Mammoth Lakes, California is named for the basin of lakes tucked away in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and for Mammoth Peak, a mountain near the town. Mammoth Mountain is a huge draw for the area, and people come from all over the world for the world-class slopes of this mountain. In Mammoth Lakes and the surrounding region, there is also plenty of natural beauty to be found for hikers, horseback riders, bikers, and other outdoors enthusiasts.
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This massive ski resort is located just west of Mammoth Lakes, on Mammoth Mountain. Mammoth Mountain is over 57,000 years old, formed by volcanic eruptions, but today it’s home to an amazing resort that is open year round for activities. With over 3,500 acres of terrain suitable for skiing and boarding, and almost thirty lifts to get patrons to the summit, Mammoth Mountain has well groomed slopes for skiers, snowboarders, snow tubes, and more. There’s a tube park and snow play area for kids, snowmobile and snowshoeing trails, terrain parks, and heated snowcat rides, as well as a gondola which takes guests to the very top of the 11,053 foot high mountain’s peak, where they will find amazing views, a cafe with great food, and an interpretive center with really fascinating exhibits about the mountain.
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In September of 1871, a group of convicts broke out of a Carson City, Nevada prison and made their way to the place that is now known as Convict Creek. Police and their posse exchanged fire with the convicts and the situation turned bloody. This beautiful lake in the Sherwin Range section of the Sierra Nevada mountains, which the creek connects to, is named after that encounter, but the original Paiute name is Wit-sa-nap. Convict Lake is an extremely popular spot for fishing, and it is regularly stocked during the summertime with rainbow trout due to high demand, but fishing enthusiasts can also find German Brown Trout and sucker fish in the lake as well. The lake is incredibly scenic, with mountains rising up on all sides, and there is a three mile hiking loop around the lake as well as a trail that leads to the Sierra Crest.
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Part of Devil’s Postpile National Monument, Rainbow Falls is a 101 foot high waterfall that is named for the constant rainbows that can be seen in the abundant mist. Rainbow Falls is best viewed around noon, when the sun is at its highest, because at this time the rainbows are the clearest and brightest (and best for picture taking). Raimbow Falls is surrounded by tall cliffs and green trees, and the water is part of the San Joaquin River. Shuttles from Mammoth Adventure Center can take visitors to the falls, and personal vehicles can park at the trailhead parking lot, though it does fill quickly. The hike to the falls is a short one, only about 1.3 miles each way, and the trail is sandy and often quite populated with other hikers and horseback riders.
End of CA-203 West, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546, Phone: 760-934-2289
4.Devils Postpile National Monument
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The long, hexagonal columns of rock that make up the Devil’s Postpile were formed tens of thousands of years ago by volcanic lava, which cooled and cracked to form the unique geological phenomenon. First established as a national monument by proclamation of the president in 1911, Devil’s Postpile was once part of Yosemite National Park until the mining industry separated it from the rest of the region. Devil’s Postpile National Monument is home to this incredible 60 foot high formation, known in the geology world as columnar basalt, but it is also home to several other great and beautiful hiking destinations, including the 101 foot high spectacle that is Rainbow Falls.
Devils Postpile Access Road, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546, Phone: 760-934-2289
5.Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center
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There’s so much to do in Mammoth Lakes, from hiking, biking, and fishing to visiting local festivals and exploring the town itself, and the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center is here to provide visitors with all the tools they need for the best visit possible. At Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center, people can rent bear boxes and purchase back country permits for camping trips in the great and beautiful wild, and receive information and referrals about attractions and activities in the area, including hiking trails and campsites. The welcome center also has a small shop where customers can purchase lovely souvenirs and memorabilia pertaining to Mammoth Lakes and all its attractions. The Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center is open daily from 8am to 5pm.
2510 Highway 203br, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546, Phone: 760-924-5500
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As the name implies, Mammoth Lakes is home to some pretty spectacular bodies of water, and the largest of these lakes is Lake Mary. Located in the John Muir Wilderness at 8,900 feet elevation, and surrounded by mountain peaks and gorgeous scenery, Lake Mary is a beautiful destination known for fishing and angling, and is stocked with rainbow, brook, and brown trout. The campground at Lake Mary features four loops of closely situated camp sites, which feature campfire rings and flush toilets in the vicinity. Many of the campsites are within view of the lake itself, making for an amazing view first thing in the morning. There are no hiking trails that begin directly in the campsite, but the John Muir Wilderness and the area surrounding Lake Mary feature plenty of amazing and beautiful hiking options.
Pacu Ln, Bishop, CA 93514, Phone: 760-924-5500
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The Minaret Vista is a viewpoint that shows off one of the jewels of the Ritter Range, the jagged and dramatic Minarets. These rocky spires are stark against the sky and make for an iconic and easily recognizeable trademark of Mammoth Lakes. From this amazing viewpoint, visitors can also see two of the tallest peaks in the range - Mount Ritter (13,157 feet) and Banner Peak (12,945 feet), and after the sun goes down, Minaret Vista makes for an amazing spot to go stargazing. The Minaret Vists can be reached by hiking or driving, and during the winter, the remote spot can be accessed via snowshoes, cross country skiing, or through a snowcat tour from Mammoth Mountain resort.
Lookout Point Rd, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
8.Mammoth Brewing Company
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Since 1995, Mammoth Brewing Company has been creating spectacular beer in the community of Mammoth Lakes. At their brewery, tasting room, and beer garden, which is located right in the heart of Mammoth Lakes, customers can try some of their beers in a flight, taster, or pint, enjoy a bite to eat, and even fill a growler or crowler to take home with them. Some of Mammoth Brewing Company’s most popular year-round brews include Golden Trout Kolsch, Yosemite Pale Ale, Epic IPA, and Double Nut Brown, but they also feature a wide variety of seasonal and rotating beers as well. Guests will also love the Mammoth Brewing Company tasting room because it is home to The Eatery, a low key but delicious establishment which operates right out of the brewery to serve everything from burgers to naan tacos.
18 Lake Mary Road, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546, Phone: 760-934-7141
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Hot Creek is aptly named. It refers to a geologic site in Mammoth Lakes that lies 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 bubbling up to the surface, gaining pressure and heat along the way until it turns to gusts of steam when it reaches the air. The creek that results is hot and dangerous, and visitors are prohibited from entering the water, but it sure is beautiful to look at, with a bubbling creek bed, occasional geyser eruptions, and steaming holes in the ground called fumaroles.
10.Crystal Lake Trail
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This gorgeous hike leads to a stunning blue lake that reflects the sky, bordered at its edges by tall evergreen trees and the rocky crags of the mountains that rise above. The hike in is not long, only about 1.75 miles, with an elevation gain of 900 feet, making it quite steep in places, and very strenuous, but with many beautiful spots to stop 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 also lots of great places to wander and explore, including the lake itself, the surrounding rocks and trees, and a trail that goes all the way around the edges of the lake that can be quite tricky for beginners, as it does include some bouldering and scrambling.
Inyo National Forest, Lake George Rd, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
11.Mammoth Mountain Bike Park
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During the winter, Mammoth Mountain is an amazing ski resort on a huge mountain, but in the summer, this rugged terrain becomes a whole new playground for mountain biking. With over eighty miles of singletrack trails, featuring jumps, drops, berms, and some breathtaking natural beauty, Mammoth Mountain Bike Park is an incredible destination for mountain biking. Beginners and those looking for a little bit of light practice will love the Discovery Zone, which has wide beginner trails for bikers of all ages, and from there visitors can progress to the intermediate and advanced trails, all of which include some great man-made and natural features.
10001 Minaret Rd #2110, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546, Phone: 800-626-6684
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Around the year 1350, Obsidian Dome, along with nearby Glass Creek Dome and Deadman Creek Dome, all erupted, and in the centuries following the aftermath of the magma, some really 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 find craters where magma once exploded from the ground, and some really unique rock formations, including several very different types of obsidian, like 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.
13.Mammoth Adventure Center
© Mammoth Adventure Center
The Mammoth Adventure Center is an amazing attraction that will be fun for the whole family. At the Adventure Center, which is open during the summer season at Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort, guests can experience the exhilaration of a mountain bike park, ride to the Eleven53 Interpretive Center in a breathtaking gondola ride to the summit of the mountain, zip line from the top of 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 round out the experience.
10001 Minaret Road, Mammoth Lakes CA 93546, Phone: 800.MAM-MOTH or 800-626-6684
14.Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center
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At the Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center, visitors can see Mammoth Mountain in a way like no other during the winter season. The center is home to over 19 miles of perfectly groomed trails which guests can explore via 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 take your breath away. 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 brush up on their skills.
15.Eleven53 Interpretive Center
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Eleven53 is named for the elevation at the summit of Mammoth Mountain, and at the summit it sites, with amazing 360 degree vistas of the surrounding peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains. A beautiful ride in a gondola will take visitors to the top, where they will find this amazing interpretive center (tickets to which are included with gondola passes), a place where guests can view educational and interactive exhibits about the geology and history of the region, as well as the modern ecology and animal habitats in the area. At the Interpretive Center, visitors will also find the Top of the Sierras cafe, where they can enjoy a hot drink, a pastry, or a meal, all with an unbeatable view.
10001 Minaret Rd Ste 4300, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546, Phone: 760-934-0745
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Horseshoe Lake is not far from town, and makes for a great day trip for those visiting the town of Mammoth Lakes. This beautiful lake is the only body of water in the Mammoth Lakes Basin where visitors are allowed to go swimming, and it’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed, as swimming in a lake surrounded by tall pines and the 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 ability levels.
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17.Hot Creek Fish Hatchery
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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 called ‘Trout in the Classroom’. The hatchery is free and open to the public, who can visit seven days a week from 8am to 4pm, but closes whenever there is snow on the ground. Visitors can take a 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.
121 Hot Creek Hatchery Rd, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546, Phone: 760-934-2664
18.Ground Up Climbing Guides
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For some, rock climbing is exhilarating, and for others, it can seem pretty scary. Whether you’re looking for a challenge, trying to get over a 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 a climbing excursion in and near Mammoth Lakes. Ground Up offer family climbs that are safe, fun, and suitable for kids as well as adults, Gym-to-Crag Transition climbs, Multi-Pitch climbing, Sport climbing, and even an Advanced Climbing Camp for kids 8-15 years old.
257 Manzanita Rd Box 7436, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546, Phone: 609-647-4787
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19.Mammoth Crest Trail
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HIking the Mammoth Crest Trail is a beautiful, invigorating, and inspiring way to explore and see some of the lakes in the Mammoth Lakes Basin, as well as get an up close glimpse of the High Sierras. By starting near Lake George, the trailhead will take hikers up and down hills, mountainsides, and switchbakes, all the way to Crystal Lake. There, an open area above the timberline offers amazing views of the surrounding region, and follows the ridge bordering the John Muir Wilderness Area, with access to many more trails. There is opportunity for horseback riding on the trail, fishing and boating at Lake George and Crystal Lake, camping at Lake George, and rock climbing at Crystal Crag.
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Just a few easy iles south of Mammoth Lakes, right off of Highway 395, is McGee Creek, an amazing canyon that is part of the Eastern Sierras. The McGee Creek Trail follows the most swollen and active part of the river, and is 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 and shelters, and horseback riding is permitted on the trail as well. The creek itself is popular for fishing, and many trout can be found in the waters of McGee Creek.
Mcgee Creek RdCalifornia 93546, Phone: 877-444-6777
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Skelton Lake isn’t the largest of the lakes in the Mammoth Lakes Basin, but it is truly gorgeous. This little alpine lake in Inyo National Forest is part of the Upper Lakes Basin, and a hike to Skelton Lake can easily be designed to include visiting any of the other nearby upper lakes, such as Crystal Lake, TJ Lake, MacLeod Lake, or Barrett Lake. The trailhead that leads to Skelton Lake begins at the Coldwater Creek parking lot, at 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, rainbow trout can be found in the lake’s waters, and horseback riding is permitted on the trail.
Skelton LakeCalifornia 93546, Phone: 760-873-5500
22.Wild Willy's Hot Springs
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Located just off Highway 395, Wild Willy’s Hot Springs is an incredibly fun attraction. After following a dirt road to the parking lot, visitors can walk on a well maintained boardwalk and trail for about .25 miles to the first pool of the hot springs, a natural pool about 10 feet wide and 3 feet or so deep. The water is pleasantly warm, and safe for soaking and relaxing. There is another pool about 50 feet further which is both deeper and hotter. At certain times, Wild Willy’s Hot Springs can get pretty crowded with people trying to soak, chat, and even party, but if you manage to catch this place at a quiet moment, it can be incredibly relaxing.
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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 large body of water is 12 miles long and nearly 5 miles wade at its largest point, and has a surface area of over 5300 acres. Crowley Lake is a really popular destination for trout fishing, and is visited by tens of thousands of people each year. During the late summer and early fall, fly fishers flock to Crowley Lake because it is well known to contain some of the largest brown trout in the region.
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Garnet Lake is part of the Ansel Adams Wilderness, and the beautiful waters of this lake are framed by the distinctive rising silhouette of Banner Peak. The lake is quite far from the trailhead - 8.55 miles one way by the most direct trail - so most of the people who make the trek here are backpackers on a multi-day trip. Garnet Lake can be reached via 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 dot the lake’s western edge, and the amazing 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.
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25.Mammoth Museum at the Hayden Cabin
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On the banks of Mammoth Creek, Hayden Cabin sits, a log cabin that was built in the 1920s. This rustic, beautiful cabin is now the home of Mammoth Museum at the Hayden Cabin, an educational and fascinating way to discover the history of the local area. At the Mammoth Museum at the Hayden Cabin, guests will find photos, documents, and art to teach them about life in Mammoth Springs long ago, as well as artifacts like mining equipment. The museum and cabin are open seven days a week from 10am until 6pm, and admission is free though a $5.00 donation is suggested. The site is also home to many local events, featuring music, cultural festivities, and more educational fun.
5489 Sherwin Creek Rd, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546, Phone: 760-934-6918
25 Best Things to Do in Mammoth Lakes, California
- Mammoth Mountain, Photo: Courtesy of Focqus, LLC - Fotolia.com
- Convict Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Mary Lynn Strand - Fotolia.com
- Rainbow Falls, Photo: Courtesy of Jill Clardy - Fotolia.com
- Devils Postpile National Monument, Photo: Courtesy of Jill Clardy - Fotolia.com
- Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center, Photo: Visit Mammoth
- Lake Mary, Photo: Courtesy of mightypix - Fotolia.com
- Minaret Vista, Photo: Courtesy of Melissa - Fotolia.com
- Mammoth Brewing Company, Photo: Mammoth Brewing Company
- Hot Creek, Photo: Courtesy of ssmalomuzh - Fotolia.com
- Crystal Lake Trail, Photo: Courtesy of NatalieJean - Fotolia.com
- Mammoth Mountain Bike Park, Photo: Courtesy of David Crockett - Fotolia.com
- Obsidian Dome, Photo: Courtesy of Brad Nixon - Fotolia.com
- Mammoth Adventure Center, Photo: Mammoth Adventure Center
- Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center, Photo: Courtesy of borisblik - Fotolia.com
- Eleven53 Interpretive Center, Photo: Courtesy of juananbarros - Fotolia.com
- Horseshoe Lake, Photo: Courtesy of NatalieJean - Fotolia.com
- Hot Creek Fish Hatchery, Photo: Courtesy of varbenov - Fotolia.com
- Ground Up Climbing Guides, Photo: Courtesy of zhukovvvlad - Fotolia.com
- Mammoth Crest Trail, Photo: Courtesy of lizziemaher - Fotolia.com
- McGee Creek, Photo: Courtesy of danmir12 - Fotolia.com
- Skelton Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Yekatseryna - Fotolia.com
- Wild Willy's Hot Springs, Photo: Courtesy of sum41 - Fotolia.com
- Crowley Lake, Photo: Courtesy of ssmalomuzh - Fotolia.com
- Garnet Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Jeremy - Fotolia.com
- Mammoth Museum at the Hayden Cabin, Photo: Mammoth Museum at the Hayden Cabin
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Gentian Polovina - Fotolia.com