Top 16 things to do in Mammoth Lakes, California

1) Mammoth Mountain 

At 11,059 ft Mammoth mountain is the highest ski resort in California and receives a large amount of snowfall compared to other Eastern Sierra peaks.  About 400” annually.  The Ski resort was founded in 1953 and has been providing endless entertainment for skiers, boarders, snowmobiles, and sightseers since.  Mammoth has more than 3,500 acres of ski-able terrain, serviced by 28 lifts.

If you don’t ski or board a ride up the gondola is an exciting adventure that gives you an amazing view of the eastern sierra.

Rainbow Falls

2) Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls is the highest waterfall on the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River plunging 102 ft and eventually snaking all the way to San Francisco Bay.  The falls are named for the rainbows that appear in their mist on sunny summer days.  The best time to experience the rainbows is midday when the sun is highest.  You can descend stairs down to the water to enjoy the water below.  A shuttle is required in the busy season but during COVID and the offseason, they let us take our car to the trailhead.  The fee for entering the Devil’s PostPile National Monument was $10 but is well worth it.  Most people pass it up but the smaller Lower Falls is well worth the extra .5 mile stroll.  There are two trails to get to Rainbow Falls 1.7 miles and 6 miles round trip.  I recommend taking the 6-mile hike starting from our next stop on the list.

Devils Postpile

3) Devils Postpile

Molten lava and glacial ice chapped these unusual rock columns. Basaltic lava more than 400 feet deep filled this narrow valley nearly 100,000 years ago.  As the lava cooled, cracks formed on the surface to release built-up tension these cracks formed into hexagons which is one of nature’s most efficient and stable shapes. During the last ice age about 20,000 years ago, a glacier-carved, shined and exposed this cliff.  I recommend making the trek to see the top of this natural wonder.

4) Lake Mary

The largest lake in the Mammoth Lakes Basin is nearly a mile long. This is the popular lake for fishing, boating and sailing is a great place to spend a hot summer day.  Lake Mary Marina has boats, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and fishing gear rentals. We brought an inflatable kayak to explore the lake and parked on the north end of the lake but beware of the no parking signs.  The fairly shallow lake was great for a swim and sunning on the shores. 

Duck Pass Trail

5) Backpacking/Hiking

My favorite summer activity in mammoth is backpacking with tons of epic trails and alpine lakes that you find a little solitude during sunset.  A few of my favorite trails in the area are Duck Pass Trail, Thousand Island Lake, and Mammoth Crest.  If you’re not into backpacking you can do many of these trails as a long day hike.  However, there is nothing more wonderful than the sun setting over a mountain pass with a lake all to yourself.  Jumping trout and early morning coffee.

6) Biking

Mammoth has loads of bike trails and paths and is extremely bike-friendly.  Mammoth mt turns into a mountain biking mecca during the summer months.  You can buy a lift ticket for your bike and boom down the mountain.  My buddy has been trying to get me to buy a mountain bike for ages so if anyone wants to buy me one it would shut him up.  I’m more of a road biker and there are a lot of options for that as well.  We took the free mammoth shuttle to horseshoe lake and did the 6 miles downhill bike trip down to Mammoth village.  Hope you have good brakes…

7) Fishing

Mammoth Lakes basin boasts 5 main lakes all stocked with trout!  Twin Lakes is the first lake you arrive at and has the best campground in the mammoth lakes area.  Mary Lake is the largest lake and receives the highest number of trout stocks in the Mammoth Lakes Basin. Lake Mamie is a very popular place to fish. Lake George is the starting point for a few popular hikes Crystal and Mammoth Crest.  Horseshoe lake.  There are many backcountry lakes; one of them that has a ton of trout is Barney Lake.  Here’s a shot of the fish jumping at dusk at Barney Lake.

Convict Lake

8) Convict Lake

Convict lake is one of the most dramatic lakes that I’ve ever visited.  Sevehah Cliff, composed of folded metamorphic rock, provides a colorful almost painted backdrop to Convict Lake.  The unusual history of this lake’s name adds extra color to the backdrop.  In 1871 a group of convicts escaped a prison in Carson City, Nevada and they took refuge close to the lake.  A posse eventually caught up to the convicts and a shoot out ensued that took the lives of many convicts and posse members.  Eventually, all of the convicts were caught and the name Convict Lake stuck.  There is a fantastic 2.5-mile trail that loops around the lake.  Also, the lake is well stocked with trout.

Wild Willy’s Hot Spring

9) Wild Willy’s Hot Spring

This is by far one of the coolest things to do in the mammoth area. It’s down far down a rocky road and feels like the middle of nowhere but that’s half the point.  With a great mt backdrop and a few pools to sit in and enjoy it’s a must-stop for me and even more so in the winter when the mountains are covered in blankets of white.  It can get crowded so expect a lot of people at the most established Hotspring around for miles.

10) June Lake

June Lake is another picturesque lake in the area and one that probably deserves its own video.  It boasts fantastic campgrounds, fishing, boating, and my favorite sunning on the beachy shores of the lake.  If you’re traveling to June Lake from Mammoth take the Mammoth Scenic Loop for a more interesting drive.  The town offers a number of good food spots and one of the best and priciest breweries in the area, June Lake Brewery.  If you go there, hit up the Hawaiian food truck.

Hot Creek Geological Site

11) Hot Creek Geological Site

The Hot Creek Regional Park is like a tiny “Yellowstone” in the Mono Lakes region. There are beautiful blue hot pools and steaming water here. There is plenty of parking at the top of the canyon and a quick walk down to the creek is well worth the effort. You used to be able to bathe here but it’s closed off due to its extreme heat.  Do not attempt to get in the water, even the river it is scolding.  Before the hot spring, there are some good fishing opportunities. 

12) Mono Lake

Mono Lake is a salt lake that is close to the town of Lee Vining.  The lack of an outlet for this lake makes this lake alkaline and helps to provide a perfect and productive habitat for brine shrimp.  This in turn provides a critical migratory stop for 2 million birds.  The tufa towers are great to kayak around.

13) Minaret Vista 

Minaret Vista is a drive-up spot just before the entrance of devils post pile national monument. And is a must stop at sunrise or sunset.  The Minarets are a series of jagged peaks located in the Ritter Range, a sub-range of the Sierra Nevada mountains.  From the vista you can see down to Devils Postpile, and off to the southwest and the headwaters of the San Joaquin River.  I can when the Comet Neowise was in the neighborhood and so I recommend this spot for stargazing as well.  

Twin Falls Overlook

14) Twin Falls Overlook

One of the most picturesque overlooks in all of Mammoth is one that you can drive up to.  Twin Falls drains Lake Mamie as it tumbles into the Twin Lakes near the Mammoth Lakes area.  Although the best views of the falls are from down on Twin Lakes the view of the lakes is well worth the quick stop.  

15) Earthquake Fault

The ripped-apart rock of the Mammoth Lakes Earthquake Fault shows off the tectonic powers of this ever-changing landscape.  At the base of Mammoth Mountain and close to Mammoth Scenic Loop is an incredible fissure that ripped up hard volcanic rock for several hundred feet and reaches a depth of up to 60 feet.  This easily accessible stop is one the whole family can enjoy.

16) Mammoth brewery

No trip to mammoth is complete without a trip to Mammoth Brewery.  Perfect for after a day on the slopes or fresh off a backpacking trail in summer.  The friendly staff, good food, and great beer is a welcome sight for relieving adventure stories of years past.  I recommend trying the seasonal beers otherwise Epic IPA is my fav.

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