into that warm soothing water, have a chat, and even party. But if you’re lucky enough to catch this place at a quiet moment, it can be alluringly relaxing.
Fifteen miles south of Mammoth Lakes is Crowley Lake, a reservoir built in the early 1940s for flood control and as part of the Los Angeles Aqueduct storage system. This huge body of water is 12 miles long and almost 5 miles wade at its largest point, and has a surface area of over 5300 acres. Crowley Lake is a very popular destination, especially for trout fishing, it is visited by thousands of people each year. During the late summer where autumn is right around the corner, fly fishers flock to Crowley Lake because it is known to contain some of the largest brown trout in the region.
Garnet Lake is an attachment of the Ansel Adams Wilderness, and the trembling waters of this lake are framed by the distinctive rising silhouette of Banner Peak. The lake is quite far from trailhead – 8.55 miles one way by the most direct trail – so most people who make the trek here are backpackers on a multi-day trip. Garnet Lake can be reached through the Agnew Meadows trailhead, on the John Muir Trail. The beauty of Garnet Lake lies in the rocky crags and outcroppings which line it, the islands which decorate the lake’s western edge, with an enchanting view of Banner Peak behind it. There are lots of places at Garnet Lake to camp, sit and relax, and even swim in the chilly mountain waters.
On the banks of Mammoth Creek, Hayden Cabin rests, a log cabin that was built in the 1920s. This rustic, beautiful cabin is now the home of Mammoth Museum at the Hayden Cabin. It’s an Educations and fascinating way to discover the history of the local area. At the Mammoth Museum guests will find photos, documents and art, to educate themselves about life in Mammoth Springs a long time ago, as well as artefacts like mining equipment. The museum and cabin are open seven days a week from 10am until 6pm, and admission is free though you might find yourself inclined to pay the $5.00 donation. The site is also home to many local events, featuring music, cultural festivities, and more educational fun.
Beautiful Lakes in Mammoth Lakes
California is so immense, that many forget the hidden gems dotted around this magnificent city. For starters, the mountains that peak behind the tall buildings, desperate to grab anyone’s attention. Lakes of enchantment that await words of praise, and hot springs with twirling steam, eager to be utilised. Some of the following lakes mentioned below, can simply be driven to, while others are only accessible by hiking. If you do choose to hoke, make sure you bring correct foot wear, and plenty of water to stay hydrated while on the trail.
- Lake George
- Crystal Lake
- Twin Lakes
- Skelton Lake
- Barney Lake
- Duck Lake
- Convict Lake
The stunning Lake George sits below the iconic crystal crag, which is a unique rocky formation of Mammoth that tops out at a stupendous 10,364 ft elevation. It is quite a large lake, and can be accessed by car or taking a hike along Crystal Lake Trail. It’s also the highest road-accessible lake in the Mammoth Lakes Basin. For those not keen on taking the hike, you can simply drive up and park near Lake George Campground where you amble down to the lake at the base of the car park.
Although for a special, and tantalising experience in glimpsing the jaw-dropping views of the lake, you might want to hike Crystal Lake Trail. Doing this, will allow you to catch an eyeful of your incredible surroundings, and perhaps snap several pictures. Standing atop the cliff, overlooking Lake George, offers an entirely different perspective, with gorgeous views that’ll render you breathless.
A lake that’ll bewitch you into oblivion once you take a quick glance at its enchanting beauty. The hike to get to Crystal Lake is very much worth the trek. You can access Crystal Lake from the Crystal Lake Trail. This is the same trailhead that’ll allow you to catch sights of Lake George which begins in the car park from the Lake George Campground. Wonderfully, the trail is only about 3 miles roundtrip. Meaning you don’t have to dedicate your entire day, or more to absorb the majestic lake.
Although there is an elevation gain of around 800 feet, expect some huffing and puffing as you clamber up some switchbacks over the mountain. Arriving at lakeside will render you motionless as you gaze in awe at the breathtaking beauty that is spread before you. The calming waters of the lake sit below the towering wall of the Mammoth Crest, which divides the Lakes Basin, from San Joaquin River. You can easily become lost in the magnificence, that is of the natural beauty seeming to stretch forever.
For those looking to take a quick pause in Mammoth Lakes, make sure you stop by Twin Lakes. These lakes are literally 10 minutes from downtown and easily accessible by car. Twin Lakes is essentially two lakes that are almost conjoined by a waterfall – Twin Falls. They’re also the lowest lakes in the Mammoth Lakes basin. Many visitors park or camp near the lakes at Twin Lakes Campground resulting in these two lakes emerging as the most popular lakes compared to the others. Fishing is a common activity at the lake, there is also a historic lodge, restaurant, wedding chapel, and general store located right beside the lake shore.
Skelton is a popular lake that you’ll encounter along the Duck Lake Pass Trailhead. After hiking 1.5 miles on Duck Lake Pass, you will see the trail split with a smaller path veering left into the trees. Follow this for some steps and you’ll quickly find yourself at the foot of Skelton Lake. Reaching this lake will bring a wave of satisfaction from your somewhat lengthy hike. Skelton Lake is surrounded by beautiful ascended mountains with oceanic blue waters. There’s also a small sandy beach along the shore, making this a delightful place to swim during your summer visit.
After Skelton Lake, you can either choose to head back the way you came or continue onward. If you choose to continue onward, then follow the Duck Pass Trail for another mile and a half to reach the bedazzling Barney Lake. This lake creates a greenish blue hue of colours bouncing in the afternoon sunlight. You can sit near the edge of the lake and drop your head back, gazing at the jagged cliffs that seem to stretch forever.
You might choose to head up the trail a bit more for a higher vantage point of the lake, you might find that the view is evermore glorious from the top. By standing atop the hillside, you get full access to the widening beauty of the lake, enveloping the surrounding mountains and forest.
Now if you’re feeling extremely adventurous, you can continue to hiking up and over a peak to reach Duck Lake. This is the biggest of lakes on this list. You might want to bring a torch, especially if you choose to continue along this trail. You might find yourself caught in the dark, whilst you’re on this hike. To reach Duck Lake, it requires 9.5 miles of hiking roundtrip complete with a steep climb up the pass. Make sure you’re aware of the long journey back, before you set off on this trek. Admittedly, if you aren’t accustomed to long trails, completing an entire day of 10 miles hiking is quite insane. Your feet, and legs might bear the severity of it, for days to come. The great thing about this trek, is that you’ll find fantastic views of Barney Lake from below you as you climb.
If you’re looking for a lake with the most dramatic scenery minus the hiking, Convict Lake is the one for you. This lake is found furthest away from Mammoth Lakes, to get here take Convict Lake Road right off of Highway 395. Park at any of the car parks near the lake and take a quick 5 minute trip to the shoreline. As you drive in you’ll immediately find yourself awestruck by the breathtaking scenery.
Tremendous, iridescent mountains overwhelm you as soon as you exit the freeway. To enjoy Convict Lake, you can either walk the 2.5 mile loop trail around the lake or simply drink in the views from the shore. The loop trail is quite frankly flat, so quite an easy trek for most to complete. Convict Lake reclines below the encompassing Mount Morrison and Laurel Mountain, both towering high over this reflective crystal lake. The shore itself is made up of small rocks instead of sand, though it is still very comfortable to sit and relax on.
Swimming in Mammoth Lakes
A cool refreshing swim, on a warm summers day is always enjoyable. Plan a hike with a refreshing reward at the end. Take a dip in Horseshoe Lake, or hike to lakes in the upper Mammoth Lakes Basin and swim there. The relatively short hikes to McLeod and Crystal Lakes are ideally suitable for this purpose. Horseshoe Lake in the Mammoth Lakes Basin is a great place for taking a dip in a drive-accessible lake. It’s the perfect opportunity for families, with a beach to spread and launch kayaks, or paddleboards. Motorised boats are allowed in Horseshow Lake, which makes the area very safe for swimming.
Wildlife in Mammoth Lakes
For many Mammoth Lake visitors, the views of the panoramic Eastern Sierra wilderness aren’t enough to provide satisfaction, and they’ll feel the urge to explore the streams, meadows and mountains surrounding the town. Whether you plan to walk or take your bike, there’s a good chance of you running into some of the wildlife residing in these magnificent lands.
When encountering wildlife, remember to respect it and appreciate it’s beauty from a distance. Avoid encounters that are dangerous for people and wildlife alike, by never feeding the animals, an leaving no trace of your visit. Check out the list of large wildlife below:
- California Black Bears
- Mountain Lions
- Big Horn Sheep
- Mule Deer
- Hawks & Eagles
California Black Bears
Black Bears are one of the most known species of wildlife in the area, because of their size, and strong noses that draw them towards human food and waste. Although Black Bears usually have black fur, they can also be brown, or even blonde. So if you happen to encounter a brown bear, don’t be afraid, assuming that its a Grizzly bear, as Grizzly bears no longer reside in that area. You can avoid surprising encounters with bears, by sealing your food and food waste, in bear proof canisters, and by making noise as you hike so that you don’t surprise any nearby bears. If a bear hears you coming, then they’ll most likely avoid you, but if they don’t then you might want to follow these steps to assist your next point of action.
The yellow-bellied marmot is the largest member of the squirrel family. Marmots can be found from the alpine zone descending to approximately 7,000 feet and tend to reside among rock slides and ledges rather than living in dirt burrows like their cousin, the groundhog. They feast on flowers, grass and other foliage. Marmots hibernate during the winter, so they must gain all their weight during the summer growing season, so that they don’t die of starvation while hibernating. Marmots are often observed at high elevation meadows, reclining on top of boulders and basking in the warm glow of the sun.
The mountain lion, is one of North America’s largest cats averaging 7 to 8 feet long. Lions are solitary creatures, preying upon large animals such as mule deer, elk, and bighorn sheep, but they can survive on small animals as well. California’s mountain lion population is approximately 6000. Although they are dangerous, they do tend to avoid people. However if you’re hiking or biking in Mountain Lion territory or near their prey, its important that you’re aware of how to behave.
Big Horn Sheep
Big Horn Sheep are one of the rarest animals in the area due to predators like Mountain Lions as well as habitat loss from human activity. Although it’s estimated that there are fewer than 200 living in the Sierra Nevada’s, there’s a chance you’ll catch a glimpse of them while in Mammoth Lakes. If you do see a Big Horn Sheep, it will be a fortunate case of being in the right place at the right time since they reside in the most rugged areas of the mountains and above 10,000 feet.
Although you may assume that Coyotes belong in the desert, they are also found in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Coyotes are about the size of a medium to large dog, they are identified by their large, bushy tails and grey or brown fur. Coyotes may look like a domesticated dog, but they are wild animals and should be treated as such. Do not attempt to approach or feed Coyotes even if they do not appear to be aggressive.
Mule Deer are one of the most popular wildlife species in the area thanks to their vibrant habitats and beautiful coats and antlers. However, much like all the wildlife on this list, Mule Deer are easily frightened and should not be approached. If you’re heading out into the wilderness during the summer,. then you can expect to find Mule Deer at high elevations where they prefer to graze.
Hawks & Eagles
When out hiking around on the trails keep your eyes peeled for the large birds of prey. Bald eagles and golden eagles can be found in the Mammoth Lakes Basin and surrounding areas. Gliding high above the tree line, their large wingspan is remarkable. You’ll see red-tailed hawks frequently as well as Cooper’s hawks in the area.
Serene surroundings paired with glorious wildlife, Mammoth Lakes is the epitome of paradise. With enchanting lakes dotted around the area, and sharp peaked mountains suspended in the sky, trees twisting their crippled branches, providing little to no shade when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky. Whether you plan to go on a long hike, enjoying the breathtaking views along the way, or take a road trip with equally intense surroundings, that’ll have your spine tingling, lay out a blanket for a much needed picnic, whilst watching the sun set; Mammoth Lakes should definitely be one of the next destinations on your list.
Is the Mammoth Village Gondola Free?
The scenic Gondola ride up Mammoth Mountain is a treat for the entire family, but how much does it cost? Prices are usually as follows: Adults $23-30, youth (13-18) $22, children (7-12) up to two kids 12 and under tide free with paying adults, an extra child (7-12) $8-$11, kids (6 and under) are free, and passholders are free.
What is Mammoth Lake Known For?
Mammoth Lake is mostly known for its local hot springs. Some 760,000 years ago, a massive volcano exploded in its region, creating a network of steaming water underground.
Are Mammoth Lakes Swimmable?
Swimming is permitted in all lakes in the Mammoth Lakes Basin. The Twin Lakes are the lowest of all the lakes – an elevation of 8500 feet – continuing up Lake Mary Road, you’ll also bump into Lake Mary, Lake George, Lake Mamie, and Horseshow Lake.
Are the Lakes in Mammoth Open?
Yes, Mammoth Lakes is fully open to visitors.