This post is the perfect guide if you are looking for fantastic things to do in Mammoth Lakes, no matter what time of the year. The stunning Eastern Sierra resort town is known for its spectacular mountains, gorgeous lakes, unique hot springs and more.
It is an all-around destination favoured by couples, solo travelers, and families. Whether you want to admire the stunning views of the magnificent mountains or enjoy the outdoors or go skiing or take relaxing baths, you will love your time at Mammoth Lakes as there is something for everyone.
WHERE IS MAMMOTH LAKES?
Mammoth Lakes is a pretty town located at the foot of the Mammoth Mountain in the Eastern Sierras in Northern California.
The town is also called Mammoth, Mammoth Mountain, Mammoth Lakes, and Mammoth Village, although the official name is Mammoth Lakes.
The town is a famous skiing destination in California. Also, due to its location along the earthquake fault line, it is home to many beautiful natural hot springs and many hiking trails leading to stunning viewpoints.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN MAMMOTH LAKES CA
STOP AT THE MAMMOTH LAKES WELCOME CENTER
One of the top things to do in Mammoth Lakes is a stop at the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center and Ranger Station. Located on Main Street in the town, this is your ideal first stop to know about the city.
The center is operated by the Inyo National Forest, Mammoth Lakes Tourism, the National Park Service, and the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association.
You can get all the maps, get information about the activities available at the time of your visit, check tickets and prices, obtain your wilderness permits, receive camping information, and get to know about the trail conditions for hiking.
You can get all the information from the friendly staff, including any current festivals or events in the town. Pick up brochures here, and check out the souvenirs.
VISIT THE VILLAGE AT MAMMOTH
After your stop at the Mammoth Center, the next stop on your top list of things to do in Mammoth Lakes must be the Mammoth Village.
Located off the main street, this is packed with restaurants, bars, cafes, breweries, souvenir shops, bakeries, desserts, and sweet shops.
After enjoying the outdoor activities, there is no better place than hanging out in the Village to rejuvenate, shop and eat to your heart’s content, especially as the streets look magical being lit at night.
It is also where you go to board the shuttles. The Village is a perfect place to stay as it is centrally located and close to the amenities. I would recommend booking your stay at Alpenhof Lodge, The Village Lodge, or The Westin Monache Resort, all excellent options for staying at Mammoth Lakes.
If you are with kids or craving desserts and ice cream, you will love Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Hugs Ice Cream. The Fun Shop is a must-stop for buying toys for your kids.
If you are here during the peak months, you may even witness music festivals, fireworks, and fun at the Village Plaza.
VISIT DEVILS POSTPILE NATIONAL MONUMENT
Exploring the gorgeous Devils Postpile National Monument is one of the best things to do in Mammoth Lakes.
Devils Postpile is one of nature’s most fantastic formations and is considered one of the wonders in the geologic world. The monument comprises magnificent 60-foot tall basalt columns formed less than 100,000 years ago.
The cooling lava flow cracked the basalt into regular, hexagonal columns creating one of the most beautifully unique structures in the world.
Devils Postpile, once a part of Yosemite National Park, was considered a National Monument in 1911 to preserve the formations as mining in the area had begun the collapse of some of these columns.
You can view the post pile formations from all angles from below. After that, you can hike to the top of Devils Postpile to check out the views of hexagon floor tiles from the top, which is surreal.
Things to Know
Devils Postpile National Monument is only open from mid-June to mid-October and closed in the winter.
To reach here, most visitors need to take a mandatory shuttle down to Devils Postpile and Reds Meadow. You can buy tickets that cost $10 and board the bus at Mammoth Mountain Adventure Center.
The shuttle runs every day after 7 AM, which is the only way to reach the monument. If you want to enter your vehicle, you can do so only before 7 AM. So get there before 7 AM if you want to use your car instead of the shuttle.
HIKE TO RAINBOW FALLS
Another major attraction that is one of the top things to do in Mammoth Lakes is the beautiful Rainbow Falls, one of California’s stunning waterfalls.
The good thing is it is located in the Devils Postpile National Monument in Reds Meadow. Situated on the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River, it is a splendid sight to behold as the waterfalls plunge at over 100 feet from the clifftop.
Rainbow Falls gets its name for the continuous beautiful rainbows that form through the fall’s mist.
You will love it if you love hiking as you have to walk along a pretty trail to arrive at Rainbow Waterfalls. It is a moderate level hike but gets very crowded during the peak seasons and holidays.
There are many hiking trails to choose from to reach the waterfalls. The popular course begins near Ranger’s Station, near Devil’s Postpile National Monument. You will pass through the majestic formation of basalt columns of the Devil’s Postpile on the way to Rainbow waterfalls.
You can also take the Rainbow Falls trailhead, the John Muir or the Pacific Crest trails.
Although the waterfalls are in full flow during the early months of summer, the water plunging from the San Joaquin River only reduces slightly throughout the rest of the year, making it an almost year-round attraction in Mammoth Lakes.
The hike reaches an elevation of over 7,500 feet, so you might want to take it slow if you are used to being close to the sea levels. It takes about 2 to 3 hours, depending on your pace. You can carry food and water and have it close to the falls.
If you follow the river beyond Rainbow Falls, you can view the smaller Lower Rainbow Falls.
Early morning is the best time to hike to Rainbow waterfalls if you enjoy the trail with fewer crowds. You can also swim at the foot of the falls with only a few people around, although the water might be too cold for some. The morning views of the surrounding valleys on the way to the falls is spectacular.
If you want to watch the rainbows over the falls, though, noon is the best time to arrive here. The water is also warm enough at this time to enjoy a relaxing swim.
If you want to avoid hiking, take the shuttle that leaves from Mammoth Adventure Center and get off at the Rainbow Falls Trailhead bus stop or Reds Meadow Resort bus stop to reach the waterfalls.
ADMIRE THE GORGEOUS VIEWS AT MINARET VISTA
If you are looking for the top viewpoints to enjoy the gorgeous views of the Eastern Sierra, head to Minaret Vista, one of the fantastic things to do in Mammoth Lakes.
Located on the road to Reds Meadow and the Devils Postpile National Monument, make a quick stop here to soak in the splendid views of the peaks of the Ritter Range, a subrange of the craggy Sierra Nevada peaks and the valleys below.
A part of the Ritter Range in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, the views of the distinct pattern of peaks against the sky are stunning no matter what time of the day.
You can also see two of the tallest peaks in the range – Mount Ritter at over 13,157 feet and Banner Peak, nearly 13000 feet towering over the vistas. Close below is the gorgeous Reds Meadow Valley.
You can reach the viewpoint by hiking or driving. The trail leading to the entrance to the summit is well marked and easy to find.
If you want to go further, take the Starkweather Trail, beginning at the ranger kiosk to the beautiful San Joaquin Valley.
During the winter, reaching the viewpoint is adventurous as you can go via snowshoeing, cross country skiing, or through a snowcat tour from Mammoth Mountain resort, which will lead you to panoramic views of the winter wonderland.
DISCOVER THE GORGEOUS BEAUTY OF CONVICT LAKE
If you only want to check out one lake when in Mammoth, let it be Convict Lake. One of the top things to do in Mammoth Lakes is visit this splendid Convict Lake located south of the town.
This alpine lake is known for its beautiful location in the Sherwin Range section of the Sierra Nevada, the beautiful turquoise waters, and the Eastern Sierra’s surreal backdrops.
It is no wonder one of the best Instagram locations and the best photo spots as the vibrant sunrise and sunset colours beautifully reflect on the lake.
There is an interesting but sad history behind the name of Convict Lake. In 1871, a group of convicts escaped from a prison in Carson City in Nevada to areas near Convict Lake.
The sheriff and the team engaged in a long drawn fire exchange, after which most of them were captured but sadly resulted in the death of the sheriff. Mount Morrison, the mountain peak above the lake, is named after the sheriff.
You can easily spend at least a day in the lake as there are tons of things to do and enjoy.
Hiking is one of the popular activities around the lake. It is an easy 3-mile loop that will lead you to witness stunning views of the lake.
Do not miss this hike if you are here in the fall, as the golden, yellow, and orange foliage transforms the beauty of the lake and around tremendously.
You can go boating on the lake, but fishing is very popular. Trout fishing is a favourite summer activity for tourists as the rainbow, German Brown, and sucker trout swell in the lake during this season.
Convict Lake is easy to reach just off Highway 395, and you can drive up to the shore. Camping around the lake is one of the fantastic things I would recommend if you are a fan.
Apart from tents, you can also enjoy the panoramic views from the cabins of the beautifully located Convict Lake Resort, which is one of the best places to stay near the lake.
ENJOY THE BEAUTIFUL MONO LAKE
For many reasons, another lake that needs a mention on this list of the best things to do in Mammoth Lakes is the gorgeous Mono Lake.
It is one of the oldest lakes in the US and North America, with fossils from the lake indicating its age to be at least 900,000 years.
Mono Lake is known for its strange and very high alkaline water, making it at least ten times saltier than the ocean water.
The unique terrain around Mono Lake is carpeted with limestone formations that add a dramatic outlook to the panoramas, which are a part of South Tufa State Reserve.
These formations, nicknamed Tufa Towers, are one of the top attractions near Mono Lake. The lake’s water make for unusual swimming conditions, but some claim they have healing properties similar to hot springs.
You can enjoy hikes around the lake and go Kayaking, a very popular activity in Mono Lakes due to its massive size. The hours leading to the sunset is the popular time when most people arrive as the golden rays add magical touches to the lake waters.
You can follow a self-guided tour from the parking lot that forms a loop back up to your car. Some signs tell you about the history, make-up, and ecology of what you see.
It is a 30-minute drive north of Mammoth Lakes off Highway 395 to reach Mono Lake. The lake is open throughout the year all day long, and the entry is $3 per adult that you can pay at the parking lot.
CHECK OUT MANY OTHER BEAUTIFUL LAKES
There are plenty of lakes around Mammoth, and many are worth quick stops even if you do not plan to do any activities. The lakes are where you can enjoy most of your holiday.
Mono Lake is an excellent place for Kayaking, while Lake Mary, Lake George, and Twin Lakes are fantastic places for typical summer water activities, from fishing to paddleboarding to hiking and camping.
You can spend many days hopping between the lakes, going on drives around them or camping and hiking.
You can also enjoy picnics with your family, soaking in the blissful views, especially the fall colours, which is one of the best seasons to enjoy your Mammoth Lakes trip.
TAKE THE GONDOLA RIDE FOR WITNESSING STUNNING PANORAMAS
One of the top things to do in Mammoth Lakes is taking the pretty 15-minutes gondola ride up Mammoth Mountain. At over 11000 feet, you can witness 360-degree surreal views of the landscapes adorned with rugged peaks of the Eastern Sierra and the flourishing valleys below home to dense jungles.
You can take the ride both ways or walk one or both methods to reach the summit. At the summit, do not miss checking out the information centre with excellent Sierra exhibits. You can relax and dine at the cafe nearby.
Follow the summit sign to the Geography Station and witness the beautiful views of the Mammoth Lakes Basin.
There are hiking trails from the summit descending downwards. One such worth trying path is the Discovery Nature Trail, an easy 1-mile hike where you can come across the local high-altitude birds.
To avoid high prices, purchase your gondola ride tickets in advance online. Two kids under 12 get to enter for free for each adult ticket.
If you are here in winter, you can take this ride to reach the main Mammoth Mountain Ski area.
ENJOY THE ADVENTURE ACTIVITIES AT MAMMOTH ADVENTURE CENTER
Another attraction that you can check out after reaching the top of the mountain on your gondola ride to Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort in the summer is the Mammoth Adventure Center, one of the fun things to do in Mammoth Lakes with kids.
No matter how adventurous you would like to get, there is something for everyone in the Adventure Centre.
Whether you want to experience the next level guided climbing experience at the Via Ferrata, check out the world-class biking experience at the bike park or enjoy the gondola rides, there are tons of things to do in the adventure centre.
Buy the Adventure Pass, which will let you access the many adventure activities, including a ropes course, bungee trampoline, and wall climbing for kids and adults. You can also enjoy zip-lining from the top of Mammoth Mountain.
HIKE ON MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN
While the Discovery Nature Trail is a popular hiking route there are plenty of hiking routes along the Mammoth Mountain, ranging from easy ones to challenge, which is one of the adventurous things to do in Mammoth Lakes.
While the Mammoth Mountain Ski resort area is the hotspot for skiing in winter, its massive terrain packed with hiking trails becomes the top spot for adventure seekers during the summer months.
While there is an extensive list of the hikes in Mammoth Lakes you can plan, you should try the popular ones below.
Considered one of the most challenging is the five miles long Mammoth Mountain Trail, which you will start behind the Eleven53 Interpretive Center to the Main Lodge.
A midpoint of the long hike above is the shorter Main Lodge Trail which goes halfway up Mammoth Mountain goes to the Main Lodge, taking two miles.
The other challenging but one of the most beautiful hiking trails are the Twin Lakes Trail connects the summit of Mammoth Mountain with the Lakes Basin.
LEARN LOCAL HISTORY AT MAMMOTH MUSEUM
One of the amazing and free things to do in Mammoth Lakes is checking out the Mammoth Museum, located in the historic Hayden Cabin.
Although only open between Memorial Day to late September, it is one of the best stops to learn about local history.
There is an excellent collection of artefacts, photographs, and other exhibits that give glimpses of the past of the Mammoth and its regions around.
The location of the museum, Hayden Cabin, is worth checking out. This magnificent log cabin located on the banks of Mammoth Creek was built in the 1920s.
You may even witness music festivals and cultural activities when the museum opens. The museum and cabin are open seven days a week from 10 AM until 6 PM. Although admission is free, a $5 donation is suggested.
MARVEL AT THE HOT CREEK GEOLOGIC SITE
If you love exploring geological wonders, Mammoth Lakes has tons of them that will keep you hooked for hours, if not for days.
The Hot Creek Geological Site, located a few miles east of the town, is one of the best things in Mammoth Lakes to do. It is one of the top photo hotspots thanks to the elegant and richly coloured pools, geysers, and mountain peaks emitting stunning formations.
Hot Creek Geological Site is located about three miles above an underground chamber of magma and is a part of the Long Valley Caldera. Due to the active volcano beneath, hot gas, steaming holes or fumaroles, and boiling water bubble up over the surface resulting in vivid formations.
Since the eruptions are dangerous, you cannot enter the water area.
There is a walkway for visitors to stroll and take in the majestic wonders of nature. The best times to be here are during sunrise and sunset when the colours of the sky add to the beauty.
Do not miss checking out the many stunning turquoise small pools close to the geysers.
Did you know? Visiting the Hot Creek Geologic Site is one of the awesome free things to do in Mammoth Lakes as there are no entry nor parking fees. There are restrooms as well as picnic tables.
For about 3 miles, you will have to drive on a dirt road to reach Hot Creek Geological Site off US 395, which is doable with a regular sedan.
Opening hours – 8 AM to 7 PM.
VISIT THE INYO CRATERS
One of the top things to do in Mammoth Lakes is visiting Inyo Craters, one of the fascinating natural landmarks formed in the region.
The unique geological Inyo Craters have formed over 600 years ago due to the volcanic explosions that resulted in demarkations of the grounds in the Long Valley Caldera.
You will find two turquoise green coloured crates that look somewhat like lakes and a third crater nearby. You can combine a visit to the excavations as a part of the Mammoth Scenic Loop drive as it is on the way.
There are two trails to access the Inyo Craters in a loop, both being easy trails of about 1.6 miles that pass through the beautiful Jeffrey pine forest and offers lovely views of the mountains.
A diversion leads you to an unpaved road that you can find with the sign to Inyo craters as you drive through the Mammoth Scenic Loop. Get on this road to reach the parking lot beside which you can find the trailheads.
DRIVE TO THE CROWLEY LAKE COLUMNS
Near the beautiful Crowley Lake located south of the town of Mammoth Lakes that comes up along Highway 395 is one of the adventurous rides that take you to the Crowley Lake Columns, another of the many gorgeous geological wonders in Mammoth Lakes.
It would be best if you had a high-clearance 4X4 for the adventurous drive to the lake’s far shore via rough dirt roads from the south on US 395 to view the Crowley Lake Columns.
The distinct towering columns carved by the volcanic eruptions stand amidst thick jungles. You can also check out the caves, but note that there may be water below, so it may not be possible to go all the way down.
DRIVE THE MAMMOTH SCENIC LOOP
One of the easiest and the most beautiful drives you can enjoy is the 30-minute Mammoth Scenic Loop drive.
Driving through magnificent winding roads flanked by dense forests comprising Jeffrey and lodgepole pine, turquoise glacial lakes, and rugged peaks towering the valleys is one of the awesome things to do in Mammoth Lakes.
The 16 miles long route begins off Highway 203 north of Mammoth Lakes, where you need to turn right and drive on to Dry Creek Road to the junction with US Route 395.
You can make a quick diversion to the Inyo Craters on this drive, as well as a stop at the Earthquake fault.
VISIT HOT CREEK FISH HATCHERY
One of the worth-visiting attractions in Mammoth Lakes is the huge Hot Creek Fish Hatchery, one of the biggest hatcheries in breeding and producing trout for California.
It is about a 10-minutes drive from the centre and is also one of the best free things to do in Mammoth Lakes. Hot Creek Fish Hatchery is open seven days from 8 AM to 4 PM.
You can take a self-guided tour of the hatchery. You can see how millions of fish trout are hatched and raised, including its distribution and conservation of the rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout types maintain the balance of the ecosystem.
DRIVE THE JUNE LOOP
Among the many drives, another beautiful one is driving the June Loop that passes through more than four gorgeous lakes plenty of beautiful mountainous landscapes, making it one of the recommending things to do in Mammoth Lakes.
It starts north of Mammoth Lakes if you go for about 30 minutes. The first stop on this loop is the beautiful June Lake and June Village.
Gull Lake is the next stop and another fantastic place to enjoy a picnic, stroll, or fishing. Nearby, you will find the Silver Lake known for its campground and fishing.
Although you can complete the drive in about 2 hours ending at the artificial Grant Lake, each of these lakes and the areas around offer many things to do, and you can spend a few days between them for a lovely outdoor trip.
Paddleboarding, kayaking, waterskiing, jet-skiing, hiking, camping and fishing are popular activities to enjoy in this June Loop drive if you plan to stop by.
Fall and winter are also excellent months to drive the June Loop or stay near one of the lakes. June Mountain has a ski resort that opens to visitors in winter. The nearby June Village has some cosy accommodation options if you intend to spend overnight.
DRIVE THROUGH LAKE MARY ROAD
I know I have mentioned two drives already, but I cannot help mentioning another one because it is gorgeous, and you should try to do it when in Mammoth Lakes.
Driving through the 7-miles long takes about 20 minutes, so it is worth adding to your Mammoth Lakes itinerary.
The drive, beginning at the centre, passes through Horseshoe Lake, and further ahead, you will come across stunning views of Lake Mary and Lake Mamie.
Located in the John Muir Wilderness at over 8,900 feet and surrounded by mountain peaks and gorgeous scenery, Lake Mary is a magnificent lake known for fishing, angling, camping, and abundant natural beauty.
PLAN A TRIP TO THE HOT SPRINGS
If you have been to any destinations in the Eastern Sierra, you will know that it is the hotspot of many gorgeous natural hot springs.
There are many beautiful hot springs in Mammoth Lakes, and depending on your time and preferences, you should include a few of them if possible.
Wild Willy’s Hot Spring, also called Crowley Hot Spring, outside the centre of Mammoth Lakes, is one of the top hot springs tourists visits.
There are two shallow pools at the site, with their temperature varying between 95 degrees and 105 degrees, surrounded by stunning views.
You need to drive on a dirt road to the parking lot get on the well-maintained boardwalk to arrive at the first Pool of the hot springs. Another pool is about 50 feet further that is deeper and hotter. Since it is very popular, it is best to visit early to avoid crowds.
Travertine Hot Spring offers some of the best views of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, a short driveway.
Pulkey’s Pool is a small natural pool about 50 feet away, which is a small spring that can only accommodate around 5 to 6 people.
TRY LOCAL BEER
One of the fun things to do in Mammoth Lakes is checking out all the local brews that make excellent beers. Shelter Distilling, located in Mammoth Village, is one of the famous places among tourists.
Mammoth Brewing Company, established in 1995, is one of the most famous stops to get beer tastes. This brewery, located in the centre, houses a massive outdoor beer garden and pretty indoor seating.
Join the tasting tours to try the beer in the tasting room. Do try their specialities, including Yosemite Pale Ale, Golden Trout Kolsch, and Epic IPA.
If you are here during the late summer months, you can attend the beautiful music and beer festival, the Mammoth Festival of Beers.
SEE THE EARTHQUAKE FAULT
One of the top attractions in Mammoth Lakes is the Earthquake Fault, located close to the centre. You can see hard cut fissures through volcanic rock running for over 60 feet and 10 feet wide, one of the powerful testaments to nature’s powerful forces.
Geologists now think that was a result of a series of earthquakes that happened over 600 years ago in the Inyo National Forest because of the eruption of the Inyo Craters and Inyo Domes as opposed to a single earthquake which was believed to be the case earlier.
It is located close to the Mammoth Mountain Resort area, and you have to take a short hike from the parking lot of Earthquake Fault off Highway 203. There are restrooms and picnic tables near parking.
ADVENTUROUS THINGS TO DO IN MAMMOTH LAKES
ZIPLINE IN MAMMOTH LAKES
One of the adventurous things to do in Mammoth Lakes if you plan a summer trip is flying down the Mammoth Mega Zip.
One of the reasons it is so special is that it is the biggest vertical drop of any zipline in the United States at over 2000 feet. You will feel the adrenaline rush cruising at 60 miles per hour as you soar, watching the spectacular mountain views.
Head to the Adventure Center at the Mammoth Mountain Ski area base to buy tickets for this fun ride.
If you wonder what to do in Mammoth in winters, one of the top things to do is skiing as Mammoth Lakes turns into a magical winter wonderland and the central hub for skiing.
It is one of the best destinations in California for skiing and snowboarding, open to tourists from mid-November to June.
Mammoth Mountain is one of the largest ski resorts in the United States at over 11000 feet, with over 3,500 acres of the area open to skiing comprising about 30 lift chairs.
There are three broad areas to get to the slopes. The Mountain Center at the Mammoth Village is the closest to the town of Mammoth Lakes and is the most popular. The central Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort is also a beautiful spot, and so is the Mill.
You do not have to be an expert or have prior experience skiing in Mammoth as there are options for beginners. To avoid the hassle of ploughing your vehicle through thick layers of snow, I recommend you take the free shuttles.
INDULGE IN FISHING
When you are surrounded by scores of lakes, creeks, and reservoirs minutes away from you, fishing is an obvious and one of the best things to do.
All the water bodies in Mammoth Lakes are the hotspots for trout fishing in Eastern Sierra. You can rent boats, fishing equipment and supplies at plenty of places, and you have the options to also fish from the shore or go further for backcountry fishing.
It is not just fishing that you will love but also the stunning landscapes that will keep you hooked! If you’re new to fly fishing, it is best to check out Troutfitter in Mammoth which offers guided fly fishing lessons.
ENJOY MOUNTAIN BIKING IN MAMMOTH LAKES
There are plenty of stunning trails perfect for mountain biking, one of the best things to do in Mammoth Lakes in summer. The uptown and the downtown trail, which starts at the town centre, is ideal for beginners
If you are looking for more advanced trails, the Mammoth Rock Trail, a free path, is a good one that offers you amazing views of the towns.
If you have prior mountain biking experience, try this uphill hike leading to the panoramic views of June Lake and the surrounding mountains.
CAMP AT ONE OF THE MANY GROUNDS
There are many campgrounds in and around Mammoth Lakes, thanks to its popularity of being a fantastic destination packed with lakes, creeks, rivers, and reservoirs surrounded by stunning panoramas.
Some areas under the National Forest Areas around Mammoth allow you to camp for free, and some of them are also located along the Mammoth scenic loop road.
The other campgrounds fill up fast during the peak seasons, so it is best to reserve them online, especially near Lake Basin Area and June Lake.
STAND UP PADDLE OR KAYAK THE LAKES
Some of the famous lake activities in Mammoth are kayaking, SUP, and swimming. Thanks to the dozens of beautiful glacial lakes in this part of Eastern Sierra, you are spoilt for choice in planning your water adventure amidst stunning backdrops.
You do not have to worry about renting the equipment as there are plenty of rental shops in the Lake Basin area.
Located on Lake Mary, Pokonobe Marina is the most popular shop for its reasonable prices, many options, and extended opening hours.
Many shops rent out canoes, SUP boards, and boats near Tamarack Lodge, Twin Lakes, June and George Lakes.
If you are here during the peak months or holiday weekends, it is best to get to the shops early in the morning as they get booked quickly.
Horseshoe Lake is worth a day trip idea from Mammoth, known for its excellent location amidst densely forested mountains and clear waters ideal for swimming, SUP and kayaking, although no boats are allowed. The trails around the lake are also perfect for mountain biking and hiking.
Lake Mary is the largest of the lakes in the region, and its calm waters and splendid views make it the top spot for boating, kayaking, and SUP. But note that it gets busy and might feel crowded during holidays.
Lake George, the highest of the lakes in Mammoth, is one of the alternatives for enjoying the splendid views of the Crystal Crag, boating, and kayaking for fewer crowds. But there are not many rental shops around the lake.
PLAN A HIKE TO CRYSTAL LAKE
One of the best things to do in Mammoth Lakes is hiking to Crystal Lake, one of the beautiful lakes in Mammoth that you should not miss.
The Crystal Lake Trail is among the most popular hiking trails in Mammoth Lakes, thanks to its spectacular views of Mammoth Lakes Basin. Crystal Lake is best accessed via this moderate trail because of its steep and strenuous stretches in between via a series of switchbacks.
On the way, you will come across the stunning views of Lake George and Lake Mary.
The water of the gorgeous turquoise lake reflects the Crystal Peaks that form its backdrop, surrounded by lush forests that make the panoramas surreal.
You have many viewpoints atop boulders from where you can enjoy splendid views enjoying a picnic.
MORE AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN MAMMOTH LAKES
GO HORSEBACK RIDING OR CLIMBING
A popular activity, especially for people traveling with kids, is horseback riding around the lakes, following some beautiful trails that give you glimpses of birds, different wildlife, forests, and fantastic mountain views.
If you are into climbing or would love to try, plan a trip to the Mammoth Lakes during summer or fall, which are the perfect months for rock climbing in this region.
If you are a seasoned climber, you can take the challenging routes of Rock Creek and Matrimony Wall. There are many guided rock climbing tours worth checking out for a hassle-free and safe adventure.
HIKE TO OTHER LAKES IN MAMMOTH
If you enjoy hiking, you can spend days, if not weeks getting on the tons of incredible trails that will reward you with some splendid views of the Eastern Sierra Landscapes.
Hiking around is one of the awesome things to do in Mammoth Lakes. Many famous paths of all difficulty are found in the Lakes Basin, Mammoth Mountain, around Devils Postpile National Monument and Reds Meadow.
Some hiking trails will take you through multiple lakes, which is a convenient way to explore more if you are on a short trip.
The hike to Skelton Lake, one of the offbeat alpine lakes in the Upper Basin in Inyo National Forest, takes you through Crystal Lake and Barrett Lake, beginning at the edge of Lake Mary if you follow the Duck Pass Trail.
You can also camp, fish and enjoy horseback riding on this trail, making it a fantastic day trip around Mammoth.
You can do this Skelton hike as a day trip and make your way back or continue further on the Duck Pass trail to go over the pass to check out Duck Lake and Purple Lake. The latter means you have to camp near one of the lakes overnight that will allow you to soak in the blissful panoramic sunrise views too.
Mammoth Crest trail is another beautiful hike that gives gorgeous views of some lakes in the Mammoth Lakes Basin and views of the High Sierras. By starting near Lake George,
You can start the hike at the trailhead near Lake George after enjoying fishing, boating, and horseback riding near the lake to head downhills and switchbacks that will take you to Crystal Lake.
You reach one of the rugged regions of the John Muir Wilderness Area, and you can either camp overnight near Crystal Lake and head back the same way or venture further.
EXPLORE THE BEAUTIFUL REDS MEADOW
No matter how long you plan your trip, you will eventually pass through the gorgeous Reds Meadow Valley, the splendid haven home to many lakes, pine and oak forests, streams, hot springs, and waterfalls.
Located between Reds Creek and Satcher Lake, Reds Meadow is open to visitors from June to early November. Fall is one of the best seasons to witness the gorgeous golden, yellow, and red foliage.
For outdoor lovers, there are many amazing things to explore for days as you can choose to camp in one of the seven large campsites in the valley. Based here, you can spend your holiday hiking to Minaret Falls, driving to Devil’s Post Pile, and many hot springs.
You have loads of excellent hiking trails in Reds Meadow, Agnew Meadows, and others that will take you through stunning forests and viewpoints.
From Devils Postpile, you can plan a hike to Reds Meadow, a challenging 12-mile trek for adventure seekers.
Apart from hiking, camping, and drives, you can also enjoy trout fishing, horseback riding, and kayaks.
The only parking area available for those heading to Reds Meadow is at the Mammoth Mountain Main Lodge near the Adventure Center after 7 AM. You will have to take the shuttle for commuting after 7 AM, which costs $8 per person. Before 7 AM, you can take your vehicle to your chosen spots.
If you do not want to camp, you can stay at Reds Meadows Resort, which rents beautiful mountain cabins and motel rooms. They also offer a shower facility to the public.
CHASE FALL COLORS IN MAMMOTH LAKES
I love fall colours, and it is a special thing to me as I chase destinations around the world to witness the magical fall foliage. If you are like me, Mammoth Lakes is one of the best places to be during the fall months.
The wildflowers along the Mammoth Lakes Basin come into life during spring and the fall months. But the autumn means you get to witness the surreal landscapes blanketed with shades of crimson, gold, yellow, and oranges magically reflected in the glacial lakes.
Mammoth Crest Trail, Reds Meadow, Sky Meadows Trail are hiking routes to enjoy the glorious fall colours.
You do not have to go on hikes as the regions around most lakes in Mammoth offer surreal views during the fall as the willow, aspen, and cottonwoods give dazzling displays. Convict Lake is famous for its aspen and willow fall foliage.
Chasing fall colours and finding your Instagram locations is one of the romantic things to do in Mammoth Lakes in the fall. For the best timing, plan your trip between mid-September to early November.
HOW TO REACH MAMMOTH LAKES?
Getting to Mammoth Lakes depends on your preferences. Here are the ways to arrive at Mammoth Lakes.
The road is the popular way to reach Mammoth Lakes because it is convenient. The town is located along the US Route 395 corridor, a beautiful stretch of one of the famous road trip routes.
From Los Angeles in the south, it takes about 5 hours to reach Mammoth Lakes. From San Francisco, located in the west, it takes about 6 to 7 hours to get Mammoth Lakes via Highway 120 or Tioga Road.
It takes about 3 hours to arrive from Lake Tahoe to Mammoth Lakes. From Las Vegas, take the US 95 and the US 395 roads to reach Mammoth Lakes, which takes about 5 to 6 hours.
The closest airport to the city is Mammoth Yosemite Airport, located south of the town of Mammoth Lakes. Note that there are limited flights to this airport, and most of them operate only during peak seasons.
Flights to this airport tend to be limited, and some of them seasonal, occurring only in the winter.
Alternatively, you can fly to the nearest major city to Mammoth Lakes, Reno Airport in Nevada, which is 3 hours away from Mammoth Lakes. After reaching here, rent a car to arrive at Mammoth.
HOW TO GET AROUND MAMMOTH LAKES?
Since there is no reliable public transport of any form, you will need your own mode of transportation for getting around Mammoth Lakes.
It is best to arrive in a 4WD high-clearance vehicle if you want to go off the path into mountainous terrain.
Although regular cars are ideal for exploring just the popular attractions, you will need the bigger cars or SUVs for offbeat outdoor drives.
Renting a car
If you fly into Mammoth Lakes or need to rent a car to make your road trip, I would highly recommend doing it online on Discover Cars.
You can compare availability and prices across many companies. They also provide fantastic deals if you book in advance or take cars for more extended hire. Compare the prices and check the availability here.
RV – If you own an RV or rent one, that’s a great way to get around Mammoth. There are plenty of campgrounds in town, the Reds Meadows and the Inyo National Forest.
If you plan a trip during the peak seasons, though, it is best to reserve your spot online here.
Local cabs – Local taxis are another option to check once you reach Mammoth Lakes.
However, their downsides are high costs and availability as it is challenging to get great deals during the peak seasons.
WHERE TO STAY IN MAMMOTH LAKES?
Depending on your preferences and your style of traveling(backpacking, camping, or road-tripping), you have tons of options to choose from for accommodation.
If you want to base yourself close to the centre, Mammoth Village is the best area as it has many amazing resorts and hotels.
The Village Lodge is the most popular choice as it is ideal for couples and people with kids looking for spacious rooms. You can choose from a studio to two-bedroom units some of which also come equipped with a kitchen. There is also a heated outdoor pool and several hot tubs. And the views from the hotels are splendid. Check prices here to book.
If you love heritage properties as I do, I would highly recommend Tamarack Lodge, a historic lodge located on the shore of Twin Lakes and surrounded by mountains and skiing.
About 10 minute drive away from downtown, this lodge has maintained its old heritage with a neat blend of modern times.
Along with cosy rooms coming with a kitchen and fireplace, you can also enjoy dining at their Lakefront restaurant. You can also sign up for their mountain bike lessons, guided hikes and fly fishing classes. Book here.
Innsbruck Lodge is another place located near the Village Gondola that I prefer for its secluded and stunning location. This pretty lodge offers apartments with kitchens to simple rooms, and they have an on-site hot tub and spa. It is worth staying here if you love quieter stays.
The Westin Monache Resort is next to the Village Lodge and beside Mountain Center in the Village, another excellent choice that comes with condos comprising spacious rooms and balconies offering beautiful views. The property features a heated outdoor pool and hot tubs. Book a stay here.
If the popular ones do not appeal to you, check out Sierra Lodge, centrally located, which offers spacious rooms with kitchenettes. The hotel features a hot tub, free parking and a barbecue.
Juniper Springs Resort, located in Mammoth Lakes, is ideal for a winter trip as it is close to the ski lifts and winter activities.
CAMPSITES IN MAMMOTH
Between the spring and fall months, camping in Mammoth Lakes is an excellent option if you want an authentic outdoor experience that allows you to enjoy fishing and hiking.
There are dozens of campgrounds in Mammoth Lakes, all of which you can find here in this detailed camping guide if you are seriously considering camping in Mammoth Lakes.
Here I mention the top picks that you could look at.
Campgrounds are scattered around the town area and in the Reds Meadow.
Mammoth Lakes Basin has seven bigger campgrounds that give you access to hiking trails and the lakes.
Lake Mary is the most popular for its convenient location next to Lake George and Lake Maimie, while the prettiest is near Convict Lake if you want to get more of nature’s vibes and lesser crowds.
June Lake and Twin Lakes Campgrounds are also great options providing easy access to town and the Lakes Basin area.
If you plan your Mammoth Lakes trip by RV, Mammoth Mountain RV Park allows hook-ups and has better amenities than the regular campgrounds.
Book a campsite at any of these lakes here.
TIPS FOR MAMMOTH LAKES TRIP
- Mammoth Lakes and the region around is a high-altitude region with elevations ranging from 7500 to 10000 feet. It is something to be prepared for many of us city folks from plain lands.
- High Altitude Mountain Sickness is expected when you are here, but it can get pretty dangerous if you rush to explore. Make sure you acclimate to the altitude.
- Take it slow, get your AMS medicines with you, drink lots of water, and avoid alcohol for at least the first few days. If you experience any persistent symptoms, please do not ignore them and head back to lower elevations as soon as possible.
- Since most of the terrain is mountainous and include many dirt roads, it is best to rent a high clearance vehicle, preferably SUVs tailored for these journeys.
- Make sure you fill your tank before heading to the wilderness outside Mammoth as the fuel prices are high, and it is hard to find a gas station as there are only a few.
- If you’re planning the Mammoth Lakes trip itinerary in the summer, be sure to check for forest fires before embarking on your trip.
- Get physical copies of maps from the Adventure centre and download maps on your phone for offline use.
- If you are planning a trip to Mammoth Lakes in winter, check the road conditions for closures. Keep an eye on the weather reports, and also pack accordingly. Pack enough layers, and get equipment to tackle the roads if you bring a car.
- Even in the early spring months, it is not unusual to find snow, so the weather may still be chilly and, hence, get layers.
- Bring a cooler, reusable water bottle, and snacks, especially if you plan a summer trip.
- If you plan camping or hiking, carry bear canisters, headlight, heater, and other camping and hiking essentials that are often overlooked but very important to make your trip comfortable.
- Pack a good sun hat, comfortable hiking shoes, and sunscreen, especially during summer, as you will likely spend a lot of time outdoors.
MAP OF THINGS TO DO IN MAMMOTH LAKES CA
Find all the locations marked on this Google Map below
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THINGS TO DO IN MAMMOTH CA
Is Mammoth Lakes worth visiting?
Yes. From abundant natural beauty to tons of outdoor activities to many places to enjoy nature and relax, Mammoth Lakes has something to offer for everyone, making it worth visiting.
What is the best time to visit Mammoth Lakes?
There is no single best time to visit Mammoth Lakes as it depends on the season and the type of activities you would like to enjoy. Many people consider it a top skiing destination and as such winter months are popular.
But summer and spring are excellent times for enjoying hiking, camping, lake activities, fishing, and water sports, which attracts outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers in large numbers, including couples, solo travelers, and people traveling with kids.
If you’re going to ski, January and February are the best months. July and August are the most popular months, while September to November is the shoulder season with fewer crowds and cheaper prices.
What is there to do in Mammoth in the summer?
Summer is the best time to enjoy the outdoor activities in Mammoth Lakes. You can enjoy swimming, kayaking, SUP, fishing, and camping in and around the lakes. There are plenty of hiking trails around the mountains leading to stunning panoramic views.
How much should you spend in Mammoth Lakes, California?
Since there are many things to do in Mammoth Lakes, it is best to plan at least a 3-day itinerary, or about four to five days if possible, as it allows you to explore most of the attractions without feeling rushed conveniently.
Is Mammoth Lakes expensive?
If you plan a trip to Mammoth Lakes during the peak months of winter or summer, expect to pay higher accommodation prices, mainly as the costs of eating out and activities do not vary much throughout the year.
PIN THINGS TO DO IN MAMMOTH LAKES CA
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